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A stitch in time

Aug 1, 2006 12:00 AM

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Every minute counts, and on a deadline, those minutes can be costly. The average commercial printer will produce a variety of jobs on a range of stocks, leading to different makeready times when those jobs reach the saddlestitcher. When stitching jobs of various sizes and lengths, slow changeovers can be costly.

To keep pace with newer equipment additions and remain competitive, Suttle-Straus (, a $34 million company specializing in commercial printing, fulfillment, mailing and Web-enabled solutions, and Evergreen Printing & Publishing Co. (, a 220-employee commercial printer specializing in four-color on newsprint, installed Heidelberg and Muller Martini saddlestitchers earlier this year.

When the subject of purchasing a new saddlestitcher came up, Suttle-Straus (Waunakee, WI) considered two aspects of cost savings: makeready and running speed. Before Heidelberg (Kennesaw, GA) and its Stitchmaster ST 400 saddlestitcher came along, Suttle-Straus' 206 employees made do with two much older stitchers requiring manual adjusting when moving between jobs. But the days of slow cycles and multi-hour makereadies were history when the company installed the ST 400 in March 2006.

Out with the old…

The 12-station machine installed at the company's 220,000-sq.-ft. facility is equipped with six vertical pockets, two flat pockets, and a cover and card feeder. “We bought it for expansion,” explains Ted Straus, chief operations officer. “It's modular, so we can expand it as we need.”

The machine is designed for industrial book production and adapts to product with on-the-fly adjustments. It offers a high level of automation with automatic presetting of the entire machine and automatic synchronization of all feeders and the stitcher with the saddle chain, the trimmer infeed and the trimmer, itself. Suttle-Straus considered other vendors as well as used machines, but found that used stitchers, while speedy, didn't have the automation necessary for big savings in makeready times. “In our business, makereadies are much more key than run lengths,” says Straus.

Suttle-Straus produces pieces ranging from catalogs to small manuals in a variety of paper stocks, so the increased automation is key. What used to be a two- to three-hour makeready on the old equipment now takes 30 minutes on the ST 400's user-friendly, computer-driven interface. “You put in the size information and the parameters of the job electronically,” Straus explains. “Then, it sets the pockets for you. It dramatically cuts down on the makeready process.” Paper parameters also can be input to speed things along.

…In with the new

Suttle-Straus' ST 400 is equipped with CIP4/JDF capabilities, but the company hasn't utilized them yet. Straus anticipates reducing changeovers by up to 15-20 minutes when the company begins using these capabilities next year.

When selecting a stitcher, speed also was a factor. Typical run lengths for Suttle-Straus range from 5,000 to 10,000, but sometimes run in the hundreds of thousands. It went from running 2,500 to 3,000 cph on its older machines to current averages of 10,000 cph, and hopes to increase by 1,000 to 1,500 cph. “Our employees still are adjusting to the faster running speed,” Straus notes.

The company was able to consolidate two pieces of equipment to one, a key factor in its decision-making process. “The cost justification was based purely on internal cost savings, not necessarily revenue,” says Straus. “Even though the cost of the machine was fairly high, we are so much more efficient on this device that we could cost-justify it. We already are about 80 percent within numbers after only a few months of production. It's definitely on track to match our forecast for the ROI.”

Speed up the front end, speed up the back

Two years ago, Evergreen Printing & Publishing (Bellmawr, NJ) installed a Dauphin Graphic Machines (DGM) (Elizabethtown, PA) 440 composed of two 16-unit presses capable of running 40,000 cph individually or together as one large press. While the installation made for a more productive pressroom, the postpress area had trouble keeping up. In May 2006, the company installed a BravoPlus saddlestitcher from Muller Martini (Hauppauge, NY), along with an AlphaLiner inserter.

Though the machine can run faster, Evergreen's BravoPlus averages 10,000 cph. It can accommodate up to 10 pockets and is equipped with eight. On average, it uses six, according to process control manager Thomas Meyer.

Jobs vary from 8.125 × 10.75 inches to 10.875 × 16 inches, as well as 5.5 × 10-inch or 5.5 × 5-inch double parallel work, with page counts ranging from four to over 200. Evergreen occupies a combined total of 160,000 sq. ft. in two buildings. It produces quarter-fold to flat-fold projects, many magazine signatures, heatset cover work and newsprint material.

With the range of jobs produced, the BravoPlus has become a must-have for the company. “It's the machine of choice for every stitching operator here,” says Meyer. “Everyone wants to run that machine on their shift. We're pushing more work through it because it runs so much more efficiently and faster than the other ones we have.”

Makereadies make the printer

Evergreen's stitcher features Muller Martini's AMRYS automatic makeready system. Auto-mated size settings on the feeder, stitching unit, three-knife trimmer and compensating stacker reduce the makeready time up to 50 percent. The automatic makeready has made a big difference in changeovers at Evergreen. The printer runs a lot of similar signatures, but for different books. “Our makeready times are way down,” notes Meyer.

The AMRYS automatic adjustment system controls book width and delivery transfer speed. Automatic adjustments on the trimmer can be saved for future jobs — the system handles the infeed size, product thickness, transport for the trim, width and length, and the timing of the book. On the feeder, it handles length, width, off-center for the vacuum opening, the signature stop and the timing for the feeder. “Say we're running one of the quarter-fold magazines that we do, and it's the same publisher, so they may have 10 different titles, just different page count size,” says Meyer. “We always know that the interior sizes are going to be the same, so it's just how many pockets we're going to run. [We choose] job No. 2 and boom! Everything sets up for it. Once we've set it up once and we have everything tweaked to where we want it to be on that size job, there's no tweaking of the pockets, trying to get it back to where it was.” In fact, if changes are made while running a job, they can be saved for incorporation into future runs.

“[The investment] is going to be ten-fold when it's all said and done,” says Meyer. “The machine is that good.”

Carrie Cleaveland is assistant editor of AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at

Stitching skills

When AMERICAN PRINTER checked in with Seattle Bindery in March 2006, we found out they were tackling some unique and difficult postpress jobs (See “Things that make you go hmmm…” pg. 24). Recently the Seattle-based trade bindery stitched a 32-page manual on 65-lb. cover stock.

“[The difficulty] was getting everything to step in to where the pages weren't bouncing around,” says bindery manager Bill Davey. “There were four or five tabs that had to line up in one section. With the 65-lb. cover we had to gauge it out to 0.003. That means each cut rule on the face had to be pushed in on each side to make up for the push of the paper. Normally when you run 65-lb. cover, by the time you've got a 32-page book, you've got the very middle pages sticking out almost 316 inch. With a regular book, you just face trim it and everything looks good, but with all the tabs and the arches, everything had to be stepped in.”

Seattle Bindery had four days to produce 7,700 books and used its 10-pocket McCain saddlestitcher for the job. Davey notes that handling difficult jobs involves a lot of trial and error. “But being here for 23 years, I've seen a lot.”


Commerce Printing Services adds two Best Osako stitchers

Commerce Printing Services is a full-service web and sheetfed house specializing in high-quality magazines. Andy Tosh, Commerce's in-plant operations specialist, says the company has achieved dramatic productivity gains with the 11,000-cph stitchers. “The minimal makeready time really makes things easy,” he says. “It used to take an hour to do makeready on our old machine. Now we're doing complete makeready in 15 minutes, as well as running at [up to twice] the previous production speed. We've actually been able to eliminate most of a shift, even while our business is increasing every year.”

In addition to the Estar model, Best Osako offers the 12,000- to 13,000-cph Tener and the 13,000- to 14,000-cph Poder. All feature 15-second AutoSet stitcher setup, 60- to 90-second trimmer setup and full makeready in as little as 10 minutes.

Tilt-back/tilt-forward feeders with Quick-Set adjustment allow instant conversion from job to job and the flexibility to run a wide variety of signatures. All models offer a choice of vertical and horizontal feeder and trimmer styles. The OT-327A, a heavy-duty three-knife trimmer trims books up to an industry-leading ¾ inch thick.


Lower cost saddlestitching

Vijuk's (Elmhurst, IL) 321-T runs at 10,000 cph and comes standard with six horizontal feeders featuring status lights and signature racks. Mechanical and adjustable vacuum-assist openings allow feeding to be done at a ratio of 1:1 or 1:2. Each feeder has an adjustable gripper as well as missing-, double- and dropped-signature detection for quality control. When detected, irregular sets are diverted to a separate tray. A flying stitch mechanism eliminates stop-and-go motion to minimize product damage, and up to four stitching heads can be incorporated for two-up production. The manual 321-T has hand wheels for adjustments and an easy-to-operate electrical control panel. Makeready and changeovers are quick and simple with minimal material spoilage.

To read about Vijuk's 321-T saddlestitcher in action at Des Plaines Publishing Co. (Des Plaines, IL), see “Service and stitchability” (November 2005, pg. 30).


Saddlestitching & bookletmaking, together at last!

A new hybrid method bridges the gap between saddlestitching and flat-sheet bookletmaking while retaining some of the best advantages of each. The Standard Horizon (Andover, MA) StitchLiner 5500 combines productivity (up to 11,000 two-up booklets per hour), fast automated setups (less than two minutes to change over the complete system), and the ability to stitch, fold and three-knife trim a 200-page, 50-sheet booklet. One of the new generations of intelligently interfaced Horizon i2i systems, the StitchLiner 5500 features automated setups via a user-friendly touchscreen control panel and the ability to receive JDF job-control data. The construction is robust for heavy-duty operation (the three-knife trimmer alone weighs more than 2,500 pounds).

How it works

Four-page sections of untrimmed sheets are fed (portrait) from the SpeedVAC and collated in a subset of up to the equivalent of 20 sheets of 80-gsm paper (depending on stock type and required spine definition). At the ACF-30, the subset is jogged, registered and transported at a right angle (landscape) — without turning — through a set of scoring rollers. Then it is plow-folded, dropped onto a saddle and held until any remaining subsets have been delivered on top. When the last subset arrives, the saddle conveys the completed book block to the stitching area for jogging and stitching. Faulty blocks pass unstitched into a reject tray.

After stitching, the booklet is conveyed through a set of steel spine-pressing rollers to the HTS-30 three-knife trimmer (maximum book thickness of 10 mm), where it stops for face trimming, then advances to the head- and foot-trimming station. If required, for example with stock pre-cut to size, the user may select “fore-edge trimming only” or “no trim” on the control screen during setup. Trimmer waste can be handled with a central evacuation system or via the extractor into a waste container. An optional set of center knives may be fitted for two-up production (book thickness of three mm; six mm standard gutter). Finished books are delivered onto an electric delivery conveyor with an integrated batch counter.

Kill two birds with one StitchLiner

Reproxdigital (St. Louis) purchased a StitchLiner to save on the cost of purchasing both a saddlestitcher and a bookletmaker. The printer operates both digital and traditional offset presses, and the StitchLiner is compatible with both.

“It works out very well,” notes co-owner Steve Stone. “We have some applications where we print static covers — more than it would be advantageous to run off our digital press — and we run custom internal information on our digital press. Then we marry the traditional printed covered to the digitally printed, versioned guts. We run 5.5 × 8.5-inch finished size and we run it a little oversized on 8.5 × 11-inch paper.”

To read more about Reproxdigital's capabilities, see “A clean start,”.