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Do you want that booklet stapled, stitched or squashed?

Jul 1, 2003 12:00 AM


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If you haven't looked at bookletmakers lately, you might be surprised to see how they've changed. On the conventional side, vacuum sucker-equipped machines, typically used for jobs up to 24 sheets, have practically eliminated the marking problems associated with older friction-fed machines. (See “Better bookletmakers,” July 2002.) Digital printers also have an expanded range of offline, inline and nearline options.

“Inline” refers to a bookletmaker that's physically connected to a digital printer. “An inline bookletmaker is digitally controlled and matched to the printer, so it won't slow the printer down in most modes,” explains Jerry Sturnick, manager of feeding and finishing for Xerox (Rochester, NY). “‘Offline’ [is a term that] originated in a more traditional offset mindset. The device might not be completely electronically controlled: Settings such as page size, staple positions and fold pressures may be done manually. ‘Nearline’ is a newer notion. A nearline device [can be] completely digitally controlled, and the goal is to pass along intelligence from the printer. You'll be able to take a JDF file and essentially automatically set up the nearline device, so, although it's not connected to the printer, we're still keeping all the integrity, automation and job knowledge. But that's in its infancy.”

Considering end applications

Sturnick adds that the pros and cons of each bookletmaking method should be weighed against the end application. A variable-data job, for example, is probably best done inline. “Because the bookletmaker is connected to the printer, you keep absolute integrity to the document,” explains the exec. “You can track every sheet — there is no chance for a page to get out of sequence. If you have a jam, the system automatically recovers and resubmits that job.” For added finishing flexibility, Xerox uses the same interface for inline and offline devices, enabling users to quickly disconnect an offline bookletmaker from its feeder, and put it inline with a printer.

Xerox offers bookletmaking solutions from CP Bourg (New Bedford, MA), Duplo (Santa Ana, CA), Standard Finishing/Horizon (Andover, MA) and Plockmatic (Stockholm, Sweden). On the black-and-white side, Xerox has the Bourg BDFX, a production signature bookletmaker, as well as the Plockmatic Squarefold bookletmaker, which essentially squashes a stapled booklet into a perfect-bound one.

The Squarefold bookletmaker employs inline stapling, folding and trimming to convert cut sheets into fully finished, square-edged booklets, with color cover capabilities. It runs at printer-rated speeds and is upgradeable for existing Xerox Signature Booklet Maker II users. A similar standalone device, Watkiss Automation's Spinemaster, is available from A.B. Dick (Niles, IL).

For its DocuColor line, the company offers Standard Finishing's Horizon ColorWorks 2000. “In addition to creating saddlestitched booklets, the Color Works 2002 also creases along the fold,” says Sturnick. “That's important for color documents because otherwise the toner can crack. It also does three-sided trimming, so you can produce full-bleed finished signature booklets.”

Nearline solutions include Duplo's DFS, a two-tray sheet feeder that offers multiple-feed detection and barcode reading. The feeder is typically paired with either the DBM-120 for lighter-duty cycles or the DBM-400, a higher-volume signature bookletmaker.

In addition to Xerox, Standard Finishing also provides solutions for continuous-fed devices from Delphax, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Océ, Nipson and Scitex. “Because of our Hunkeler product line, we work closely with these digital print vendors on the paper-handling side,” says Mark Hunt, Standard's director of marketing. “As a result, we often work with them on offline or nearline applications. We also work with cutsheet vendors, including Canon, Danka, Heidelberg [for the ImageRunner/Digimaster] IBM and Ikon.”

Hybrid bookletmaker/saddlestitcher

At On Demand 2003, Standard debuted the StitchLiner, which reportedly fills the gap between flat-sheet collating/bookletmaking systems and high-speed saddlestitchers. Offset or digitally printed flat-sheet signatures are fed from the Horizon Speed VAC collator to produce saddlestitched books with full-bleed trimming at speeds up to 11,000 two-up books per hour.

Like a typical bookletmaker, jobs enter the system via a flat-sheet tower collator. Each tower sends sets to an accumulator/folder where the sheets are accumulated, jogged, scored and then plow-folded. The folded set is then placed on the stitching rail until all of the necessary subsets are accumulated, jogged, scored and folded. The stitcher cycles when all of the subsets are on the stitcher rail. The book is then fed into a three-knife trimmer where it is face-trimmed and then advanced to the head and foot area of the trimmer, where the final trim is made.

Bob Flinn, Standard's director of business development, says the StitchLiner's sweet spot is runs of “50,000 and down.” Because setup and changeover are said to be accomplished in minutes, Flinn notes that users can efficiently handle both short and long runs. The StitchLiner's fast makeready also provides a flexible rush-job solution. “If you're in the middle of Job ‘A’ and a rush job comes in, you can save the settings for Job ‘A,’ program and produce Job ‘B,’ and then go back to the first job,” explains the exec.

IBIS Americas (Geneva, IL) reports strong interest in its Digi-Stitcher, which, like the StitchLiner, features individual sheet folding and three-knife trimming. Flat sheets from an inline printer (or pile-feeder in a nearline setup) are individually scored, then folded and formed on a saddle chain. After the book is collated, the cover is applied from a separate cover feeder; the cover and pages move on the saddle to the stitchhead. From there, the book takes a 90-degree left-hand turn into a three-knife trimmer and then exits on a short conveyor.

According to Tom Carroll, IBIS Americas director of sales and marketing, the company has installed more than 30 systems worldwide, which are used primarily for financial, healthcare and insurance-fulfillment applications. IBIS machines are sold inline and nearline with Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Océ and Xerox printers.

The exec says the Digi-Stitcher, which can handle up to 200-page jobs, is targeting “any bookletmaking done inline, including high-speed, web-fed digital printers running at 250 fpm.”

“We're seeing commercial printers moving work from traditional offset to digital,” says Carroll. “Examples include test-market magazines and catalogs.”

Heidelberg recently announced a new bookletmaker option for its NexPress 2100, Duplo's System 2100. In addition to folding, stitching and trimming collated output into a finished booklet, the system verifies the integrity of individual booklets. An optional barcode reader enables it to be used for finishing variable-data jobs. The System 2100 has a two-bin capacity of 2,600 sheets and can produce 1,380 letter-size booklets per hour.

For short-run booklet applications, Heidelberg offers the Stitchexpert. Rated at 4,200 stitched documents per hour, it can handle runs of between 500 and 10,000 copies. Heidelberg's newest introduction for the on-demand market is the Probinder, a double-loop wire-comb binder offered in inline, nearline or offline configurations. The Probinder can accommodate two to 200 sheets of 55-lb. offset or 30-lb. cover with a maximum ¾-inch document thickness.

Bookletmaker vendors are clearly adapting to today's short-run, fast-turnaround print runs. Smarter inline and nearline machines are helping printers take on variable-data applications. New hybrid bookletmaker/saddlestitchers are enabling users to produce higher page-count booklets without sacrificing quality. We can expect more bookletmaking innovations as the latest generation of digital printers matures and Drupa 2004 draws near.

Combining saddlestitching speed with flat-sheet collation

Colonial Printing (Cranston, RI) is a 38-employee multicolor commercial printer. “We specialize in high-quality catalogs, fine-art reproduction brochures and other general commercial work,” says Ken Menna, vice president. “We are not a ‘slop shop’ by any means.”

So while the company wanted to upgrade its Standard Finishing (Andover, MA) Horizon SpeedVAC 20-station bookletmaker, sacrificing quality wasn't an option. The printer recently became the first U.S. shop to install Standard Finishing's StitchLiner, a device that combines some attributes of flat-sheet collating and high-speed saddlestitching. Colonial Printing's page counts typically range from 16 to 32 pages with run lengths of between 2,500 to 25,000.

“We wanted to increase our speed,” explains Menna. The StitchLiner has the same number of pockets as the machine it replaced, but is three to four times faster, according to Menna. “We can flat-sheet collate, but with the speed of a saddlestitcher. It's extremely fast,” says the exec.

Menna describes the machine as “a SpeedVAC with a right-angle unit that acts as a jogger, moving [sheets] through a cover scorer — everything else beyond that is the same as a [conventional] saddlestitcher.”

Unlike a flat-sheet collator, the StitchLiner features a three-knife trimmer. “It does a face cut and then the stitched document advances to the next station for head and foot trims — and, if necessary, a center cut — all in one stroke,” explains Mark Hunt, Standard Finishing's director of marketing.

In one instance, the printer used the StitchLiner for everything but stitching. A job on heavy stock was creased, folded and trimmed — eliminating the need to set up three separate machines.

Menna says the StitchLiner's fast makeready and versatility make it a good fit for shorter runs. “Set-up time ranges from 10 to 20 minutes, versus an hour for a traditional saddlestitcher. Also, its inline scoring unit saves you a whole [separate] machine setup. If you have a 32-page job plus cover, you can score the job inline.”

Action Printing makes the postpress connection

End-to-end integration is a reality at Action Printing (Fond du Lac, WI). The printer, a Ganett-owned facility specializing in directories, manuals, catalogs, publications and books printed with coated covers on uncoated text, is reportedly the first U.S. facility to digitally link its customer service department to its high-speed saddlestitching system.

Although Action Printing has been running a Müller Martini (Hauppage, NY) Prima Automatic Makeready System (AMRYS) saddlestitcher since 2001, the impetus for achieving a higher level of computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) came at Graph Expo 2002, where Müller demonstrated AMRYS technology directly accepting PPF files created by ScenicSoft's Upfront software. (Creo [Billerica, MA] acquired ScenicSoft in 2002). As it so happened, Action Printing was already using Upfront as a production-planning tool.

“It was a logical step, because we have always believed in thorough job planning and work-order instructions,” says Peter Doyle, operations manager. “It was easy to plug AMRYS into our digital workflow… we're sending all our PPF files directly to AMRYS via our network server.”

The link enables Action Printing's customer service representatives (CSRs) to enter job parameters. CSRs have more control over jobs, and, since job specs are keyed-in only once, potential errors are reduced. In the postpress department, stitcher makeready times have been dramatically reduced.

“It took our operators 85 minutes to makeready a traditional saddlestitcher,” says Doyle, who notes that the company's between-job routines typically also require adjusting various peripherals such as inkjet addressing equipment and drilling lines. “With AMRYS we got down to 45 minutes per makeready.”

AMRYS, winner of a 2002 GATF Intertech Award, incorporates touch-screen technology, software, and a network of servo motors to automate setups on the high-speed Prima stitcher. Manual adjustments are said to be eliminated.

Since implementing the CIP3 workflow, Action Printing has cut another 10 minutes from its average Prima AMRYS set-up times. “With the CIP3 integrated workflow, using the PPF, we are down to 35 minutes per makeready,” reports Doyle.

The exec says that AMRYS and CIP3 have helped the printer standardize its stitcher makeready process. “In non-AMRYS machines, operator input and adjustments were greater,” relates Doyle. “Each operator tended to set up the machine a little differently.”

For a look at CIM in the pressroom, see “Next-generation networking”

Products

DBM-400 bookletmaker

Duplo's (Santa Ana, CA) DBM-400 bookletmaker features automatic setup and changeover, with no manual adjustments required, reducing the need for skilled operators. Eight programmable memory settings allow operators to store repeat jobs and move from one to another by pushing a button. Saddlestitching, corner and side stitching can be done at speeds up to 4,200 booklets per hour. The DBM-400 stitcher/folder can be combined inline with the DC-10/60 suction-feed collator for a complete finishing system.

BookMaster bookletmaker/trimmer

Global Print Finishing's BookMaster staple-fold bookletmakers and trimmers can be used offline, or inline with collators incudling its DigiVac and DigiVac Plus. The BookMaster's low-impact stapling mechanism reduces maintenance. No adjustment is required for varying book thickness and all trimmings are transported outside the machine to an external waste box. The BookMaster PRO and TrimMaster PRO offer automatic settings and adjustments.

Booklet-Pro 6100 Bookletmaker

MBM Corp.'s (North Charleston, SC) Booklet-Pro 6100 can be combined with the company's Maxxum collator for inline operation. The control panels lets users choose between saddle stapling, folding without stapling or side stapling. The 6100 can staple and fold up to 22 sheets (88 pages offline). MBM also offers the Sprint 2000 bookletmaker, which jogs, staples and folds in one operation. The Sprint 2000 features 25-sheet capacity for producing 100-page booklets offline.

Sterling Punchline/Coilmaster

Spiel Associates' (Long Island City, NY) Sterling Punchline can be used for high-speed punching inline with a saddlestitcher or folder. Users can punch signatures up to ¼-inch thick. The Punchline can punch up to 8,000 sheets, signatures or booklets per hour. Spiel also offers the Sterling Coilmaster II binding system, which is said to be the only patented inline coilformer/binder in the U.S.