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Postpress: Grin & bind it

Mar 1, 2009 12:00 AM

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Based on a consumer survey of more than 1,000 U.S. photo merchandise buyers, InfoTrends (Weymouth, MA) projects that the photo book market segment will grow from $377 million in revenue in 2008 to reach $1.2 billion by 2013. This is great news — provided you're prepared to deliver quality hardcover bindings on demand.

Hardcover binding begins with endsheets. LBS (Des Moines, IA) ( sells a tabbed endsheet — a single folded sheet with a strip and a tab extending 1/8 inch past the fold.

The perfect binding process is straightforward: Add the endpapers, mill the spine, apply the adhesive — hot melt, PUR or PVA — and then cover the spine. Rather than a printed softcover, some printers use waste papers, grain direction parallel to the spine. After curing or drying, the remaining paper is peeled off. Once the spine is covered, the book block is ready for trimming and hardcover binding. Removing the excess paper, however, often damages the adhesive binding. While it's possible to salvage some books, reworking short-run jobs is costly.

Locking in the first and last sheets

On Demand Machinery's (ODM) (Elizabeth, NJ) ( Lock-Bind gadget lets users “lock-in” the first and last sheets and safely remove the side-panels. The result is a well-engineered book block that can absorb all tensile forces exerted onto the binding edge. Lock-Bind enables small shops with relatively inexpensive adhesive binding machines produce high quality, adhesive bound hardcover books.

After perfect binding, the book block is inserted into ODM's Lock-Bind gadget. The pneumatically operated clamp is automatically activated. Using both hands, the operator tears off the panels of waste paper, leaving a thin strip of paper, 3/16 inch wide on each side. After casing-in, these small stubs offer unusual resistance away from the fragile binding edge. The tensile forces exerted onto the first and last sheets are diverted inwards, creating a durable hardcover binding.

Ribler's (Stuttgart, Germany) ( new perfect binder creates a unique lay-flat binding. It uses a specially formulated PVA adhesive that is said to be as strong as PUR. An extrusion head applies the glue, eliminating clean up. Each glue cartridge can bind about 500 books.

But the binding system's real attraction is the patented spine-milling device, a separate, tabletop unit. Customers that already own a binder can buy this component as a low-cost spine preparation unit. Users can process several thinner books at the same time. After spine preparation, add the printed endpapers and proceed as usual. (One caveat: Don't forget to drop the milling head!)

Those who prefer true lay-flat bindings can opt for Ribler's Junior binding unit. Tabbed endpapers add stiffness to the critical joints, one advantage of going this route. Single folio, four-page endsheets offer more flexible joints. Regardless of the method, ODM's Lock-Bind gadget will pave the way for better quality hardcover binding.

Werner Rebsamen, professor emeritus, RIT (Rochester, NY), has lectured and consulted with more than 300 printing and binding facilities around the world. Contact him at

Editor's note: For related book-on-demand products see pg. 40.

We could write a book

On the softcover side, several vendors offer single-clamp binders. Most lack a side-gluing device and aren't designed for hardcover production. For more on-demand binding options, see the following articles at

  • “All around PUR,” August 2008
  • “Building blocks,” February 2008
  • “Real books, real fast: An overview of Muller Martini's high-volume SigmaLine,” May 2005