American Printer's mission is to be the most reliable and authoritative source of information on integrating tomorrow's technology with today's management.

Going for the Fold

Jun 1, 2007 12:00 AM

         Subscribe in NewsGator Online   Subscribe in Bloglines

In the summer of 1962, 14-year-old Tuck Tucker launched his career in the printing industry. His father put him to work in the bindery. “I spent three summers in the bindery,” recalls Tucker. Over the course of his high school and college vacations, Tucker did a stint in every department. “I worked wherever my father told me,” he says.

Tucker's father, Wiley Tucker, Sr., co-founded Tucker-Castleberry Printing (Atlanta) with A.C. Castleberry in 1949. Today, the $17 million company has 75 employees and occupies 50,000 sq. ft. And Tuck Tucker has long since graduated from postpress helper to president of the company.

Tucker-Castleberry has evolved with the times — it began as a letterpress operation but ushered in the cold type era in the 1960s, the desktop publishing revolution in the late 1980s and the digital prepress advances of the early 1990s. According to Tucker, however, no single technical or business change compared to a move precipitated by the 1996 Summer Olympics. “Our old location was in the middle of [what eventually became] The Olympic Park,” says Tucker. “In 1994, we were told we had 18 months to move out.”

Moving out meant moving up

Had Tucker-Castleberry stayed at its original location, it might have made some modest equipment upgrades. But, as a practical matter, the company couldn't afford to have its presses down during the month it would take to transport and install the equipment at the new location. “When we moved, we purchased all new equipment,” says Tucker. “Our first MAN Roland 700 press, a Heidelberg POLAR cutting system, a new Sheridan saddlestitcher and four MBO B30 folders. It took us to a new level, in terms of productivity and quality.”

The company subsequently added two additional Roland 700s as well as two additional MBO B20 folders. Tucker cites ease of use, low maintenance requirements and reliability as key factors for selecting the MBO equipment. “The new MBO folders are so automated that jobs can be preset by one operator and run by another. The folders are very operator friendly — all the settings are in inches. You don't have to convert every job to millimeters [as a competitor's machine requires]. I want our operators running the machine, not doing math conversions!”

Tucker-Castleberry does a wide variety of high-end six-color work on paper as thin as 50-lb. offset up to 18-pt. board. “Most of our jobs originate with creative designers with a great deal of ‘inventiveness,’ explains Tucker. “We are doing gatefolds, double gatefolds, 10-panel accordion folds, map folds, etc. The MBOs can do anything.”

The new folders have the entire MBO fold catalog onboard — operators can call up the fold patterns in seconds. Repeat jobs are a cinch. “Once we've set up a job, we save it in the system,” says Tucker. “The next time we run it, we can have the machine totally set and ready to run quickly. So 1½ hour ‘tough' makereadies now only take minutes.”

Old folders never sigh

It's been many years since the first summer Tuck Tucker spent in the bindery — long enough for his 31-year-old son, Kent, to join the business. Tucker doesn't miss his father's old folders one bit and neither do his veteran employees. “We've got some folder operators close to my age and they say they're doing a lot more sheets per hour with a lot less effort.”

Katherine O'Brien is the editor or AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at

There's no business like show business

Tucker-Castleberry got its first MBO folder almost 10 years ago. Although the company now has a total of six MBO folders, originally it was leaning toward a different vendor. Tuck Tucker changed his mind after spending some time with MBO's Hartmut Sohn at a trade show.

“It was probably at Graph Expo in 1994,” says Tucker. “Hartmut spent half a day with me at the show, demonstrating the machine. It looked easy to run, and I've always thought the easier it is to run something, the better it runs.”

Sohn is now MBO's vice president of special applications, which includes various mailing and gluing offerings as well as the DIGI-Finisher on-demand line. (DIGI-Finisher combines an MBO B-21 folder with a pile feeder and saddlestitcher and can be used for both variable and fixed jobs.)

“I knew Tuck from Atlanta, where I was then based,” recalls Sohn. “At one time, he was the president of the Printing Assn. of Georgia (PIAG), so we saw each other at many events.”

In 1994, Sohn demonstrated MBO's E-series. “It didn't have the speed or automation of our current folders but it was very easy to set up,” Sohn explains.

Since that first meeting, Sohn and Tucker kept running into each other at subsequent Graph Expo and Print shows in Chicago as well as at two Drupas and the most recent Ipex. “Tuck is always very attentive,” says Sohn. “When we see each other at shows, he always wants to see what's new.”

Folding resources

All the accessories

At the end of 2006, The PLM Group (Ontario, Canada,) beefed up its pressroom with a Heidelberg (Kennesaw, GA) Speedmaster XL 105 UV press with eight printing and two coating units. The bindery should have no trouble keeping pace with the new press — PLM also added six fully automated Stahlfolder TH 82 folders, nine Speedbander pack deliveries, and eight mailing stations for gluing and perforating. The automated Stahlfolder TH 82 folders and the Speedbander pack deliveries are being used for the first time in the Canadian market.

“These new machines will boost print and finishing speed, increase throughput and significantly reduce our operating costs,” explains Dave Stuart, president of the PLM Group. All six folders are equipped with a Speedbander, which outputs counted, sleeve-wrapped packs. Functions such as the counting, pressing, jogging and sleeve-wrapping of folded sheets are fully automated. The other three Speedbander units are used with existing saddlestitchers.

In addition to comprehensive mailing services, The PLM Group produces a wide range of brochures, leaflets and catalogs. Founded in 1987, the 450-employee company is one of Canada's largest print shops.


End-to-end folder automation

MBO America has introduced several features to the Perfection B26-S and B30-S that enable users to fully automate the Perfection folder from the feeder to the delivery. The automatic electronic set-up/support system, Rapidset, can now carry automatic settings from the feeder, register table, fold-rollers, and buckle-plates and over the side-guides of the subsequent folding units. Air blast smoother bars over the entire register table and on the subsequent units, eliminate all set-up of mechanical smoothers. Roller setting calibration is fully automatic — operators don't ave to tweak calipers or use scrap paper to test settings.

When combined with the “NAVIGATOR” Touch Screen control, makereadies are event faster. NAVIGATOR, an intelligent machine control system, provides integrated production monitoring and machine adjustment. Jobs are calibrated based on production speeds. NAVIGATOR also monitors functions to prevent incorrect data entry. Job changeover time is significantly reduced by programmable, saveable and repeatable actions now available at the touch screen console that will motorize settings and adjustments that were previously manual. Mark-free Vacuum-Infeed Vacuum-Alignment System (VIVAS) and high-speed guides on the subsequent units, help maximize production speeds. Fully automated Perfection folders are available in B26-S (26 × 41-inches); B30-S (30 ×47-inches); and K800.2 (30 ×47-inches).


A folding force to be reckoned with

For Force Enterprises, dependability is the name of the game — it was the impetus for making the move from quick print to a full-service prepress, printing and finishing company, and it was a major factor in selecting a floor-model folder for its 27,300-sq.-ft. operation in Tinley Park, IL.

“We started out as a quick printer [in 1979], like a lot of people did,” says president Ron Strenge. “We weren't able to find dependable, quality suppliers, so we ended up buying this or that piece of equipment. Little by little, we switched.”

Force Enterprises produces various jobs, mostly for small to midsize printers, ranging anywhere from business cards to brochures to books. “We really don't have a specialty other than high-quality work,” Strenge notes. This diversity of jobs posed a challenge for finding a folder that could handle heavy variation. “We wanted a machine that was going to hold the consistency. Whether it's a short or long run, the piece can't vary. That's the problem with folders: getting good, crisp folds.”

The company turned to long-time supplier Standard Finishing Systems (Andover, MA) for an AFC-566FKT, which was installed in Q1 2007. “We have a Standard collating/stitching system,” Strenge says, “and we also have a Standard perfect binder. We've had very good luck with dependability and quality [with them].”

Standard's AFC-566FKT boasts advanced setup automation for quick changeovers and the ability to handle sensitive digitally-imaged sheets without marking. The machine's automation was a great fit for Force Enterprises. “It's hard to raise prices,” says Strenge. “To try to maintain — with everything going up, especially gas and petroleum products — we have to look for more efficient ways of doing things. So we looked at more automated pieces of equipment. We do a lot of short to medium runs, so the faster the setup and the faster the machine, the more efficient we are.” Strenge notes that although the company operates two other folders, neither of them can store programs like the AFC-566FKT can. Also, the machine is faster than the company's other folders. Force Enterprises runs the AFC-566FKT at over 20,000 pieces per hour. “You can really crank that folder!” notes Strenge.

Another sweet spot for Strenge is the ability to add a deflector plate in the bottom and choose a program, then the machine converts to a right angle folder automatically. It's the difference between two and 15 minutes, he says.

Getting the machine up and running was a smooth process, as well. After a few hours for installation and training, the latest addition already was in production. “We were running simple folds after just four hours of basic training,” says Strenge.


What a difference automation makes

When Caskey Printing (York, PA) president Greg Caskey and plant manager Jim Chioda visited Graph Expo 2006 in Chicago, they were amazed at the automation and speed of the latest floor-model folders on display. They made up their minds that they wanted to add these folders to their firm's production line.

And they did. The 25,000-sq.-ft. company, founded in 1986, recently installed an Autoset folder from Baumfolder Corp. (Sydney, OH). The main draw for the company was in the quick and simplified makeready times. “The name Baum itself also is a major factor,” notes Tony Rife, vice president of sales and distribution.

The Autoset combines the information of the BAUM ifold automated functions. Caskey Printing opted for a stacker feature that allows the company to increase speed while producing an organized, batched stock of folded pieces.

Caskey Printing produces newsletters, brochures, catalogues and marketing collateral, including direct mail and mailing fulfillment. “We do very high-end, cross-gutter magazines and marketing pieces that require tight and accurate folds,” says Rife. “The challenges are that our customers' expectations are that the images and art are going to be precise on every project, regardless of what type of paper is being used.” And with a variety of jobs comes a variety of papers that the folder needs to accommodate — everything from 50-lb. text to 14-pt. cover. Rife points out that the extensive automation on the Autoset comes in handy when dealing with variety in both job type and paper stock. Typical jobs being run on the new 30-inch folder include 24-page 5.5 ×8.5-inch signatures to 12-page 8.5 × 11-inch signatures. The majority of work is standard folding, but Rife notes that special folds — gate folding in particular — are a new capability for the shop. He adds that the company has increased speeds on the machine by more than 2,000 sph, noting, “The automation has greatly improved our makeready times.”


Attaching system

Pitney Bowes Inc. (Stamford, CT) has added production intelligence to the mailstream with its Sure-Feed AT3 product attaching system. The AT3 features a synchronized servo card feeder for precise product placement and an operator-friendly touch screen for on-the-fly adjustments. The AT3 boasts changeover times of less than 15 minutes for new applications and a six-ft. collection conveyor for easy unloading. Typical applications include attaching phone cards, real estate cards, business cards, credit cards, insurance cards, gift cards, magnets and certified mail.

The AT3 also boasts a small footprint, toolless setup, ease of operation, one- and two-card applications, and speeds up to 20,000 pieces per hour.


Surf our site

AMERICAN PRINTER has an extensive collection of folder articles online at Here are some highlights from our archives:

Back to School (June 2006)

All of the folder vendors agree: Running a folder is among the most challenging jobs in the bindery. This article offers some practical tips as well as information on training courses. “You have to remember we're pushing the paper all the way through the machine, not pulling it,” advised MBO Folding School instructor Tom McCoy. McCoy is an MBO service technician and folding veteran of 24 years. “Operators often tighten rollers, thinking they'll ‘pull’ the paper better, when in fact this worsens the problem. And after it folds, it has to push two sheets out of the machine,” he added. “Ninety-nine percent of all folding problems are caused by incorrect roller pressure. You don't need a lot of pressure on the rollers.”

Crease of Mind (January 2006)

With the proper accessories, many folders can score, perf or slit, too. Inline options showcased in this article include accessories from Tech-ni-Fold, MBO and Vijuk.

Finishing Touch (November 2006)

Morgana Systems' (Marietta, GA) DigiFold is an integrated creaser and folder for on-demand applications. This article profiles Barry Newland of Allegra Print & Imaging (Richmond, VA), who uses the Digi-Fold to produce high-quality 4/4 brochures — with no toner cracking.