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Unchained Productivity

Aug 1, 2007 12:00 AM

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Once considered the biggest bottleneck in print production, the bindery is achieving new heights in productivity. Equipment manufacturers are improving the level of automation and enabling greater workflow integration with prepress and the pressroom. Modular stitcher components and new equipment configuration options are enabling postpress operators to perform quick job changeovers and get more product out the door in less time than ever.

Quick turns

Heidelberg's (Kennesaw, GA) Stitchmaster ST 450 — which replaced the ST 400 in the company's saddlestitching line — boasts high levels of automation, flexibility and productivity. Rated at 14,000 cph, the ST 450 processes untrimmed paper formats from 3.35 × 5.04 inches (85 × 128 mm) to 12.60 × 18.90 inches (320 × 480 mm) and a maximum 0.47-inch (12 mm) product thickness. The machine can process A6 landscape in single-sheet mode. And, it can be integrated seamlessly into the Prinect workflow, allowing preset data to be transferred from prepress to the bindery. Once production data has been saved, it can be accessed at any time for repeat jobs.

The stitcher can have up to 16 feeders, and one or more mobile sample gluers can be placed at any point on the saddle chain. Optional features such as two-ups, multiple-ups and hole punchers eliminate the need for additional passes. Heidelberg developed low-wear stitching heads for the Stitchmaster ST 450. The machine also stitches the product while it is motion, to help boost quality and productivity. The feeder and compensating stacker adjust via an automatic format presetting.

“We do a lot of different work, so we need to get on and get off as quickly as possible,” says Andrew Studney, COO of Hatteras Press (Tinton Falls, NJ). “We were looking at running two stitchers, but this one ST 450 from Heidelberg does the same amount of work because the makereadies are so much quicker.” Hatteras, a 24-year-old commercial print company serving Fortune 500 customers in the pharmaceutical, telecommunications, retail and financial markets, installed the Stitchmaster in February 2007.

At the same time, the company purchased a Heidelberg XL 105 press, which was up and running in July, to complement its fleet of 40-inch Heidelberg presses, two smaller format presses, and a digital department running toner jobs (which are finished on the same bindery equipment as its offset work). “[The press] runs at 18,000 iph, and it has faster makereadies because it's fully automated. Combining that with the ST 450 stitcher lets us compete with the shorter run length web world,” says Studney. “We've been able to go after longer running jobs and be more competitive.” They also have die cutting in-house and do a large amount of variable data on an inkjet system running near-line to the ST 450. The shop runs a small Rosback stitcher at about 2,500 cph for smaller jobs.

“Makereadies are much quicker on the Stitchmaster than on our old stitcher — a late 1990s model — and the machine runs much faster,” says Studney. “We had a huge job for a major retail customer, last year, that we were able to print but had to send out for stitching because it would have taken too long. We did a very similar project for the same customer this year and we kept all of the stitching in-house. We stitched it two-up with a five-knife trimmer on the ST 450 running about 12,000 cph, which put 24,000 per hour on the floor. That was a big competitive advantage for us, because we didn't have to outsource it.”

Hatteras has the new stitcher networked for data collection and the ability to send preset information directly from prepress, but finds the machine's setup so easy that the operator can simply program it at the machine. “From a simplicity standpoint, you're not going to stitch a hundred different sizes — you're only talking about probably 2 dozen, 3 dozen sizes, so we save all of them [at the stitcher],” Studney explains. “Your settings can be saved if you [leave] one job to do another. You have templates set up so that you can hit a few buttons and go right back to your settings for the previous job very easily.”

The ST 450 has signature recognition on every pocket. “It's a camera system that scans the pieces as they're going on to make sure it's the right signature in the right order,” says Studney. “If you put a signature in backward, for example, it stops the machine. So it's a good quality control feature.”

After having the machine up and running for a quarter, Studney estimates the ST 450 is producing 50 to 60 percent more product than the old stitcher. “And our old stitcher was not that old!” he notes. “It was a late 1990s model.”

Now that the XL 105 and the ST 450 are ramped up and running, Hatteras Press is considering half webs and full webs. “We're looking to expand all aspects of our business, including sales and marketing efforts,” says Studney. “We're also considering wide format for short and longer runs — we might be looking at a 56- or 64-inch press next.”


Doubletime production

Muller Martini's (Hauppauge, NY) advanced saddlestitchers can be configured to run in tandem. A new, multipurpose configuration for the company's high-speed saddlestitchers and next-generation stackers is designed to maximize the throughput of these systems.

The configuration — set up to be operated by one person — consists of two PrimaPlus saddlestitchers that are connected via a tandem element (see diagram, previous page). The entire system can be equipped with up to 32 feeders with product delivery to the front of one machine and delivery to the rear of a second. The delivery of the second line is connected to a three-knife trimmer via conveyor.

Running this configuration at 14,000 cph, two-up, up to 56,000 (2-up × 14,000 cph × 2 stitchers) copies of a stitched product can be finished, trimmed on three sides and delivered. Depending on the product being processed, production speed can be increased to 84,000 cph with the installation of a trio-cut device, based on maximum mechanical speed. The maximum product size in two-up production is 11¾ × 18¾ inches.

The tandem design also allows for operating the system as two individual machines. The tandem connection element couples the stitchers into one system with the push of a button. Muller Martini saddlestitchers can use a variety of heads to perform standard, eyelet and special stitchings.

Quality checks include the new Asir 3 system for bar code and image recognition. AMRYS (Automatic Make-Ready System) presets and performs size adjustments (including thickness) automatically. This reportedly reduces makeready by up to 50 percent. As options, AMRYS can be used for the feeders, saddlestitcher or three-knife trimmer.

The Robusto compensating stacker runs at up to 30,000 cph and is used for medium and large high-performance saddlestitchers. See

Denise Kapel is managing editor for AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at

Speedy high-volume stitchers

Check out the latest saddlestitchers at Graph Expo 2007. Here are just a few of the manufacturers that will be exhibiting:

  • Goss: 3041
  • Heidelberg: 1200
  • Muller Martini: 3863
  • Standard: 2246
  • Vijuk: 3011

The goods on Goss

At Graph Expo 2006, Goss Intl. unveiled Pacesetter 2200 and 2500 saddlestitchers with respective rated speeds of 22,000 and 25,000 books per hour. Servo-driven components include hoppers that reportedly are repositioned easily within a system, or among multiple systems.

Both models are available with up to 40 horizontal or vertical hoppers and can be equipped with a new high-speed Goss flying trimmer or Ferag SNT-U trimmer. Pacesetter 2200 systems operate with a single stitcher, while Pacesetter 2500 systems use a dual stitcher to achieve the higher output.

Pushing the inkjet envelope

Inkjetting in the bindery typically is associated with basic addressing applications. But inkjet printheads, inks and controllers are continuing to push the envelope. In general, users can expect better uptime, higher print quality and more environmentally friendly ink options. Other trends to note: more sophisticated personalization and new developments in high-speed hybrid.

Our March 2006 article, “Pushing the envelope,” details the latest developments from Buskro, Domino Amjet, Jetrion, Kodak Versamark and Videojet.

See more on pg. 36 and at

Muller Martini open house

Nearly three dozen print production businesses participated in an open house titled, “First to the Finish: Leading-Edge Saddle Stitching Solutions for Maximum Automation,” June 5-7, 2007, at Muller's Long Island headquarters.

Muller print finishing experts shared their insights with attendees about how to increase efficiency and profit potential with state-of-the-art automated finishing technology. Attendees viewed live demonstrations of three advanced print finishing machines targeted toward mid-volume operations:

BravoPlus saddlestitcher with AMRYS. This 13,000-cph stitcher provides a high level of automation including computer-aided makeready and changeover for fast setups. AMRYS technology reportedly can cut makeready by up to 50 percent. BravoPlus now offers variable feeding with a choice of feeder options (flat pile feeder, vertical pile feeder, stream feeder, card and cover folder feeder, and merchandise and card gluers).

BravoPlus T, equipped with partial AMRYS. The 11,000-cph BravoPlus T with partial AMRYS features PLC assisted controls and touchscreen operation with simple adjustment of clinchers. It can be expanded to feed up to 14 signatures, or 12 signatures with a cover folder feeder.

The BravoPlus with AMRYS and the BravoPlus T offer options including optical automatic signature image recognition (ASIR), lateral thickness measurement by side caliper, oblique sheet monitor, thickness measurement by ridge caliper, stitch monitor, trim monitor and sequential on/off.

Presto stitcher. Running at up to 9,000 cph, Presto features automated menu-guided PLC controls and touchscreen operation. The stitcher handles sizes from 4⅛ × 4⅛ inches (3⅛ × 3⅛ inches with accessories) to 12 × 14⅜ inches. Presto operates in 1:1 or 1:2 modes, providing the capability to run difficult signatures or to maintain productivity when loading bulky projects. The stitcher can be expanded with up to a maximum of six twin feeders (12 feeders). Presto also has an in-line three-knife trimmer along with an Apollo compensating stacker, which provides for high/low folio, gripper and suction opening, and flat loading feeders.

Muller Martini's new PerformancePlus stitching heads feature 1.58-inch (40-mm) minimum center-to-center distance and wire length accuracy within 0.004 inch. The electronic wire feed unit can be mounted remotely (up to 3 ft. from heads) or directly next to the stitcher heads. A patent-pending wire cutting system combined with a new supporter design and reduced crown width reportedly ensure a minimum 30 percent reduction in wire consumption (by weight). Leg length adjustment is performed by thumb wheel.

BravoPlus at Graph Expo. Look for Muller Martini in booth 3863 at Graph Expo demonstrating its 13,000-cph BravoPlus saddlestitcher. The feeders on the BravoPlus have been reengineered to enable highly efficient advance and retard timing of each individual feeder to the chain. At the show, the BravoPlus will be shown in action with the Palamides automatic 502 banding machine.

Options include a variable feeding capability with a choice of feeder options (flat pile, vertical pile, streamfeed, card and cover folder, and merchandise and card gluers). BravoPlus is available with inside and outside inkjet capabilities.

The Palamides 502 banding machine is designed for stitchers one- or two-up production where the product is counted, stacked and banded. The Palamides 502 handles small and springy products that typically cannot be put through a normal stacker.

Doubling up

Muller Martini cites the following advantages to its tandem saddlestitching system:

Greatest flexibility when scheduling projects. The same job can be produced on both saddlestitchers at the same time, or the system can be used as a complete single line for a job with a larger number of signatures.

A variety of feeders is available. Folder feeder for covers and cards, horizontal and vertical signature feeders, sample gluer.

PrimaPlus Tandem allows “inline prestitching”. Stitch-in-stitch production in a single pass.

The system is ideally suited to short runs. Quick, automatic size setup with AMRYS (or partial AMRYS).

Product with spine length up to 18⅞ inches (480 mm) can be processed one-up.

The system can be expanded. Inserting lines can be added for completing printed products with loose inserts.

Each finished product can be packaged individually in plastic film.

The company's advanced systems are JDF/JMF-capable and can be networked into a CIP4 digital workflow.

Inkjet on nearly any surface

Videojet Technologies Inc.'s (Wood Dale, IL) 4210 inkjet addressing system provides a typical throughput of 20,000 mail pieces per hour in multiline mode. The system's PC-based controller can interface with a variety of external equipment to keep high-throughput production lines running at peak efficiency.

Videojet's inks and fluids for the 4210 printer address a wide variety of applications. Solvent-based inks (including alcohol or MEK) adhere to coated substrates including polywrap. Water-based inks are available.

“Users running Total Market Coverage (TMC) applications will love the fact that the 4210 can print any combination of fixed text, variable text, numbering, barcodes and multiple date/time formats,” says Bob Neagle, graphics business unit manager, Videojet. “This system also supports the use of single-, twin- and tri-line modes on appropriate fonts.”

The 4210 printer has a Windows-based front end that provides a color-coded representation of envelopes in progress, production rates, remaining records, estimated job completion and other data.

A single printer utilizes two printheads for six lines of print, and the system can be expanded to include up to four printers for a total of 24 lines. The heads can be split to print in non-contiguous areas on the mail piece.

High throughput, low maintenance

The new Videojet G4100 — designed as a cost-effective solution for small to midsize operations — is built to combine high resolution and throughput with ease of use. Developed with HP thermal inkjet technology, the 500-fpm G4100 features a 4.25-inch printband in a single head that allows printers to customize mail pieces with up to 1,200-dpi resolution for addresses, text and graphics. Its self-wiping printheads enable hands-off cleaning and less maintenance.

When one of the dual 775-ml ink cartridges empties, the G4100 automatically switches to the other. Its self-contained cabinet requires minimal component connections for quick setup. A built-in PC can be connected to the user's local area network to monitor print jobs remotely.


Flexible inkjet options

Domino Amjet (Gurnee, IL) offers binary, continuous and drop-on-demand inkjet products for postpress variable-data printing and addressing.

Domino's continuous inkjet printheads use electrically charged ink droplets to create high quality characters based on a grid formation. Using inks developed for specific industry applications, the A-Series can print text, graphics and variable data directly onto food, glass, plastic, metal, rubber and other substrates.

The A-Series printhead contains an ink drop generator with a vibrating drive rod. This creates ultrasonic pressure waves in the ink, breaking up the stream of ink into individual droplets. When this stream of droplets falls between a set of electrodes, individual droplets are intermittently charged. The size of the charge given to each droplet determines how far it will be deflected out of the stream when passing through the deflector plates and therefore its placement on the product.

By placing a collection of these droplets close together, a variety of characters are printed as the product passes the print head. Droplets not deflected out of the stream are recirculated. Benefits include automatic self-cleaning and non-contact printing.

Domino's second-generation K-series drop-on-demand print technology offers inline digital printing to complement existing offset or flexo printed product with personalization, numbers, graphics, barcodes and addresses. The series can be controlled with the Domino Editor GT Controller as well as a third-party PC-based controller.

Variable print settings meet a range of different image size, print quality and production speed requirements, and the K200 printheads can be stitched together to create a wider seamless image. K-Series prints at up to 520 dpi, has a modular design for quick startup and changeover, and uses UV-curable inks to image a wide range of porous and non-porous substrates.