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Back to Basics

Folding and Creasing Systems

After outsourcing folding and creasing work, should you return to the fold with your own equipment in tow? Jo Golding investigates the questions you should ask yourself before investing

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Morgana’s Docu Fold Pro is a fully automatic paper folding machine, which is ideal for folding litho or digital stock

Return to the fold

In our monthly features, we often speak to a real range of manufacturers and suppliers in order to obtain a broad view of a particular sector in our multi-faceted industry. We also tend to look in-depth at the technology and round up the best of the best, so you can see it all in one place.

For our 2017 feature celebrating folding and creasing systems, I will start by looking at the current market, according to two key finishing specialists, before I spin it round from the viewpoint of the printer. This way, you as a reader and perhaps someone who is looking to upgrade their own equipment, can find out straight from the printing company itself what led them to bring folding and creasing in-house, and whether they are seeing improvements in production because of it.

Take control

Friedheim International is one of the major players in the print finishing sector, supplying everything from bindery solutions, to die-cutters and laminators. In terms of folding systems, Friedheim distributes a full range of MBO folding machines, as well as Herzog and Heymann specialised folders.

Neil Elliott, marketing manager of Friedheim International, says there has been an increasing trend in printers bringing folding and creasing systems in-house, which brings a range of benefits to the printer.

Elliott explains: “As with any finishing process that is brought in-house (laminating, for example), the company concerned derives cost efficiencies as it assumes greater control over production, can make better use of resources (i.e. staff), can reduce waste and transport costs, as well as providing a better service to its customers in its ability to meet urgent requests and deadlines.”

However, Elliott warns printers that going down this particular route is not beneficial for everyone: “The decision to bring a process in-house is not for every company, and the investment decision needs to be based on hard facts—one of the most significant of which being: ‘Will the machine/system in question have enough work to keep it operating for the majority of time, or will it be idle for long periods?’ If the answer to that question is the latter, then outsourcing may still be the best approach.”

Elliott advises printers to discuss their options with Friedheim: “As Friedheim is a specialist finishing supplier, we have the experience and know-how to discuss with a customer all the pros and cons of such a decision to ensure that the correct solution is found, and one that provides the best return on investment.”

Flexible folding

Stuart Bamford, Friedheim International’s UK and Ireland national sales manager for post-press products, highlights the Herzog and Heymann M series as a folding unit that is helping customers boost efficiency and quality.

He comments: “With its extensive and varied capabilities including folding, creasing, perforating and cutting, the Herzog and Heymann ‘M’ series folding system is finding great favour with customers who require quality output in the form of presentation folders and wallets, a perfect example being the property details produced by estate agents for their more ‘prestigious’ offerings.

The Herzog and Heymann M7 folding system, distributed by Friedheim International, is a flexible machine; you can choose the number of pockets, working widths, and more

“But this is just one example, and the flexibility of the ‘M’ system enables it to produce much more, only limited by the imagination of the user.”

Morgana is another very well-established brand in the finishing sector, manufacturing a range of solutions for all types of printing needs, including the Auto Creaser Pro 385, Digi Fold Pro 385, and Auto Fold Pro.

The KAS Crease Matic  Auto50 creates creasing and perforating on digitally printed work

“Folding and creasing equipment is viewed by many as part of the basic set of post-press equipment for a digital printing company, along with a guillotine,” says Ray Hillhouse, vice president offline business at Morgana Systems.

He continues: “Fast, accurate, and effective equipment is required, and often easy to set-up products are preferred in this push-button, short-run age. We are seeing a continued desire to invest in such products, rather than a definite increase.

“Important products would indeed include creasers. Creasers are designed to prevent digital output cracking when folded, alongside folders that have been designed so as not to mark the printed sheet.

“Creasers and folders designed specifically for the short-run digital print market provide for easy set-up, which helps to reduce the number of sheets needed to get the machine into full production—an important issue in digital printing where every sheet has a cost.”

Meeting demand

Turning the situation around to the printers’ point of view, last year Northampton-based Twenty10 Digital invested in a Morgana Digi Fold Pro. The company noticed a growing amount of work requiring creasing and folding, for example, from a greetings card client, and therefore invested in the Digi Fold Pro to meet this demand.

Managing director of Twenty10 Digital, Paul Riley, says its existing machines were simply not fast enough to keep up with the growing volume of work they were producing.

Paul Riley, managing director of Twenty10 Digital, with the company’s most recent purchase, the Digi Fold Pro from Morgana

Riley adds: “We were putting a lot of jobs through the Docu Master and we wanted to free the machine up. Initially we were doing six hours of greetings cards at a time, taking us four or five hours on the Docu Master, now it only takes us an hour.

“It has been beneficial as it has taken work off other machines and now we put it onto the Digi Fold Pro. Time was another key factor. We did have a Major Paper Folder which we traded in against it and it wasn’t up to the job.

You’d have to crease it offline and then put it through there to fold it and it wasn’t powerful enough to do the work.

“The DigiFold Pro is extremely versatile and flexible. Set-up is extremely fast, operation very simple to learn, and a skew facility allows for small adjustments in the crease and fold actions for printed sheets slightly off square, which can sometimes happen with digital print. This machine is another fine example of the robust, quality engineering provided by Morgana.”

The specialists in digital print, web-to-print, wide-format print, and print management, have a small team of just five people, but now house a wide range of equipment from Morgana. This includes the Digi Book 200 PUR binder for perfect bound products, a Card Xtra for business cards and other small format jobs, and a Matrix laminator.

“We work with Morgana, print for Morgana, and have got a little Morgana showroom on the finishing side,” says Riley, adding: “I tested the Digi Fold Pro at Morgana more than a few times to see its pitfalls, what it will do, what it doesn’t do. In the end, you have to make a decision to buy one instead of using their equipment. We have a good relationship with them and if you look around our finishing equipment, you will see various other bits of kit from Morgana.”

When it comes to whether other printers should consider bringing folding and creasing in-house, Riley is adamant that it is worth the investment. He adds: “I would recommend bringing machinery in-house. What you get is more control, time, and it costs less. With outsourcing, you are paying someone else to do it for you when you could do it yourself. The world of digital print is wanted yesterday and you have not got time to run around to other places for work.”

The world of digital print is wanted yesterday and you have not got time to run around to other places for work

Quick turnaround

Another company seeing the benefits of bringing folding and creasing in-house is Charing Cross Print with its investment in Duplo’s Touchline CF375 creaser/folder. Similarly to Twenty10 Digital’s Morgana relationship, Charing Cross Print is a long-time Duplo user with existing kit from the company already in-house.

Charing Cross Print’s director, Mark Dobson, explains: “Our forte is very quick turnaround, small to medium volume work and we have a mix of clients—theatre and entertainment companies, large technology companies and large retailers among them.

“Being in Central London, we need to be able to turn jobs around immediately and deliver the same day, otherwise we won’t get the order. With the Touchline, we can now get jobs done twice as quickly by creasing and folding in one pass.”

O Factoid: Pneumatic paper folders push paper into the machine using a vacuum, and most of these machines include a built-in compressor. O

Having spoken to experts in the finishing sector, one of the main questions a printer should ask themselves when thinking about purchasing folding and creasing technology is whether they have enough work to keep it going.

However, there are also machines designed for short-runs that will still ensure you cut down on costs.

Another key specialist in this area is Intelligent Finishing Systems (IFS), which as a distributor for Horizon and Foliant technology, has not only made a great success of helping printers transition into expanding their in-house finishing workflows, but also supported those in the trade supply sector that support those not able to make the jump.

Indeed, the most recent example of a case in point is Clinical Print Finishers, which has invested in a B2 Horizon AFC 566FG folder. Operations director at the firm, Alan Pickles, explains what motivated the purchase: “Clinical needed a machine that was not specifically for miniature work as we already have in the region of 30 miniature machines in production. Whilst most of our work is small-format, we do have several B2 customers for who we produce commercial standard size work and the Horizon AFC 566FG is ideal for this, but is also capable of producing small-format work if required.”

The design of the Horizon AFC 566FG focuses on efficiency and reliability

Speaking to IFS, the company marks out some key strengths of the technology that swung the balance for Pickles. The first is a delivery conveyor, which can perform a wide range of simple to very complex folding patterns. The added Horizon ED-40 Vertical stacker delivery also enables it to produce and batch deliver small format folding.
What is clear from the Clinical Print Finishers example is a trend that is sweeping the UK print industry, and that is a concentration on total efficiency—after all, if you want to make more profit from a consolidated market, then you need to bring your daily overheads down. Scarborough print and display company Adverset Media Solutions is moving to address the very same trend and chose a Horizon AFC-566A folder from IFS to bring complex folding in-house and expand its print finishing production capabilities.

Heidelberg’s Stahlfolder KH 82 can fold signatures for booklets and books, but also handle all sizes of commercial jobs

“We wanted to be able to produce maps as well as more intricate folded sheets and brochures in a faster more cost effective way. We wanted to retain greater control over the production by reducing change-over times between jobs,” explains Adverset Media Solutions business development manager John White.

So, considering the wise words of the experts from this sector and those on the front line of print, the best course of action is to speak to manufacturers about your printing situation and weigh up the options. With the right investment, you could see yourself gaining greater control over production, saving money, reducing waste, and better meeting deadlines in a fast-paced industry.

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