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Back to Basics

The Finishing Revolution

With the finishing sector of the printing industry continuing to throw up a vast array of new developments, Harriet Gordon takes a closer look and examines how the latest launches could help your business thrive

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“Du Sense is a differentiator. It’s ability to convert good quality print into a great sensory experience can only offer opportunity to those who are looking to differentiate their proposition to their customers,” says Andy Benson, UK managing director at Duplo

Finishing First

From sewing systems to folders, and from die-cutters to coaters, the ‘finishing’ sector encompasses a vast array of different technologies catering to all different sections of the print industry. As such, an overview of this extensive market can only hope to provide ‘snapshots’, examples of the latest technology-types bursting onto the finishing scene.
 
Yet these snapshots can also tell a story, build a wider picture, and give a sense of the prevailing mood and motion of the industry. From talking to an array of industry insiders representing the wide gamut of different finishing processes, it has become clear that the ‘finishing revolution’ is far from over—indeed, it may have only just begun.

Steve Giddins of Perfect Bindery Solutions (PBS) has a lifetime of experience in print finishing. For him, the revolution in finishing began with the advent of commercially competitive digital printing more than 25 years ago, but he believes that recent years have seen an important new impetus:

“At first the drive was to mimic mainstream products in shorter runs, but now our manufacturers are going beyond that to expand the range that can be offered and even create solutions for exciting new areas to add value,” Giddins says.

He continues: “For example, Smyth’s latest sewing system, the DX-70 Line, performs with the same quick set-ups and high productivity as its predecessor, but the specification has been extended to encompass a wider variety of formats up to 520 x 360mm.


The Smyth DX-70 integrated sewing line is said to perform to the standard of its predecessor, but its specification has been extended to encompass a wider variety of formats. It is available in the UK through Perfect Bindery Solutions
 

“The modular system enables the processing of flat sheets (B2) into sewn books, collating into sections (8, 12, 16, 24 and 32pp) and automatic thread cutting—even feeding larger formats directly onto the saddle (up to 520 x 550)—and is equally effective for both digital and litho short-run production. This allows the modern commercial printer to match the offering of earlier specialist manufacturers and go beyond that, with larger formats in smaller quantities and shorter lead times.”

Another machine competing in this area is the Stitch Liner Mark III. Bryan Godwyn, managing director of Intelligent Finishing Systems (IFS), declares that the next-generation Stitch Liner runs at a maximum speed of 6,000bph and up to 12,000bph with two-up production and is capable of producing A4 landscape booklets at speeds of up to 5,300bph.

Godwyn explains: “It targets booklet production for general commercial printers, inplants, and CRD. It builds on the hugely successful innovative Stitch Liner series and is equipped with a new large 12.1” HD colour touch screen. It offers enhanced operation with fully automated job set up in less than a minute making it 30 percent faster than the Stitch Liner 5500.”

Commenting on the continuing development of the finishing sector, Godywn states: “We believe that automation will continue to be enhanced and the integration of different products will continue to move forward. Printing operations need as many processes to be linked as much as possible now to keep their ‘up time’ at a maximum.”

Dare to be different

Giddens of PBS identified how key developments in finishing can create whole new areas of business for printers. Indeed, this ability to add value by differentiating a product, or opening up a new revenue stream, is where finishing systems come into their own. One of the most exciting areas of developments for printers has to be the new techniques and processes coming out of this sector, able to turn an ordinary piece of print into something extraordinary.

Andy Benson, UK managing director at Duplo, declares ‘differentiation’ one of the hottest trends in the industry today. He explains: “We continue to innovate across our categories and indeed the different brands we represent. One example is our Du Sense product which is offering a high-quality, variable-height sensory coating that has excited many over the last few months. Du Sense is a differentiator. It’s ability to convert good quality print into a great sensory experience can only offer opportunity to those who are looking to differentiate their proposition to their customers.”


Duplo bills its Du Sense solution as a ‘differentiator’. Pictured: Du Sense spot UV sample patterns



Benson goes on to explain exactly what makes Du Sense a differentiator: “Firstly it is different; it adds value by raising the bar in terms of finish. It can be affordably used for low run quantities, and changeover/set up times are minimal. When used with our multi-finishers, it can elevate from paper to sensory communication quickly and effectively, reducing physical handling and ensuring accuracy through programmable green button technology.

“With a really small physical footprint, anyone seeking to change the existing status quo with their customers should consider the Du Sense as a part of their finishing portfolio capable of making a difference.”

Anyone seeking to change the existing status quo with their customers should consider the Du Sense as a part of their finishing portfolio capable of making a difference


Of course it is not all about creating new product offerings. As a printer, streamlining the production of your existing products will be just as financially lucrative, if not more.

Stuart Bamford, Friedheim International’s national post-press manager, highlights MBO’s newest machine, the K80. The K80 is one of three MBO combi folding machines for the B1 size range and can be used to produce signatures, flyers, and similar in medium-sized, industrial print run lengths. The machine runs at speeds of up to 230m/min, and offers a comprehensive range of standard equipment and multiple automation options.
 
Bamford comments: “The K80 has been placed as the ‘go-to’ folder of choice for any printer wishing to automate their folding department, with multiple choices on the level of automation. With its automatic slitter shaft cassette, the K80 has also reduced make ready times, so customers can tackle more jobs in a shorter time span, allowing them to take more orders.”

Bamford also points to Bograma’s BSR 550 Basic, a rotary die cutter that made its UK debut last quarter. He asserts that the machine, “has shown that with its 550mm max working width, and 55mm min cut width, nothing gets products out the door faster on a small or medium run”.


Friedheim’s Stuart Bamford claims that nothing gets products out the door faster on a small or medium run than Bograma’s BSR 550 Basic rotary die cutter
 


Also highlighted by Friedheim as a development to keep an eye on is KAMA’s Flex Fold 52i folder-gluer for short runs. The Flex Fold 52i variant is the latest version of the Flex Fold that was demonstrated at Drupa 2016. The system is said to offer ‘record’ fast job changeovers of five minutes from one straight-line box to another, as well as fast changeovers from lock bottom to straight bottom boxes, thanks to features such as automatic size adjustment in both the transverse and longitudinal directions. Besides gluing and folding boxes, the Flex Fold 52i offers prefolding of banks, digital package printing, and inline Braille embossing.

If it ain’t broke…

As in the case of KAMA’s Flex Fold, many of the developments we see will not be entirely new pieces of kit. More often than not, the technologies making the biggest waves in the market will be adaptations of existing solutions, tweaked, changed, and improved to work with the developing trends of the industry.

Ray Hillhouse, vice-president offline business at Morgana, explains that the most recent stand-out development at the company comes courtesy of Morgana being acquired by the Plockmatic Group. This has enabled Morgana to take in-line bookletmakers from Plockmatic and turn them into a series of off-line products: the BM350 and BM500.

Hillhouse continues: “Combined with top-quality feeders, these products can produce stitched booklets of up to 200-pages. There is an ever-increasing demand for booklets to have a square folded spine, giving the appearance of a perfect bound publication. This is now an option for all our bookletmaking systems, and is being taken up increasingly by print producers.

“Traditional collators are less and less in demand because print engines are delivering pre-collated documents, ready for folding and stitching. Dual-bin feeders, such as the AF602, can be loaded with up to 570mm of stock, and when one bin runs out of material the system automatically switches to the next. This means that the system can be loaded on the run. The two feed bins can also be fitted with barcode readers, which is ideal for production of sets with variable page counts, or for matching sets from one bin to a cover in the other, where covers may have been produced with another printing device or have been laminated.”

Another technological development that takes and adapts key areas from existing machines is Horizon Fold Liner, recently added to the IFS portfolio. The Fold Liner incorporates the AFC-74 Series Folder and the Stitch Liner 6000 Saddle Stitching System with a VAC-80S collator and the HIF-6000F hybrid interface that supports smooth production. The system runs at up to 6,000 booklets per hour and has been designed to dramatically reduce human touchpoints, with no additional offline processing required after printing.


The Horizon Fold Liner, a recent addition to IFS’s portfolio, runs at up to 6,000 booklets per hour and has been designed to dramatically reduce human touchpoints



Godwyn of IFS comments: “The Fold Liner increases productivity which helps operations improve their profitability. A key production benefit of the Fold Liner is that it eliminates the need for separate folding enabling print from a digital or offset press sheet to be transformed into a saddle stitched booklet in one complete process.”

Reading the signs

Finally we turn to that iconic yet unsettled sector of the print industry: book production. According to the BPIF, books are once again on the up; their source indicates 2016/17 figure for books sold was 360 million, up by seven million from 2015/16. However, just because people are turning away from the e-reader and back towards print does not mean we are turning the page back a decade. There are enormous developments taking place in the book printing sector and finishing technology is once again key.
 
One example is Risetec, an Italian manufacturer, that has succeeded in breaking the ‘four-minute-mile’ of book production, by developing an industrial quality binding line that can either perfect bind for soft cover books or endpaper and backline for book blocks ready for casing-in – all with automated set-ups, barcode integrity assurance and in-line trimming.

O Factoid: ‘Revolution’ is defined as an abrupt change in a social order, and political usage of the term had been well established by 1688 in the description of the replacement of James II with William III.  O

 
For Steve Giddins of PBS, this is an achievement worthy of the title ‘revolution’, as he explains: “Book publishing has gone through a perfect storm of international competition, new platforms, new media and rapidly changing customer expectations over the past ten years and this has played havoc with the business model for the established specialist houses running conventional lines. Capital equipment in this sector has a high ticket price and the wrong decision when investing can be fatal.

“With the market in such a state of flux, the more versatile a system is in terms of product capability and run-length, the better are its chances of keeping busy and making profit, and Diego Masuri at Risetec is a genius at identifying the challenge and finding the technical solution. With the One.Line he has created the ultimate industrial binding system that is completely automated and can accommodate just about every requirement for the modern book manufacturer.

With the market in such a state of flux, the more versatile a system is in terms of product capability and run-length, the better are its chances of keeping busy and making profit




Steve Giddins of PBS and Diego Masuri at the Risetec offices near Milan



“A single clamp version which has been running at a bindery in Belgium since last year has already caught the imagination of the professionals in this field across Europe and we will be installing the world’s first seven-clamp model at a blue-chip UK manufacturer in the summer. This is the holy grail for this sector and it is going to be the one line against which all others are measured in the years to come.”

Ready to challenge for the most significant finishing development in book production is the Zechini Roby Zero. Responding to the trend for short-run or print-on-demand books, this short-run case-maker can change size in twelve seconds, and is distributed along with all Zechini bindery equipment in the UK and Ireland by Friedheim.

Howard Cherry, post-press sales specialist at Friedheim, comments: “How is this twelve seconds for a change over even possible? Think of a simple arcade joystic; that is how easy the Roby Zero is to use. It has integrated gluing unit for hot glue, which can also be used with PVA glue as well for lining, board positioning device with automated set-up, and combined turning-in and pressing unit.


Howard Cherry of Friedheim explains how the Roby Zero replaces the Mephisto in Zechini’s range of specialist book binding equipment



“The Roby Zero replaces the Mephisto in Zechini’s range of specialist book binding equipment. All the usual covering materials: laminated/unlaminated paper, photo paper, fabric, padded cardboard, artificial leather, can be used and depending on operator skill, the materials, and the job itself, the Roby Zero has a maximum mechanical speed of 150 cases per hour, making it a perfect solution for the production of book cases in very short runs.”

Having considered some, but by no means all, of the recent developments in print finishing, it is clear that continued research and development remains high on the agenda for many firms. Closing the conversation is Benson of Duplo, as he reflects on the importance of committing to the innovation and advancement in your sector.

Benson says: “The pressures on our industry will continue to force all of us to differentiate as well as drive efficiencies in our operations. Those with solutions that support lean manufacturing, as well as assist with the creation of innovative offerings, will find support and success.

“The industry knows it must innovate. While many businesses are struggling to justify why they should invest, they also need to consider the cost of not investing and innovating. Standing still is not a place anyone wants to be in, while others move forward with innovation and efficiencies.”

Ashgate launch large-format K640

With digital printing presses now commonly able to print long sheets, alongside existing litho solutions, the ability to finish short volume, larger format books at an affordable price is becoming increasingly requested maintains Lewis Price, managing director, Ashgate Automation. This is why the KAS KF 640 and 640T large format hand-held, floor standing bookletmaker and trimmer, manufactured in the UK by KAS Paper Systems are a major breakthrough and the first of their type on the market.


The system is supplied with the on-line 640T trimmer so that books come off the line completely finished



Designed to produce a maximum booklet size of 320 x 3,320mm and more common sizes like A4 landscape and 12 x 12? it comes in at sub £16,000, making it a cost-effective investment.  Unlike some of it more expensive competitors, it will handle a maximum sheet size of 640 x 320mm, which means that SRA2 sheets will not require pre-trimming of the short edge on a guillotine prior to producing A4 booklets. It handles a maximum sheet size for A6 booklets and CD 120 x 120mm booklet production. It is compatible to connect with squarefold units to give booklets a squared spine finish.
 
Simple to use, quiet in operation and reliable, the KF 640 can cater for the very lowest of bespoke run lengths to large digital and litho work, producing up to 1,500 books an hour. Features include a pro-clench flat clenched staple system and a high-speed fold knife system which eliminates marking. A loop stapling modification is available as an option. A high capacity conveyor stacks even the heaviest of books and folds away for easy storage when not in use.



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