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Focus On

Binding Technology

As the book printing market continues to demonstrate healthy growth, finding a perfect binding solution is key. Summer Brooks explores how investing in new equipment can help

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With the growth of book printing, can printers bring binding technology in-house to capitalise on the market?

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As it turns out, we’re all still in love with books. The printed page holds more value than ever, and book publishers are seeing an increase in demand for high quality finished books designed to last a lifetime. With that in mind, how can printers capitalise on this without compromising on production time?

High quality, short runs

Renz has positioned itself at the centre of finishing solutions, offering punching, binding and laminating systems for a range of applications. Managing director of the UK business, Iain Bullock, says the firm has adapted to address the needs of the digital market by making machines more user-friendly with touchscreen assisted make-readies. “We also ensure customers are confident they can achieve the best results with all new investments supported by onsite training, or, for the larger inline systems, we take customers to our German factory for a more in depth understanding,” he says.

The StitchLiner Mark III supplied by IFS builds on the success of the StitchLiner series

Intelligent Finishing Systems, or IFS, supplies a range of finishing equipment to the sector, with names like Horizon and Petratto in its portfolio. Bryan Godwyn, managing director at the company, says that the market is being driven by cost-cutting measures without compromising on quality. “The overriding market driver today is the need to control costs and more importantly, quality in-house,” he explains. “Everyone knows the market has consolidated, run lengths are shorter and skilled operators are in short supply. So, the focus must be on how to achieve these things and yet still deliver a quick return on investment. Horizon’s range of smart binding lines help make the goals attainable as they can be tailored to suit the customer and future proofed to allow growth later. Horizon has a reputation for high quality systems with significant residual values even after years of heavy use and this helps the ROI calculations. But the main consideration is ease of use, modular systems and flexible operation.”

Friedheim International has supplied post-press solutions for more than a hundred years. Stuart Bamford, national sales manager of post-press solutions, agrees that the focus for bookbinding is high quality, but on shorter runs. “The art of book binding hasn’t changed in decades,” he says. “What has changed and is apparent with the machines in book production lines being sold over the last few years, is the industry itself. There has been a massive surge in the UK book production industry, with customers returning to hard copy books with vengeance. However, printers and book producers have seen the orders change dramatically. Now we’re seeing much shorter run lengths, but more emphasis on high quality. With the maturing of the electronic book market, books have stopped being the cheap alternative and have become highly sought after for the user experience, the quality of the finish and brought people back for joy of simply flipping a page.”

According to Friedheim, sales for hardback books have increased by 31% in 2018, leading to £80m in sales in the UK. “There are 20 new titles every hour in the UK, 480 new books published per day, over 175,000 new titles each year that someone has to print and bind,” says Bamford. “Regardless of whether companies already produce books or want to get into it, Friedheim’s volume of orders for the Zechini range have seen a corresponding increase.”

Robin Brown, sales manager of digital solutions, Friedheim

Robin Brown, sales manager of digital solutions at Friedheim, adds: “The advent of easy online ordering has meant that companies such as Printondemand-worldwide, Amazon and others have invested in book-on-demand lines from Hunkeler to produce literally a book of one and make it profitable. The market has changed drastically, and it has meant that the focus for book production has shifted as well.”

Oxford-based Ashgate Automation has supplied a range of finishing solutions for both digital and litho printing since 1989, including the Fastbind range of bookbinding systems. Lewis Price, managing director of Ashgate Automation, says that demand for high quality has been driving the sector. “Short-run soft and hardcover books have become one of the most profitable products a printer can offer,” he says. “This means that as runs of on-demand, perfect-bound and hardcover books get shorter and shorter, printers are choosing to bring this type of work in-house due to time constraints, more control and eliminating set-up and transport costs. At the same time, customers are realising the benefits of PUR binding for the strength of bind and improved quality. In fact, PUR has become the de facto standard for short-run binding.”

This means that as runs of on-demand, perfect-bound and hardcover books get shorter and shorter, printers are choosing to bring this type of work in-house due to time constraints, more control and eliminating set-up and transport costs

Price adds: “The need for quality is there. In a market where most print providers can offer a booklet or a folded leaflet, forward-thinking printers need to set themselves apart. Producing low-run, bespoke hardback and softback books in-house with low turnaround times is essential. Printers are desperate for kit that offers the maximum ROI. We’re seeing a massive surge in the lay-flat binding and PUR systems.  As digital print systems are moving beyond CMYK and SRA3 sheets, the need to finish this work in the best method is now more important than ever.”

Terry Cooper Services has supplied the printing industry with a number of finishing machines since 1978. Director Dean Stayne comments on the market: “Automation is driving purchasing decisions at the moment. Customers are recognising the time and cost benefits of operating easy to use, responsive flexible systems that can handle a wide range of job requirements.”

Profitable productivity

Godwyn of IFS says that innovation in binding technology is being driven by changing demands of the industry. “A main driver is the need for affordable automation to support profitable productivity and the fast, simple and easy production of short-run soft cover books, including books-of-one,” he says. “Printers want solutions that drive down production costs while improving product quality, delivery times and margins. They are looking to integrate different products too, as they, where beneficial, link processes together to keep their ‘up time’ at a maximum.”

A main driver is the need for affordable automation to support profitable productivity and the fast, simple and easy production of short-run soft cover books, including books-of-one

With that in mind, Godwyn adds that printers are now often running a number of different technologies to offer more applications. “Many operations now also run both digital and litho print capabilities which means any post-production needs to smoothly manage a mixture of run lengths,” Godwyn adds. “Automation supports all of these by enabling a more responsive workflow and introducing efficiencies.”

Price of Ashgate echoes the sentiment, agreeing that machines need to help users work more efficiently whilst not compromising on quality. “Operators are now often multitasking and must have the ability to run as many machines as possible,” he concludes. “The machines therefore have to be simple to use. Fastbind systems have always benefited from this. Simplicity is the key, and every operator should be able to finish quality books.”

The latest kit

New additions to the Renz range include the Renz Inline 500 Compact automatic punching and binding machine for books and calendars. “It delivers a significant increase in productivity compared to semi-automatic machines,” explains Bullock. “It runs up to 1,100 products per hour and binds up to 20mm thickness and a width of 500mm. Assuring highly flexible operation, it incorporates a touchscreen assisted make-ready for easy format changes and QSA (Quick Size Adjustment) technology to reduce set-up times.”

The Bindomatic Accel Ultra High Res from Renz

Another machine in Renz’s portfolio is the Bindomatic Accel Cube, a thermal cover binding machine that binds documents for corporate printrooms, in-plants and print shops. “It delivers secure, professionally-bound documents, without the need of trained operators,” Bullock says. “Its intuitive simplicity, ease of use and phenomenal binding speed make it the ideal binding solution for office and corporate walk-up print stations, as well as volume-demanding central reprographics departments or commercial print environments. Its upgrades over the previous model include increased quality and strength of bound documents, as well as improved machine appearance.”

Godwyn says that Horizon binding systems are synonymous with high quality, and therefore some of its most popular systems in the field of binding include the StitchLiner Mark III, which builds on the success of the StitchLiner series. “Complete with servo drive technology, the system runs at a maximum speed of 6,000bph and up to 12,000bph with two-up production,” he says. “It is also capable of producing A4 landscape booklets at speeds of up to 5,300bph. 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% faster than the StitchLiner 5500.”

Friedheim supplies a number of brands, including Zechini, Wohlenberg and Hunkeler. The Quickbinder from Wohlenberg is intended for smaller businesses looking to make the move into high quality book production, but, as Bamford adds, large, industrial-scale book binding companies too. “Despite its compact overall size (4.1m long, 1.8m wide), the Quickbinder combines all the performance features of a large perfect binder. Not only can all gluing techniques be processed (hot-melt, cold glue, PUR), but the Quickbinder can also produce book blocks or brochures with gauzing (ie Swiss brochures, Otabind brochures) in one working process. With a wide-format range from A6 to A3 (A4 landscape) and product thicknesses up to 70mm, the Quickbinder can be used for almost all imaginable production tasks.”

Friedheim says it has seen an increase in volume of orders for the Zechini range 

New innovations from Hunkeler are aiding print companies in seamless production. “Using Hunkler’s new Dynacut system, the Hunkeler book lines can be turned into a book of one production line as it changes the format of the book on the fly, without slowing down,” says Brown. “The new Generation 8 modules allow for a wider range of paper used.”

Ashgate has brought the Fastbind Pureva XT EVA and PUR perfect binder to market to meet the fast-growing demands of short-run book printing. “Because it is dramatically smaller and considerably lower priced – under £10,000 – than traditional PUR machines, virtually any print shop can incorporate the flexibility of the Pureva XT into its existing environment,” adds Price. “This has been a breakthrough, not only for the small- to medium-sized printers but for large binderies as well when they have small runs.”

The Fastbind Pureva XT from Ashgate Automation can use either PUR or EVA glue

For printers not requiring a PUR binder, Ashgate supplies the Fastbind Elite hot melt machines which offer greater flexibility, producing both hard or softcover books as well as manager covers, tear-off pads and strip binding. “The interest in premium quality short-run books has led to more and more customers asking for ‘lay-flat’ binding with edge-to-edge printing of the images,” comments Price. “This is not only for wedding and photo albums but also for marketing material, illustrated books, and any bound product where the quality of finish is the most important factor.”

Factoid: David McConnell Smyth was one of the pioneers in the design of bookbinding equipment, patenting the first book sewing machine in 1868 . O

Terry Cooper Services recently re-established its partnership with CP Bourg, which it says is the first manufacturer to combine the PUReONE compact adhesive system with a Nordson applicator. “This solution has been successfully integrated into the Bourg Binder BB3002 PUR-C fully automated PUR glue binder for perfect-bound books and booklets,” comments Stayne. “It creates a cost effective and high-performing perfect binder.”

Dean Stayne, director, Terry Cooper Services

Alongside CP Bourg machinery, Terry Cooper Services has also begun supplying systems from Italian manufacturer Mamo, which includes the Mamo Lega 420M semi-automatic hot-melt perfect binder, suited for high productivity book binding up to a 420mm spine length. “With the Mamo systems, the main benefit is that the whole working process is customisable through the user-friendly software, while a simple to use touchscreen allows the operator to easily choose and set notching and milling depth, cover and side clamp pressure,” says Stayne. “Its manual and automatic modes aid job flexibility and maximum productivity.”

A perfect solution

When seeking a binding solution, it is important to understand the needs of the business and what type of binding work is being requested from customers. It may make sense to bring binding technology in-house. “We work closely with a lot of different companies so we can help our customers find the best solutions that suit their specific requirements,” adds Bullock of Renz. “This means that if we don’t have the ideal answer, we can help operations find the best solution through our network of expertise.”

Investing wisely, Godwyn of IFS says, will allow printers to say ‘yes’ to more work and answer the short-run demand. “Print business are under pressure to offer more services, often with fewer skilled staff,” he says. “They are also looking for highly flexible systems to deliver high quality results, quickly and effortlessly. Investing in the latest systems will help address these pressures.”

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