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In-line, On-line, Near-line, Off-line – Automating Finishing and Binding

The 2006 AIIM/

By Gail Nickel-Kailing
Published: May 19, 2006

The 2006 AIIM/ON DEMAND Conference and Expooffered a broad range of solutions for thousands of companies. Just ask the vendors – the aisles were packed! This year the theme of the Expo could have been one word “Automate.” Or according to Frank Romano (never one to conserve words): “Automate! Automate! Automate!” And for those looking to automate binding of books and booklets, the time is right!

There are many options for binding books and booklets, and a little sorting out is in order. First, there’s the issue of in-, on-, near-, and off-line. I must admit, I was corrected a number of times when referring to “on-line” binding options! So, let’s drop that one and clarify the use of the other terms.


There are really two ways of looking at in-line finishing. First, you may consider in-line binding and finishing to be part of a complete end-to-end solution. A roll of paper is wheeled up to one end of a massive piece of equipment and out the other end comes a finished booklet. Second, “in-line” may refer to the finishing portion of the process rather than the entire production process. In that case, collating, perfect binding, scoring, cutting, and drilling can be performed by a variety of machines running in one continuous process – in-line, as it were. Regardless, in-line implies the entire production process – or a key portion of it – is fully automated, and work progresses from one process to the next without human intervention.


Almost all of the binding and finishing equipment can be run as free-standing units either fed manually or by conveyors or automated loaders of some sort. The operative word here is “off” – there is a pause in the process and work in progress is moved to another process. “Near-line” is infers that the distance between the pieces of equipment are fairly close together. Andy Fetherman, Manager – On Demand Solutions Division, at Müller Martini clarified it for me: “Near-line has an automated set-up process, with an off-line process you will have to do much more make ready.”

Why would one choose one process over another? If the production operation is consistent enough – that is, the size and shape of the books/booklets being produced remain the same – inline is a very effective production process. All of the modules in the system must run at the same speed to be most efficient. An offline operation is preferable when there is a variety of sizes and shapes involved, or when one or more of the modules run at vastly different speeds.

A Sampling of Products on Display

Much of the high-speed production finishing and binding equipment on display could be used either on or offline. Müller Martini’s SigmaLine is a complete system that prints, folds, collates, and stitches or perfect binds in one complete process. Individual modules can be combined in a number of ways in an off-line operation as well.

Coverbind displayed a perfect binder – the Coverbind® 301 DFS – that runs inline with equipment from Canon, Océ, Kodak NexPress, and Xerox equipment to bind documents of up to 120 sheets of paper at rated speeds. This module runs off-line as well.

GBC – whose name signifies binding – delivers equipment that punches in-line or can punch and bind in-line. Tucked inside the GBC punching systems are up to six different dies to produce the required hole shape for ColorCoil®, WireBind, CombBind®, VeloBind®, ProClick® and three-ring binders.

Duplo adds a certain amount off finesse to the binding process by providing an amazing array of collating towers… the System 5000 has up to 60 bins. With Duplo’s systems you can slit, cut, crease, fold, trim, and bind – again in-line, or off-line.

C.P. Bourg offered an inline system “book factory” for Xerox users that automates the production of perfect bound books.

Buskro does books too: on-line, off-line, stitched, glued, up to 2440 pages per minute (up to 12,000 books per hour).

Square is good - Bourg also offers “Square Edge” and Plockmatic delivers “SquareFold.” While not a brand new process, these represent a unique way to present thicker, saddle-stitched booklets that resemble perfect bound books with printable spines.

The simplest and cleverest binding technology on the floor?

GBC’s ProClick ® binding spines! This is an application that zips open and closed if you need to edit a report and add or delete pages. And unless you know where to look, the recipient of the document will never know the difference. Take close look at each open ring on the spine and you will see a little tiny “bead” that clicks into place to lock each one. Very, very smart!



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