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Commentary & Analysis

The Future of Book Manufacturing:Integration and Automation

Automation is playing a growing role in book manufacturing, as evidenced by the sophisticated solutions on show at Hunkeler Innovationdays 2017

By Cary Sherburne
Published: March 20, 2017

Hunkeler Innovationdays 2017 exceeded expectations on many fronts. The Hunkeler team continues to raise the bar on this one-of-a-kind event, with the next one planned for 2019 in Lucerne, Switzerland.

This year, there were 40 multivendor manufacturing lines in action and many more smaller partners, including software suppliers, participated in the show than in previous years.

For me, the book manufacturing lines were the most fascinating. One example was a line created through a first-ever collaboration between Hunkeler and Muller Martini that ingested printed rolls, processed them into loose (versus glued) book blocks, used a robot to jog collated blocks and hand them off to the next step in the binding process.

Another fully automated system was a Hunkeler/Horizon creation. This system intelligently determines the size of each glued book block and passes it along for perfect binding. View a brief video here.

These are just two examples out of many.

This adds up to a several huge trends for book printing:

  • By pairing high quality production inkjet printing for book blocks with production toner-based printers for covers and an automated binding line, the crossover point between offset and digital continues to climb. In addition, these lines, unlike offset, can produce quantities down to a book of one, varying sizes and thicknesses from book to book without a hitch. We saw several examples of this in action at Hunkeler Innovationdays.
  • Color quality and substrate flexibility for inkjet is also driving digital production of more full-color books.
  • This fully automated approach to book manufacturing (including robots!) is in line with the trend in general manufacturing to replace expensive, and sometimes error-prone, people with robots and automation, a trend that will only accelerate over the next few years.
  • The array of solutions at Hunkeler Innovationdays demonstrates that lines can be configured to meet almost any manufacturing need.

While quality from production color inkjet printers varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, we saw boosts in quality from all of them, as well as the ability to use a wider range of untreated stocks. I picked up some great examples of gorgeous full-color books, such as cookbooks and photobooks, produced using production inkjet.

If book printing is part (or all) of your business, these trends are important to watch, and investments may be in your future in order to stay competitive. If you missed Hunkeler Innovationdays, be sure to check out these innovations at upcoming shows like Print 17 – and it would be worth your while to plan on attending Innovationdays in 2019, as well.

Cary Sherburne is a well-known author, journalist and marketing consultant whose practice is focused on marketing communications strategies for the printing and publishing industries.

Cary Sherburne is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us.

Please offer your feedback to Cary. She can be reached at cary@whattheythink.com.



By Buck Crowley on Mar 21, 2017

Direct-Mail is the largest end product of all printing. Yet out of 40 process lines, no envelope mail-inserters were shown In-line with a printer.
Users need to ask their equipment suppliers? to stepup and eliminate the costly, error prone workflow of moving print into a room full of mail inserters.


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