Digital press manufacturers like to talk about the fact that they are selling more press units these days. And TrendWatch GA survey data indicate that printers see growing opportunities with their digital presses and that their print volumes are on the rise. But when printers themselves, in volume, start investing in bindery equipmentto increase their throughput and increase their application flexibility, you know we’ve really turned a corner.

Interviews with binding and finishing manufacturers, in advance of Print 05, confirm that we have, in fact, turned the corner. Here are some of the overarching trends in binding and finishing for the digital/POD environment that printers should watch for on the Print 05 show floor:

Because of the high level of activity and change in this marketplace, this will be the first in a two-part series.

1. More equipment, more variety, more flexibility

Today, it’s all about workflow and applications, so manufacturers are developing an increasingly wide variety of equipment, with wide range of functionalities, to accommodate the widest variety of applications.

Look for equipment that allows printers to move seamlessly from one

application to another, and even from one workflow to another. Standard Finishing Systems, for example, is using Print 05 to introduce a four-clamp, fully automated perfect binder, the Standard Horizon BQ-470, with optional interchangeable glue tanks that support both EVA and PUR adhesives. Because some coated stocks, as well as many digital printing applications, perform better with PUR rather than with traditional EVA adhesive, this allows printers to cover all of the potential gluing applications without having to switch tanks.

Lasermax Roll Systems is also showing the ability to move seamlessly from one application to another. Its LX Stack System allows printers to hook to an inline binder, with the ability to bypass the inline binder as needed. Printers can either send the paper to the inline binder or divert it to an offline stacker without moving the equipment around.

We are also seeing an increasing amount of binding and finishing equipment being developed for niche and specialty applications. Standard Finishing’s Hard Cover System, for example, gives printers the ability to produce ultra short run hard cover book for the POD environment. The HCM is being shown for the first time at Print 05.

2. Increased demand for inline and near-line solutions

As volumes increase, and printers’ portfolios of digital print jobs become more sophisticated, they are looking for increased productivity through inline and near-line solutions. While printers may not always be realistic about what can be produced inline (or how much it will cost), suppliers report an interest in questions regarding these systems, although printers almost always end up with a near-line system instead.

A good example comes from C. P. Bourg, which will be showcasing its near-line perfect binder, the BB3002. Designed for runs as short as one, the BB3002 is completely automated. Once the clamp reads the thickness of the book, it sets up the cover position, side gluing, channel scores (either two for the spine or four if hinge covers are desired), glue film thickness, and starting position and ending of glue application coverage on the spine—all with no operator intervention. Because it features inline channel scoring and automatic side gluing, the BB3002 can produce hinge books, as well as wing books. So we can hang this one under “equipment variety and workflow flexibility,” as well.

C. P. Bourg Inc. will also be hosting a Xerox iGen3 in its booth, running books through its Borg Book Factory. This is the first time Xerox has put its iGen3 in a partner’s booth.

Muller Martini will be showing its inline/near-line flexibility, as well. It will be showing inline binding and trimming in the Xerox booth, with its SigmaBinder, SigmaTower, and SigmaTrimmer off the end of the Xerox CF engine; and inline binding with near-line trimming in the Nipson booth, with its SigmaBinder and Esprit Three-Knife Trimmer off the end of a VaryPress. The idea is to show the different opportunities available when choosing the SigmaLine.

LaserMax Roll Systems will be pairing its LX Stack System with the IBM InfoPrint 4100. At Print 05, however, the company will be showing a newer version of the LX Stack System that features a new cutter and stacker and broadens the range of lighter basis weights the machine can handle — from 15-lb. bond to 11-lb. bond; and increases speeds from 400 fpm to 450 fpm. It has also added an additional reject gate on the stacker that lets the machine intelligently divert incomplete jobs and blank pages.

3. Increased demand for support

As presses get busier and printers begin to run them in second and even third shifts, demand for binding and finishing suppliers to offer the same level of support as press manufacturers is growing. Because of the limitations created by traditional graphic arts distributor relationships, since distributors tend to service only during business hours, the pressure is on for a solution.

Manufacturers could offer their own support, but by their own admission, they aren’t set up for it and probably wouldn’t administer it well. Potential solutions include getting more inline devices certified, so that they will be covered by press manufacturers’ service, and focusing on the “train the trainer” approach.

4. Increased automation

And last, but not least — at least, in this article — is the focus on increased automation. (You almost thought I forgot about this elephant in the room, didn’t you?) Look for automation at new levels, such as the new Standard Horizon AFC-544FKT floor model. Although the company has been a leader in folder automation, it takes this to a new level, automating even down to the gap settings. This folder offers ultra-quick changeovers and the ability to handle sensitive digitally-imaged sheets without marking, enabled by specially-formulated combination roller and scoring systems.

But Standard will be showing even greater workflow automation in its Bindery Automation Theater, featuring live JDF production demonstrations organized in partnership with EFI, Hiflex, Kodak, Komori, Ryobi, and Screen, to show real-world interoperability and benefits. Visitors will see saddlestitching and perfect binding jobs flow from creation to finishing in fully-integrated JDF-driven workflows, with an emphasis on how these workflows help printers achieve real cost savings. When these jobs enter the bindery, they’ll be managed by the Horizon i2i Bindery Control System.

Duplo USA is also featuring JDF at its booth. It will be demonstrating OA Symbio, a front-end software production tool that enables small-to-medium sized printers to embrace JDF workflow in the bindery. Developed by Objective Advantage Inc, Symbio automates and connects prepress and print production with finishing processes. It works with Duplo's JDF connector and enables the creation of JDF job tickets via a state-of-the-art user interface for Duplo's new intelligent finishing machine, the DC-645 slitter/cutter/creaser.

Next time, I will look at the other three trends that are emerging from Print 05: the accommodation of CF machines, increased appeal to book publishers, and the impact of overall workflow, rather than just speeds and feeds.

See Part 2