Quad/Graphics Gives Thumbs up to New Muller Martini Stitching System

Press release from the issuing company

Pewaukee, Wisconsin -- A new generation saddle stitching system that combines quick changeover features, selective binding capabilities and high operating speeds has successfully completed nine months of beta testing at the Quad/Graphics’ facility here. Called Optima, the new Muller Martini stitching system is designed for mid-to-high volume runs, producing at the top rate of 16,000 cycles per hour. To test its working capacity and fine-tune its capabilities, Muller Martini partnered with Quad/Graphics to place the machine in one of the world’s busiest and most productive binderies. "We put the Optima into a long run environment, with four-to-five million piece jobs the norm," says Bill Graushar, Finishing Manager at Quad/Graphics. "Our objective was to test the mechanics and reliability of Optima. It passed with high marks." For Muller Martini, the test provided working data on all of the new technology that went into Optima. "We built this system from the ground up – the feeders, the stitcher, the trimmer, the controls — to take advantage of the latest materials and electronics," declared Felix Stirnimann, Division Manager, Print Finishing for Muller Martini Corp. "So it’s very gratifying to see how well Optima performed during its first time in high volume production in the U.S." The beta test Optima was configured as a 16-pocket system with flat pile feeders and a split mail table with two stackers. It featured a QTI finishing control system to provide ink jet personalization capabilities. "The installation went very well," Graushar recalls. "Theo Rohr was sent here by Muller Martini to follow the machine and stay with it throughout the evaluation. We put a team together to work with him to install the Optima and, once we were running, gave him suggestions on how to make the machine better, which he conveyed back to the factory. So whatever we needed, we got." As planned, the Optima did not replace an existing saddle stitcher in the Quad bindery and was not placed on the regular production schedule. That gave Graushar and Rohr the freedom to choose from a wide range of different types of jobs so they could see what the new system handled best. "Sometimes we picked the gravy work and at other times we selected the most difficult work," Graushar says. "That arrangement allowed us to push Optima as hard as we wanted to — to really put it to the test. We ran every thing from 8" X 10 7/8" standard upright work to double digest jobs." Graushar rates Optima’s beta performance as "outstanding" and also gives high marks to the Muller Martini experts who coordinated the testing. "Being a beta machine, there were still modifications that need to be made. Because they had the right attitude, the team was able to get the job done. Theo Rhor was always able to communicate with his factory in Switzerland and modify what needed to be changed. Once the change was made, we’d get the next job on the machine and see what it can do. That’s the type of partnership you should have when you’re doing a beta test." The Quad/Graphics finishing crew found that the electronic controls on Optima were easy to learn and simple to work with. Optima is equipped to recognize the CIP3 protocol. The result: it will be able to utilize the Print Production Format (PPF) to access its makeready parameters directly from a printer’s MIS system. "I think that Optima is geared to walk you right into that," Graushar reports. "They did a good job in forward thinking about what’s going to happen in the industry in the years ahead. We used to dream about something like this coming true. Now it has arrived." An AMRYS version of Optima is also available. The acronym stands for Automatic Makeready System and uses servo control motors to automate the set-up process to significantly reduce downtime between jobs. All Optima models feature a central touchscreen control console that simplifies operation with advancements such as online operator guidance. The system’s optimizer graphically shows the operator where to make adjustments in order to improve the production of the current job. Decentralized control modules are located throughout the machine to facilitate direct operator intervention. "The makereadies were smooth and went well," Graushar recalls. "And even though our operator was new to the machine, the makereadies were a little faster." As to versatility and flexibility, beta test results showed that Optima easily handled approximately 80% of the jobs it was handed. "You don’t get 100% when you come out on the playing field for the first time," notes Graushar. "You have to mature a little. That’s why we’ve completed this thorough evaluation, so Muller Martini can make the changes and pickup the remaining 20%." Quad/Graphics was impressed by the progress Muller Martini made in expanding the technological platform for saddle stitchers. "They did a good job to solve problems we face in the bindery. They’ve made Optima simpler and easier to work compared to the previous generation of saddle stitchers. Muller Martini seems to have some cross communications from line to line that helps them make the machines better as they move forward." The test represented the first time Optima has commercially produced selectively bound products. The process involves creating a variety of customized versions of a book by switching out computer-assigned signatures on-the-fly. At Quad/Graphics, Optima successfully completed a variety of selective binding projects, including one-up and two-up selective work. Another success was the Muller Martini 3738 stream feeders that were linked to the flat pile feeders. Quad/Graphics reports that new stream feeder supplied signatures to the machine smoothly and continuously without let-up throughout the nine-month test. The Muller Martini 404 trimmer was also heralded as a top quality producer. That’s significant because the trimmer is a revolutionary design that uses a swing-cut motion to optimize production, while ensuring accuracy and precision. "As a matter of fact, we were very surprised by the trim quality produced by the new trimmer," Graushar recalls. "Initially, we were skeptical because of the new design, but the quality the Optima delivered was excellent." With the beta test system now back at the Muller factory for technical analysis and modification, Quad/Graphics’ finishing executives have put Optima on their equipment wish list. "It’s all driven by the economy as to when, but I can see Optima systems at Quad/Graphics in the future," Graushar declares. "Now that the beta test has been completed successfully in the US," says Muller Martini’s Stirnimann, "we will use the findings to make some design changes. The Optima will be available for release in fall of 2002." For additional information about Optima and Muller Martini’s full line of saddle stitching solutions, visit www.mullermartiniusa.com or call 1.888.2.MULLER.