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Need To Know

Collators and Feeders

Feeders and collators are important pieces of kit in the print production process. With this in mind, Rob Fletcher picks out some of the latest solutions to help print companies boost productivity

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An appetite for success

Although we may be blessed with the level of technology on offer to us here in the print industry, this makes investing in new kit quite tricky. With so much to choose from and consider, how do you know what is the best option for your own business?

This is a particularly difficult process for print service providers (PSPs) that are looking to invest in feeders and collators. There is a lot of choice on the market and pinning down the most effective solution for technology that is so important in the print production process is no easy task. 

Here, we attempt to lend a hand by taking a look at some of the latest options on the market and find out how it can help you improve workflow, productivity and quality of output.

Crucial element

Among the leaders in the finishing sector is Duplo, which stocks a wide selection of solutions, including feeders and collators. These range from traditional collator towers DSC-10/20 and DSC-10/60i, to sheet feeders DC-446, DSF-2200 and DSF-6000.

Duplo’s DSC-10/60i collator towers, attached here to the DF 6000 sheet feeder, can feed sheet by sheet or set by set

Andy Benson, managing director UK at Duplo, highlights the DSC-10/60i device in particular. This is a 10-bin intelligent collator that can feed sheet by sheet or set by set, which Benson says allows commercial printers to merge digital and offset printed sheets or colour and black and white sheets.

Benson says: “All of our feeders are equipped with superior air management system. Every bin has two separate fans; one for suction and the other for the separation. Moreover, with Duplo, the entire booklet making or saddle stitching system is controlled from a single touch screen PC controller. It is extremely simple to use and program.”

Other features on Duplo’s feeder systems include barcode readers to support the booklet making process and personalised book production. The feeders read the barcodes before it feeds, which in turn reduces the human intervention in the process.

But what is the importance of investing properly in this area? Benson says that a quality feeder should last for a minimum of three to five years, depending on the size of the printer. For this reason, Benson says that a commercial printer needs to understand their market and how it might develop in the future.

He expands: “The feeder is the most crucial element in the entire system; if you cannot feed consistently then that will create a bottleneck in your workflow. The feeder is the one area of the booklet making system.

“Currently, we are seeing a trend that the print organisations are producing not only the commoditised booklet making job but also more high value jobs such as personalised, versioned and multi sheet size booklets by employing wide variety of substrates. If this is the requirement then the commercial printer needs to ensure that their system can accommodate them or they run a risk of having to turn work away as they cannot accommodate it.”

Don’t get left behind

Also able to assist in this market is Morgana Systems. Its vice president of offline business, Ray Hillhouse, says that the purchase of feeders and collators is all about efficiency and productivity.

He expands: “Systems from five years ago simply were not created with today’s print engines in mind, and would therefore struggle to keep pace with the speeds required by today’s printers and their customers. Automated booklet making has come a long way in that time, and print producers need to take advantage of such equipment.

Printers not committing sufficient resources in this part of the process will find themselves being left behind the demands of their market

“Printers not committing sufficient resources in this part of the process will find themselves being left behind the demands of their market.”

Morgana’s VF602 feeders feature in the highly automated feeding units for Morgana’s production BM2000, BM2000S and its BM500 and 350 (pictured with feeder) automated booklet making systems

Morgana has a number of options on offer including the Morgana AF and VF602 feeders, which feature in the highly automated feeding units for Morgana’s production BM2000, BM2000S and its BM500 and 350 automated booklet making systems.

The AF602 is a high-capacity dual-bin feeder for loading pre-collated sets from digital print engines. Hillhouse says it has been specifically designed for digital applications and will appeal to the type of PSP used to working with digital print engines.

Hillhouse says: “The AF602 can be loaded with up to 570mm of stock and when one bin runs out of material, the system automatically switches to the next. This means that the system can be loaded on the run. The machine is capable of feeding sets containing mixed stock, so for example if a set is produced with a heavier cover, the feeder is smart enough to detect this, and will calibrate the set including the cover for the run.”

Ray Hillhouse, vice-president of offline business, says PSPs risk being left behind if they do not commit to proper investment in feeder and collator technology

Hillhouse also speaks about how Morgana’s acquisition of Watkiss has helped boost the impact of its VF602 feeder, combining it with the new Watkiss 160 landscape A4 booklet maker to create a more effective solution. The system also comes with ultrasonic and optical detectors, so if the set goes out of sequence it will stop production. The two feed bins can also be fitted with barcode readers.

In addition, Hillhouse highlights the Morgana AFC510 air assisted smart tower feeder/collator, a ten-station machine that can be used as a straight collator for printed sections or a smart programmable feeder for pre-collated sets along with offset printed sections, inserts and other materials. Hillhouse says that this offers a distinct advantage for PSPs that have digital and litho production.

Automation is key

Casting the net wider still and Intelligent Finishing Systems (IFS) offers kit from a number of manufacturers such as Horizon. New from Horizon is the VAC-1000/VAC-600H collator, which performs a wide range of applications at high productivity.

Bryan Godwyn, managing director at Intelligent Finishing Systems, says automation is key to help PSPs meet demand for shorter runs and personalised print

Bryan Godwyn, managing director at IFS, comments: “The VAC-1000/VAC-600H takes advantage of Horizon’s unique feeding technology and continues the Horizon development concept of ‘high speed’, ‘high performance’ and ‘high quality’. It has flexible but powerful programming and user-friendly operation.”

Also from Horizon and IFS is the VAC-80S, which feeds sheets up to B3 on the long edge so the sheet is not turned in the production train. Godwyn says this allows for greater stability and increased operating speeds. The device is also equipped with a sheet alignment mode to reduce jams and down time for uninterrupted operation.

IFS also offers the Horizon ST-40/ST-60, which delivers high-speed stacking to enhance collating performance and can be operated on-line with SPF-20 series and SPF-200A bookletmaker. Elsewhere, the Horizon HOF-400 high speed offline feeder feeds digitally printed sheets and transports them to the next process at a speed of 25,000 sheets per hour for A3 and 35,000 sheets per hour for A4.

In addition, there is the Horizon Cover Feeder CF-400 that merges the cover sheets into the sheets fed from the HOF-400. It has a maximum pile height of 200mm and the feed type can be selected from four choices: inserting above the sheets fed from the HOF-400 to cover feeding, bottom cover feeding, inserting or sheet feeding only from the CF-400.

Godwyn comments: “Automation remains a vital element in postpress systems as printers aim to match faster litho and digital press speeds and answer the trend towards shorter runs and personalised print.”

Cost-effective solutions

Delving further into the market and Friedheim International is also well placed to offer solutions for PSPs seeking to improve this part of the printing process. Martin Howells, national packaging manager, says it is important to invest properly in every aspect of a print business, with feeders and collators no exception.

According to Friedheim, the range of Kraus technology it offers in the UK can go on top of any machine

Howells expands: “One has to weigh the consequences of all buying decisions and usually what should invariably be the most cost-effective solution for the problem at hand. Regardless of the size of the investment, one simply cannot ignore small processes to invest more on the larger processes.

“It is usually investing properly in the minutiae where the biggest rewards are found. Feeders and collators are one such type of product where small investment in the correct equipment will have a massive knock on effect on the rest of the production.”

Howells goes on to say that PSPs should not be afraid to invest in this kit, as it is available at an affordable price. He gives the example of the MTS feeder from Friedheim, available at a cost of £8,000 for its most automated model.

He says: “It will take on the role of a single person who could be utilising their skill in another part of the process, instead of simply placing a card/sample on the production line every 25 seconds for their entire day.”

O Factoid: The word ‘collate’ comes from the Latin ‘collátus’, which means to bring together. O

Also available from Friedheim, Howells says that the Kraus range of products are able to achieve multi-head lines, fully automatic, fully collating products, onto the production line – whether it is a poly/paper wrapping line, inserting for a direct mailer or any of hundreds of possibilities. He adds that applications have no limit as these units can go on top of any machine.

Kraus products can achieve multi-head lines, fully automatic, fully collating products, onto the production line. This kit, including the Krause Booklet Module

As Howells says, “It’s always important to invest properly in every aspect of the business”. But as with all types of investment in the print industry, this is much easier said than done. With so much choice out there and many print businesses working to a tight budget, this can make the process of buying new kit often a difficult and stressful one.

So, if you are looking to take on new feeding or collating kit, it is perhaps best to take a step back from your production line, and consider both exactly what you want from your new piece of kit and how important this investment will be to you and your business. Happy hunting!


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