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Binding Technology

A crucial part of the production process for many print service providers, we take a look at the latest developments in binding and find out how new technologies can help businesses grow

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Morgana’s binding machines can be used to help finish a range of applications such as booklets and books

Bounding to the Finish

From booklets and magazines to catalogues and calendars, binding is used for all manner of applications in print. Print service providers (PSPs) of all shapes and sizes run some form of binding machine for this reason, allowing them to take on work from across a wide range of markets and industries.

Having quality binding technology in-house allows PSPs to not only turn work around quicker and serve more customers, but also oversee the quality of finished work and ensure it meets the high standards of both their own staff and customers.

Here, Print Monthly takes a closer look at some of the latest binding machines available on the market and speaks with both manufacturers and suppliers to find out more about how their solutions can help PSPs enhance their finishing offering.

Keep up with the Pace

Plockmatic Group-owned Morgana Systems is one leading supplier of finishing equipment, including binding kit. Ray Hillhouse, vice president of sales and marketing for the Plockmatic Group Offline Business Unit, says with printing technology for book and booklet production undergoing such radical change over the last decade, it has been essential for the post-press suppliers to make equally large leaps forward with regard to the capabilities of the product being produced.

“Many printers have grown by adding the latest digital print engine, but a failure to keep up with the post-press end of the process can easily negate such investment,” Hillhouse says, adding: “As a wise old print sage once put it, nothing is finished until the finishing is done! It is therefore important for any growing business in this sector to recognise that an investment in in-house binding is a major ingredient in future success.”

With this in mind, what should PSPs be looking at when investing in a new binding machine? Hillhouse says companies are often misled down the ‘best price’ route and the old adage of ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ has to be remembered.

“Cheap, poor-quality binders, with little or no on-the-ground support will be considered, and sometimes purchased by printers,” Hillhouse explains, adding: “Only when such a product breaks down at a critical production moment will the printer recall this phrase. Quality counts and quality can tend to cost just that little bit more.

“Ease of use is becoming ever more important as the skill base in our industry continues to decline, and on-the-job training becomes ever more important. In addition, with regard to binder quality, pick up that product produced in the demo: are all pages held securely by the bind? Has the final trimming of the product impacted on the integrity of the publication in any way? How do the various stages of binding effect the overall production time?”

A Wide Range of Solutions

Morgana’s binding offering stretches across book and bookletmakers, PUR binding products, and twin-loop spiral binding, with solutions available in all of these areas.

Starting with bookletmakers, the latest binder was introduced at The Print Show 2022 in the form of the Morgana BM4000 Series of bookletmakers. These can produce A4 landscape and 297 x 297mm booklets, and offers either corner or edge stapling as standard, plus the option of the unique SquareBack finish.

For larger solutions, the BM5050 and BM3050 can staple and fold up to 50 sheets of 80gsm, to create booklets of up to 200 pages. Meanwhile, the BM5035S and BM5050S feature the latest stitching head from Morgana, which Hillhouse says gives operators the ability to easily adjust the length of the stitch for thicker books without using tools.

In addition, the Morgana PowerSquare 224VF and 160VF are complete book-making systems for the production of offline books of up to 224 pages and 160 pages, respectively.

Turning to PUR binding, this is led by the Morgana DigiBook range, with Hillhouse saying this collection offers a variety of production speeds to suit almost all print businesses. Solutions include the DigiBook 200, an entry-level product suited to both litho and digital printers that require short to medium runs of PUR perfect bound books.

An interface to a Morgana AutoCreaser Pro is available for pre-creasing of book covers, with Morgana providing a growth path for users requiring higher capacity PUR binding with the DigiBook 300XL and DigiBook 450.

Wire binding has become a popular choice for many print applications

Finally, for mechanical twin-loop wire binding, Morgana has the DocuBind Pro VFX, with its key elements including a high-speed Morgana VFX vacuum feeder, running at up to 140 pages per minute, the StreamPunch VFX heavy duty punching and creasing module, and the eWire VFX twin-wire automatic binding solution, which is engineered by GBC.

Do Your Research

Elsewhere and Renz also specialises in finishing technology, with a strong focus on binding. Sales manager Dermot Callaghan says in-house binding helps PSPs to keep control of the quality of the job, as well as meet production deadlines for your customer. As such, he says investment in quality kit is crucial.

“Before making a purchase, you should first consult the market and speak with other users to establish what sort of support and back up is provided by the manufacturer,” Callaghan says, continuing: “Ideally for a major investment, go to the machine manufacturing plant to see what is behind the manufacturing process and talk to the technicians involved with the design and manufacturing process.

Before making a purchase, you should first consult the market and speak with other users to establish what sort of support and back up is provided by the manufacturer

“The importance of investment cannot be understated. It allows you to keep up to date with new technology, especially involving automation. It is also worth noting how important exhibitions are in allowing the customer to meet manufacturers and see the machines in operation.”

Taking a look at what Renz has on offer, the manufacturer showcased a number of machines on its stand at The Print Show back in September. Among its offering are complete in-line punching and binding systems, which Callaghan says help product handling by saving labour and allow for automated make ready.

The Renz Inline 500 is an industrial, fully-automatic punching and Renz Ring Wire binding line

One solution of note is the Inline 500, an industrial, high-speed, fully automatic punching and Renz Ring Wire binding line for books, calendars, and skip binding. Key features include touch screen assisted setup process, on-screen machine setup, quick size adjustment for flexibility of different paper formats and integrated cover page lifting device. Optional extras comprise job memory with storage capacity of up to 50 jobs, as well as KAS calendar hanger systems.

Evolution of Technology

Another diversified supplier is Intelligent Finishing Systems (IFS), which works with a host of manufacturers. Managing director Eric Keane says automation should be a key factor when purchasing binding kit.

“Every evolution of a system delivers increased automation that enables time and costs savings, which is increasingly important with today’s pressures on margins and operational budgets that include energy, paper, and ink price rises,” Keane says.

“Automation can have a significant impact. It can help improve planning, increase capacity, speed up production and throughput and eliminate errors. It can help manage a broader range of applications too. With remote reporting and diagnostics any downtime can be minimised, and maintenance planned when necessary.

“Highly automated systems are often easier to use and designed for single person operation which helps them tackle another pressure the industry is facing - a skills shortage. Their intelligent print finishing capabilities also provide companies with the flexibility of employing operators with little or no experience.”

With this, Keane has no hesitation in highlighting the launch of iCE LiNK, a new cloud-based workflow from IFS partner Horizon. It provides access to an intuitive dashboard that reports real-time production analysis for improved efficiency and profitability, remote update capabilities, and scheduled maintenance resulting in less downtime.

“The information is accessible via smartphone, tablet, or desktop PC and the software is designed for simple integration with MIS systems using open APIs,” Keane says, adding: “It enables up to the minute reportability and fully automated workflow using JDF/JMF data.”

Among the new systems leveraging the technology is the Horizon BQ-500 four-clamp perfect binder, the latest evolution of Horizon’s series of four-clamp binders. Keane explains that it responsively supports a wider range of run lengths thanks to a combination of productivity, efficiency, and operator-friendly features.

The Horizon BQ-500 four-clamp perfect binder is the latest evolution of Horizon’s series of four-clamp binders

Building on the tried and trusted features of its BQ-470 and BQ-480 predecessors, the BQ-500’s enhanced functionality includes more highly automated set up via a large 12.1” colour touchscreen and 21 automated sections from cycle and milling speed to roller height and guide positioning. It also boasts memory storage of up to 999 jobs, pre-installed variable software capability, and variable thickness production of 5mm up to 800bph.

Flexible Finishing

Rounding off our analysis is Craig Harry, the new head of sales at Duplo UK. Harry says in-house binding can offer several advantages, not least financially, but also in other areas.

“Duplo's user-friendly machines lower operational costs by eliminating the need for dedicated bindery staff, making high-quality results accessible with minimal training,” Harry says, adding: “The flexibility of in-house binding empowers printers to control their workflow entirely, reducing reliance on external services.

“This autonomy not only streamlines processes but also minimises the risks associated with coordinating with external entities, eliminating errors and misplacements. In essence, in-house binding with Duplo equipment enhances efficiency, lowers costs, and provides printers with the autonomy needed to thrive in a competitive print market.”

As to what PSPs should be looking for in binding kit, Harry says printers should prioritise features that align with the evolving dynamics of the UK book production industry. In the wake of increased demand for UK-produced books, and considering the challenges posed by Brexit and global logistics slowdowns and continuing conflicts, Harry explains that the focus is on low-cost, automatic machines that seamlessly handle diverse jobs without disrupting workforce efficiency or production workflows.

With this, he picks out several machines from Duplo, covering both short-run PUR and EVA options. First is the DB-290 hotmelt perfect binder, an EVA solution billed as ideal for short-run, on-demand digital print applications.

Another EVA option is the DPB-500 DuBinder, a fully automatic machine with a single clamp design and a maximum production speed of 525 books per hour.

“It features sensors within the book clamp that measure each book thickness and compare the number of pages with the correct version, errors are flagged to the operator saving on labour and expensive re-printing costs,” Harry says.

Turning to PUR binders, Duplo has the PFI BIND 600 series, a single-clamp fully automatic binder offering complete automation with in-line scoring, and cover feeding as standard with a cycling speed of 600 cycles and up to 300 books per hour.

In addition, Harry says the PFI BIND 2100 PUR helps PSPs bring in-house the profitable short-run, on-demand jobs that have caused them to send the work out due to not having the skilled operators or the expensive binders needed to complete these jobs.

“Through automation, each book is automatically measured and the amount of glue on each book block is intelligently applied on the fly reducing errors and the cost of reprints,” Harry comments.

If we take only one thing from this analysis, it is that PSPs are not short of reliable and high-quality solutions when it comes to binding equipment. Establish exactly the sort of work you want to run on your binding machine, and this will help you identify the best product for your business.

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