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Focus On

Creasing, Collating, and Folding

Creasing, collating, and folding are all key parts of the finishing process and printers need to ensure they have the right equipment in place to deliver quality results. So, what are some of the latest options in these areas?

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Finishing Strong

While print service providers (PSPs) can spend tens of thousands of pounds on all singing, all dancing printing kit, this means nothing if they do not follow it up with reliable finishing. Whether this is in-house or outsourced, the importance of delivering high-quality finishing cannot be understated.

For those seeking to bring finishing in-house or looking to strengthen their current offering, there are plenty of options available right across the finishing process. For the purpose of this article, we are going to focus on creasing, collating, and folding, all of which are core finishing elements of many printed applications.

Enhanced Automation

First up is Intelligent Finishing Systems (IFS), whose managing director, Eric Keane, says the newest systems have much to offer in terms of enhanced automation that deliver operational efficiencies. These, he says, save time, increase production capacity, and cut costs with faster set up, minimal downtime, and improved job planning.

“Customers are asking for solutions that drive down production costs while improving product quality, delivery times, and margins,” Keane explains, adding: “Automation can dramatically impact the way systems work and the difference that could make to the work mix.

Customers are asking for solutions that drive down production costs while improving product quality, delivery times, and margins

“Yes, the financial commitment might be greater, but the ROI is also considerably improved as a result of the ability to handle a broader variety of jobs with regards to product range, run lengths, and reduced makereadies. This can make all the difference in the number of jobs that can be completed.

“High-quality creasing, collating, and folding systems are quick to set up and operate which helps eliminate bottlenecks, aids smoother throughput, and reduces operator intervention.

Important, too, is quality. It is ultimately what the job is judged on. Crisp, sharp, accurate folds and creases make all the difference in how the product looks.”

Keane goes on to say that the latest Horizon solutions supplied by IFS have been designed to respond to the trends shaping today’s printing production environment – namely faster turnaround short run work, easy-to-run systems, and minimised human touchpoints.

With this, he highlights the Horizon AFV-566FKT, the latest folding machine from Horizon. He says it has been developed to deliver enhanced functionality, allowing it to tackle a broader range of fast turnround run lengths quickly and efficiently. The system features a new look, advanced colour touch screen panel cover, and a status checking screen for a quick at-a-glance overview.

Available from IFS, the AFV-566FKT is the latest folding machine from Horizon

It also incorporates cloud-based iCE LiNK workflow, reports real-time production analysis for improved efficiency and profitability, remote update capabilities, and scheduled maintenance resulting in less downtime. This information is accessible via smartphone, tablet, or desktop PC and the software is designed for integration with MIS systems using open APIs.

“This enables the Horizon AFV-566FKT to deliver enhanced functionality and tackle a broader range of fast turnround run lengths quickly and efficiently,” Keane says.

Another solution Horizon offers is the Horizon CRF-362 folder creaser that creases and folds in one pass a wide range of light and heavyweight stocks, coated or uncoated. Capable of up to ten crease lines on a sheet, it uses an impact scoring technology that eliminates or cuts down on cracking of the stock or printed image.

Efficient Equipment

Another supplier in this area is Friedheim International, which also works with a range of manufacturers. Marketing executive Seth Morgan says on top of the obvious quality and accuracy issues expected with lower spec machinery, underinvested finishing departments can lack the versatility needed to handle the necessary range of paper types, sizes, or folding and collating configurations. This, he adds, limits your overall ability to accommodate diverse customer requirements.

“High-quality equipment is less prone to errors and misfeeds, which can result in costly reprints and material wastage,” Morgan says, adding: “Minimising these errors and wastage saves both time and resources. Efficient equipment can handle higher volumes of work in a shorter time frame, and the increased productivity allows print shops to take on more jobs and meet tight deadlines, ultimately improving profitability.

“A significant aspect is the versatility you gain with quality equipment - various settings and features that allow you to handle a wide range of paper types, sizes, and folding or collating configurations while maintaining a high reliability and availability. This versatility is valuable in accommodating diverse customer requirements, in turn increasing account value and loyalty.”

Morgan goes on to say that as the balance increasingly switches toward digital and inkjet printing systems, businesses are looking for the flexible digital finishing solutions that can replace offline machinery, and instead build variable workflows that can react quicker to customer impetus.

With this, he draws attention to the Hunkeler DocuTrim universal processing system, which he says enables “superior” flexibility in sheet finishing with dynamic cutting and perforations – both lengthwise and crosswise on the sheet format – and chip-out for printed materials with full-bleed motifs.

The Hunkeler DocuTrim is a universal processing system from Friedheim International

“The DocuTrim is able to process sheet formats A4, SRA4, A3, SRA3 and offline up to 480 x 520mm and can be operated in-line to sheet-fed printing systems or also works near-line,” Morgan explains, adding: “With its individually combinable cutting and perforating functions in the Dynamic Multi Processor, the system already addresses the market requirements of the next generation of printers. The modular structure allows the system to be tailored to specific application requirements.”

Profit Power

Elsewhere, Martyn Train, managing director of Duplo UK says as with any investment in finishing, it is hugely important not to underinvest in creasing, folding, and collating equipment. He explains with the current recruitment and economic issues, investing in automated finishing equipment is the only way many print service providers can keep operating and making a profit.

“With creasing and folding, the largest markets are greetings cards and booklet production,” Train says, adding: “A good quality crease and fold will avoid toner cracking and the accuracy and consistency will be easy to see.

“Even the normal consumer of print will be able to see when edges don’t line up. Print has now become the medium of premium quality, and not having the right equipment to back that up will be punished by customers walking away from their printers.

“Duplo invented the multi-finisher as the industry now understands them – a device that slits, cuts, and creases in one pass. Our Duplo range also perforates in one pass. Duplo UK also distributes the Multigraf range of high-quality folder creasers. 

"Our range is ideal for common applications such as business and greetings cards, covers, direct mailers, leaflets, concertina folds, in fact anything with the combination of slitting, cross-cutting, scoring, and perforating, and folding – Duplo has you covered.”

Picking out certain models in particular, Train highlights the new, entry-level DC-618 that can be integrated through Fiery, with all jobs being barcode driven straight from the press. It has several upgrades from the previous model and can now handle paper stocks between 110-400gsm, and process up to six slits, 30 cuts, and 20 creases in one pass.

“The DC-618 delivers full-bleed applications up to 23 sheets per minute without the white borders and toner cracking for a clean finish and can be upgraded to handle long sheets from the current generation of digital presses,” Train says.

As for increasing automation and volume, Train says DC-648 and DC-746 are at the top of the range with heavier duty cutters and creasing modules. The DC-746 also has the option to come equipped with an integrated folding system, and it automatically folds sheets up to 350gsm that have been cut, creased, and perforated, applying one of six common fold patterns, before stacking.

Meanwhile, Multigraf’s Touchline range of creasing and folding machines are modular and all revolve around the C-375+ creaser. This can then be upgraded with the CF-375 creasing and folding system. The Multigraf range can cut and fold paper stocks up to 400gsm and perforate up to 300gsm paper stocks.

In addition, Duplo offers its DSC-10/60i collating towers for feeding with the Duplo AMS (Air Management System). Each of the ten bins are fitted with AMS from the PC Controller and the towers. This unique feeding system manages the high-power fans that create air flow and vacuum independently for each bin, enabling reliable feeding regardless of paper weight or size. Using the Intelligent Multi Bin Feeding function, operators are able to select each bin individually and feed more than one sheet from one bin.

Varied Solutions

Taking a closer look at this sort of kit and you may discover Tech-ni-Fold, which provides a range of creasing, perforating, and cutting tools. Managing director Jack Harris, whose father Graham founded the business, says the company can support customers running both offset and digital printers.

“Those companies with high production folding machines such as Stahl, MBO, Morgana, or Horizon may think they need a separate creasing and folding machine to run through their heavier or more challenging stock materials, but it might be we could convert their existing unit to do the same for less than £2,000,” Harris says.