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Taste For Success

Binding Technology

Still big business for many print service providers, Rob Fletcher casts an eye over the binding market to analyse the latest developments with this technology and some of the new kit on offer

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Sticking together 

Whether it is books, magazines, documents, or booklets, binding remains a service that is very much sought after in the print industry, with customers almost constantly looking for binding in some form or another.

While binding as a service has been offered for hundreds of years, both manufacturers and suppliers in this sector continue to come up with new and forward-thinking techniques that not only make the process easier for printers, but also improve the quality and reliability of the actual bind.

With that in mind, Print Monthly speaks with several names in the binding sector to find out more about what is new in terms of technology and how the latest developments can help print service providers (PSPs) deliver a higher quality service to customers.

Keeping pace

Morgana Systems is a brand synonymous not only with binding, but the finishing process as a whole, as it offers a wide range of solutions and products. 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 world to make equally large leaps forward with regard to the capabilities of the product being produced.

“Printers that have failed to keep pace will be left behind,” Hillhouse says, adding: “It is therefore essential for any growing business in this sector to make in-house binding a major ingredient.

“The printing industry has changed phenomenally over the last decade – and that’s nothing new – it has changed dramatically in every decade that I’ve been involved with it! But now customers expect an ultra-fast turnaround; same day can often be a prerequisite. If you can’t bind in-house, you are already at the back of the queue of print providers.

If you can’t bind in-house, you are already at the back of the queue of print providers

“All too often we are misled down the ‘best price’ route. 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. Only when such a product breaks down at a critical production moment will the printer recall this phrase. Quality counts and quality does tend to cost just that little bit more.”

O Factoid: The new Morgana BM4000 Series of bookletmakers was introduced at The Print Show 2022 O

With this, Hillhouse draws attention to some of the latest offerings from Morgana, including the new Morgana BM4000 Series of bookletmakers that was introduced at The Print Show 2022. These machines can produce both A4 landscape and 297 x 297mm booklets, and offer either corner or edge stapling as standard, plus the option of the unique SquareBack finish.

The Morgana BM4000 Series of bookletmakers can produce both A4 landscape and 297 x 297mm booklets

For those PSPs looking to make their first foray into binding, the BM60 bookletmaker is a compact and entry-level bookletmaker for hand feeding, with the ability to saddle staple and fold booklets of up to 22 sheets of 80gsm paper, giving up to 88-page booklets.

Moving up, the BM5050 and BM3050 can staple and fold up to 50 sheets of 80gsm, to create booklets of up to 200 pages, while the BM5035S and BM5050S are equipped with the latest stitching head from Morgana, which Hillhouse says gives the operator the ability to easily adjust the length of the stitch for thicker books without using tools.

Also in terms of bookletmaking, 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. In addition, the three core bookletmaking platforms from Morgana – BM4000 Series, BM5000 Series, and PowerSquare products – can all be fronted by the very latest in vacuum feeding technology in the form of the Morgana VFX vacuum feeder.

For PUR binding, Morgana offers the DigiBook range, which offers a variety of production speeds to suit almost all print businesses, particularly those involved in short-run work.

“The DigiBook is a truly innovative binding machine designed and built for today’s market requirements,” Hillhouse says, adding: “It is easy to use via a touch screen panel with icon graphics that allow the programming of all precision operations in just a few seconds, including start up and shut down.”

The entry-level PUR product in the range is the DigiBook 200, which Hillhouse says is suited to both litho and digital printers that require short to medium runs of PUR perfect bound books to a professional standard and runs from a standard power supply. Further up the range, the DigiBook 300XL and DigiBook 450 offer higher capacity PUR binding.

In addition, Morgana offers solutions for twin-loop wire binding, a hugely popular method for assembling a document where there is a need for a book to lay completely flat, often for pages to be written on. For such work, the DocuBind Pro VFX has the high-speed Morgana VFX vacuum feeder, which runs 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.

Relieve pressure

Elsewhere and Intelligent Finishing Systems (IFS) also offers a range of print finishing kit, including binding machinery. Managing director Eric Keane says by bringing binding in-house, PSPs can reduce costs by managing all steps of the production.

“Pressures on margins are increasing,” Keane says, adding: “Energy, paper, and ink prices are all rising. The challenging combination continues to impact margins and profits requiring printers to find different ways to respond to these escalating costs. By going in-house, PSPs can have greater control of their workflow and can
be more responsive to fast turnaround work.”

With this in mind, what should PSPs be looking for in a quality binder? Keane simply states “automation”, explaining that this can have a significant impact by helping to improve planning, increase capacity, speed up production and throughput, and eliminate errors.

“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,” Keane says, adding: “Their intelligent print finishing capabilities provide companies with the flexibility of employing operators with little or no experience. They can also aid the management of a broader range of applications too. With remote reporting and diagnostics any downtime can be minimised, and maintenance planned when necessary.”

Taking a look at the latest solutions from IFS, Keane highlights how Horizon, one of its core manufacturer partners, is committed to enhancing automation throughout its portfolio of systems - from its folders and three-knife trimmers to saddlestitchers and perfect binders. He says that each evolution incorporates enhancements that drive productivity and reduce production time and costs.

The latest is the cloud-based iCE LiNK workflow, which 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.

Among the new systems leveraging the technology is the Horizon BQ-500 four clamp perfect binder which is the latest evolution of Horizon’s series of four clamp binders. According to Keane, the Horizon BQ-500 supports a broader range of run lengths thanks to features such as more highly automated set up via a large colour touchscreen, 21 automated sections from cycle and milling speed to roller height and guide positioning, memory storage of up to 999 jobs, pre-installed variable software capability, and variable thickness production of 5mm up to 800bph.

Available from IFS, the Horizon BQ-500 four clamp perfect binder is the latest evolution of Horizon’s series of four clamp binders

“With a sharper focus on social distancing and reduced operator touchpoints the Horizon BQ-500 has a number of new design features that aid easy operation,” Keane says, adding: “They include a status light that indicates, at a distance, how the binder is running, and an ergonomic design where all the operator required actions are on the same side.”

Affordable investment

Meanwhile, Duplo also champions taking binding work in-house to maximise profits and give the PSP greater control. Zunaid Rahman, UK marketing manager for Duplo UK, says bringing binding work in-house may not be as expensive as printers first think.

“Depending on how much of the business farms out bindery work, a printer could pay for one of our binders in a matter of months,” Rahman says, adding: “With a lot of the UK print market being consolidated, it adds value to printers to be able to bind their customers’ jobs in-house with speed and efficiency but with high quality at the forefront.

“With Duplo binders especially, bringing binding in-house lowers costs because our machines are easy to use and to set up, printers do not need professional or dedicated bindery staff to operate the machines to get high-quality results. Of course, knowledge of print is key, but the intuitive nature of the equipment lends itself to a lower level of skill needed to operate them.”

Rahman went on to say that Duplo has noted an increase in demand for books produced in the UK, and PSPs should look to invest in kit that can deliver such applications. Duplo’s range of EVA binders includes the DB-290 and the DPB-500, while the PUR binders collection includes the PFI BIND 6000 PUR and DUO along with the PFi BIND 2100 PUR. Duplo also distributes the desktop perfect binders from Powis Parker, the Fastback 9 and Fastback 20.