Binding and Finishing : Shifting GearsOctober 2009 By Erik Cagle
IT WAS, to be sure, a no-win situation for PRINT 09.
It is the worst economy ever for anyone who wasn't around to complain about the Coolidge Administration. The opening day (Friday) was so slow traffic-wise, it was speculated that someone forgot to flip the sign in the front window at McCormick Place from "closed" to "open for business."
The truth of the final analysis pertaining to PRINT 09—as any adept fence walker will tell you—is somewhere in between. And, as any statistician will try to explain, if you have one foot in a bucket of ice and the other in a raging fire...on average, you should be comfortable.
Truth of the matter is, some booths were hopping on Monday and Tuesday (one exhibitor even reported success on Friday). One vendor told of selling two machines off the floor, and not caring what happened the rest of the show. Yet, smaller booths in the North and South halls remained slow.
So was PRINT 09 a success, even giving it a partial pass for being in the wrong economy at the wrong time? In fairness to the promoter, Graphic Arts Show Co. (GASC), the show must go on, even in the worst of circumstances. GASC certainly did its part in offering incentives for vendors to bring heavy equipment and in trying to attract visitors through a personalized marketing campaign targeted at specific market segments.
Outside of dumping the Friday opener, I'm not sure anything could've been done to make the event substantially better.
For postpress, there was cause for optimism. While binding and finishing gear, in general, has a long life span, there was some speculation that printers looking to buy may opt for these types of upgrades/additions, which constitutes a far cheaper investment/risk in a sour economy than does a multi-million-dollar printing press.
Instead of trying to force market conditions on clients, a number of PRINT 09 vendors did a bang-up job of anticipating their needs in a depressed economy. One such party was Muller Martini. Sure, the company touted its 12,000 cph 3696 gatherer, but a strong theme at the booth was certified pre-owned equipment. This area is generally taboo; many vendors offer used gear, but few blow that horn.
Muller Martini also promoted its relocating services, an area that has seen a sharp uptick as firms look to downsize into smaller, more economical accommodations.
Anthony Quaranta, president of Q Group, which serves as Muller Martini's agency, noted that strong attention has been heaped on the company's three-tier training program: classroom instruction, remote e-learning and hands-on tutorials. It is ancillary value-adds such as these that speak to the needs of the 2009 client, according to Quaranta.
"In today's economic environment, large capital expenditures are not in the near future," he says. "As a privately held company, you need to protect those assets. In the printing business, it's even more important because your asset is what drives your cash flow and profit. If you're not printing, you're not billing."
Printers and vendors alike, mindful of reduced spending and delayed upgrades, were given a forum to compile wish lists. Si Nguyen, marketing director for Duplo USA, feels the show provided a good opportunity to lay the groundwork for future acquisitions.
"We're expressing to customers and future clients Duplo's commitment to providing quality, reliable digital color finishing," he says. "We're focusing more on application-driven products. There's not a lot of spending going on right now, so it's a good time to educate people about our technologies and innovations."
Among the new products highlighted by Duplo was its Integrated Folding System (IFS), which incorporates an in-line knife folder with a DC-series finishing unit. It eliminates the need for a separate folding device and enables users to slit, cut and crease with the DC-645/615, or slit, perforate and crease with the DC-445.
The consultive approach was the buzz word for 2009's show, and this was evident at the C.P. Bourg booth. Jim Tressler, director of branch operations and Mid-Atlantic regional sales manager, likes to help clients find developing market niches. "We try to help them buy technology and have ROI strategies that will make money for them down the road, not doing the same old, same old," he says. "It's not a legacy world anymore. The beauty of a hybrid workflow—'finishing on-demand'—is the customer can plug-and-play, and grow with it."
It was a busy show for binding and finishing debuts for Heidelberg USA, which unveiled the Easygluer 100 for folding cartons and the KAMA ProCut 74 automatic diecutter with foil stamping, as well as the Stahlfolder TH 82 folder. The Easygluer can turn out 50,000 lock-bottom cartons/hr. at speeds to 1,000 fpm. The ProCut 74 performs high-quality diecutting, creasing, kiss-cutting, hot or cold embossing, hot foil stamping, hologram stamping and hot cutting.
The Stahlfolder 82 reduces changeover times through intelligent automation and ergonomic operation. Job-specific settings can be saved to accelerate makereadies for repeat jobs.
Hank Brandtjen, president of Brandtjen & Kluge, cautions that the familiar wait-and-see approach applied to technology investment is renown for leaving printers on the outside looking in.
"If you don't jump in until the technology is established, then you're behind," he says. "You'll wait and see and, in the end, all you do is wait and see nothing.
"We're here for our customers. We're all in this (economy) together; we rise and fall at the same time. And we do anything we can to help them out—financing, lower payments, training."
New on the docket for Brandtjen & Kluge is the EHG Series 22x30 foil stamping, embossing and diecutting press. Using the same format as the Kluge EHD Series press, the EHG enables users to compete in the half-sheet market.
Spartanics focused on speed and versatility with the unveiling of its Finecut hybrid roll/sheet laser diecutting machine. Users can convert from roll to sheet or vice versa in 15 minutes without changing out dies, according to Mike Bacon, vice president of sales and marketing. Spartanics has already sold a pair of the combination units.
"We're running jobs at 100 meters per minute. And it's not just for digital, either; it can be used for flexo and rotary," Bacon remarks. "We're just trying to get the word out."
David Spiel, president of Spiel Associates, was quite surprised by the volume of impact customers that frequented his company's booth. Much of the interest centered around the new Sterling Digipunch with variable pile lift. The Digipunch punches up to 60,000 sph, buoyed by a touchscreen that provides automatic setup and changeovers.
After a slow start to the weekend, the Sunday action turned out to be bustling for Standard Finishing Systems. Mark Hunt, director of marketing, noted a strong movement toward augmenting the folding aspect of operations, and that attitude was reflected in Standard's equipment on display in Chicago.
"If your aim is to be a major player in the postpress space, you need a full complement of folding gear," according to Hunt. "The more intelligence we can build into our folders, the less expertise is needed from the operator. We've baked into the machines all the folder operator know-how," he adds.
"Times are tough and margins are tight, so you have to scrub expenses out wherever you can. Our machines provide labor savings."
Among the laundry list of new Standard products was the Horizon AF-566T4F folder, a fully automated six + four buckle folder that accepts sheets up to 21.9x34˝. The AF-566T4F includes an intuitive, icon-based 10.4˝ color touchscreen. Its stepper motors drive end steps and fold plates to the exact location for the sheet size and fold style selected.
Jeff Marr, vice president of sales at Colter & Peterson, took the opportunity to use PRINT 09 as a chance to network with current and prospective clients. He reported solid activity from Saturday through Monday. On the product end, Colter & Peterson rolled out the Saber X15 series paper cutter with microcut control system and 15˝ touchscreen, along with the large-format Saber XXL series, ranging in sizes from 65˝ to 126˝. Also debuting was the microcut PLUS WS 12˝ color touchscreen.
As always, the volume of crowd is far less important than the timber of customer. Tucker LaBree, regional sales manager for MBM Corp., noted that traffic built throughout the weekend, culminating with a solid Monday performance. "The quality of leads has been very good," LaBree reported.
MBM hit the floor with a pair of new machines, the Creasematic 150 and the Creasefold Auto 50. The 150 creases up to 2,000 sph, and makes up to nine creases per sheet (11x17˝). The Auto 50 handles up to 5,500 sheets an hour and 28 creases per 11x17˝ sheet.
Andre Palko, the creative president of Technifold USA, wowed customers with his Bindery Success Today "magazine," which was a slickly designed product catalog disguised as a B2B bindery publication. The magazine trumpeted the company's 10-year anniversary.
"I tend to see the bright side of things," Palko remarks. "With less traffic, I can talk more to each customer. I spend 20 to 30 minutes with them and find out things that I wouldn't learn otherwise. People who came to Chicago for the show have done their homework, invested time doing research."
Elsewhere at the show:
• Rollem International highlighted the JetStream high-volume business card finishing system. It can trim, slit and cut in one fully automatic system, with virtually an unlimited amount of cards per sheet, also making it ideal for other types of card products.
• The MV-09 Outsert System was promoted at the Vijuk Equipment booth. The double knife-folder system with integrated pressing rollers and water scoring, folds sheet sizes up to 203⁄4x40˝ into compact, evenly sealed outserts with up to 170 panels.
• Bobst Group featured the Expertcut 106 LER and Commercial 106 Autoplaten diecutters. Also shown was the Expertfold 110 A-2 folder-gluer equipped with a Handyfeeder, which maintains consistent feed height for repeatable, accurate blank introduction. Handyfeeder installs rapidly, and can be easily moved from one Bobst folder-gluer to another.
• On display at the MBO booth was the Combi folding machine K 765 Efficiency Automatic (30x47˝). It combines motorized settings for buckle plates and rollers.
• The DS-1200 production folding/inserting system was introduced by Neopost. The DS-1200 can run up to 12,000 envelopes/hr., streamlining the entire mailing process from input to throughput to output.
• Kirk-Rudy showcased the new KR535HK tabber. It can apply tabs up to 2˝ in diameter on the lead, trail and side edges of booklets and self-mailers in a single pass. It handles 16˝ diameter rolls and runs all major types of tabs, as well as pressure-sensitive stamps and labels of various shapes and sizes.
• Best Graphics displayed a trio of Best Osako saddlestitchers. The models can produce up to 13,000 cph, and offer a choice of feeder and trimmer styles in vertical and horizontal feed models.
• A new inserter controller for mailing insertion control was touted by Domino Amjet. The controller provides a fully integrated read and print capability on both existing and new inserter systems.
• Nordson Corp. highlighted PURBlue 4 adhesive melters, the latest generation of its moisture-curing reactive (PUR) adhesive application systems. For use in low-consumption PUR applications, uses include clear box packaging and bookbinding, especially low-volume digital publishing.
• The Mailstream Productivity Series (MPS) high-speed inserting system was showcased by Pitney Bowes. The system features the new Mailstream Merging Module that cuts, merges and matches color coupons up to 80,000 per hour with a multiple-page color document, then inserts it into an in-line color personalized envelope to enhance its open-ability.
• On display at the Videojet booth was the 4320 ink-jet addressing and imaging system, an efficient and cost-effective choice for commercial printers, mailing/fulfillment houses and newspapers seeking high print resolution at production line speeds.
• GBC introduced the HeatSeal Sprint H950 fully automated desktop laminator, which doesn't require operator guidance, as well as the 640t wide-format roll laminator, which runs cold finishing jobs roll-to-roll at up to 16 fpm.
• Cosmo Films/GBC Commercial rolled out the 7580 laminating system for medium- and high- volume finishing environments. The 7580 is available with an automated in-line stacker. PI