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ADHESIVE BINDERS -- Perfect Fit

October 2002
BY MARK SMITH


Adhesive binding has long been a benchmark of quality for finishing, but equipment costs and setup times traditionally had kept the process in the realm of long-run and/or higher end projects. The prevailing trend now in "perfect" binding systems is increasing their flexibility to handle shorter runs. This is true for all levels of equipment, but particularly for the relatively new product category of units designed to work in conjunction with digital printing systems.

A related trend is the industry's move to computer integrated manufacturing (CIM) that is trickling down to postpress operations in general. Unlike prepress and printing, though, digital advances in bindery and finishing equipment are basically just interface enhancements to processes that, at their heart, remain unchanged.

"Everyone talks about the electronic bindery and pushbutton operation, but you can't digitize a mechanical process," points out David Spiel, co-owner of Spiel Associates in Long Island City, NY. "You can streamline the process a bit, however."

Buyers of perfect binders today definitely want systems that reduce makeready time, says Kerry F. Burroughs, manager of the Perfect Binding Div. at Muller Martini in Hauppauge, NY. "Every prospect we talk to doesn't ask about run speed, but does ask: 'How fast are the makereadies?' Their customers are bringing in shorter runs, so they need equipment that can be adapted quickly from job to job," Burroughs explains. "Muller Martini is responding with systems that feature menu-guided make-readies—like our Tigra binder."

While shorter runs head the list, there are other developments impacting the market, points out Mark Hunt, director of marketing at Standard Finishing Systems in Andover, MA. "The major trends affecting perfect binding are shorter run lengths, faster turnaround times, a lack of highly skilled operators and customer demand for superior book quality—regardless of run length," Hunt explains. "To address these challenges, shops need commercial-grade perfect binders that are highly automated for quick setups and changeovers, easy to learn/ operate, and that produce quality books at an affordable cost."

Quality is a relative term, though, since perfect-bound books never look as classy as case bound books, says David Spiel of Spiel Associates. There are very definite points of distinction within the adhesive binding segment itself, he adds. "Some of the less expensive perfect binders just notch the book block. Since only those areas get good glue penetration, the books can fall apart with heavy use. You need full milling and notching to get a strong book.

"Also, the best looking of perfect-bound books have hinged covers," Spiel continues. "This means the cover is scored in four places so the book opens up along the score and the glue line is hidden."

The company exec cautions potential buyers of adhesive binders not to get so entranced with automation features on the equipment that they fail to adequately consider the quality of the product coming out the end of it. If cost becomes an issue, he recommends buyers make tradeoffs in automation features rather than the robustness of a machine in order to get the best bind quality.

Running Hot and Cold

Another type of flexibility a perfect binder can offer is the ability to apply both hot-melt and cold glue utilizing the same machine, points out Mark Pellman, marketing manager of Baum Corp. in Sydney, OH. "This enables the processing of coated and uncoated stocks without having to be concerned with silicone release on coated materials," he explains.

During these unpredictable economic times, Pellman says he's seen all segments of the industry looking into areas of service they have not traditionally provided. "In particular, the companies moving more into digital imaging are buying prefect binders," he adds.

Digital printers and short-run book manufacturers have more exacting requirements of an adhesive binder, says Andrew J. Fetherman, manager of the Digital Finishing Div. at Muller Martini. "They're printing jobs in which every book might be a different size, or jobs with lot sizes that are very small," he explains.

Soft cover book manufacturers are looking to add new services, such as the automated production line employed by R.R. Donnelley, Fetherman adds. Called the Inventory Management Solution (IMS), the system was developed by Nipson, Muller Martini and Hunkeler working with the printer.

According to Standard Finishing's Hunt, a number of traditional book publishers, Quebecor among them, have been entering digital book publishing in a big way. "Forward-looking printers are entering the digital fray with the production of customized documents and ultra-short run lengths, which require an efficient means to handle variable book thicknesses," he notes.

Actually, the current business climate has led printers of all types to expand their in-house binding services in order to reduce costs and improve turnaround time, says Si Nguyen, regional sales manager for Duplo USA in Santa Ana, CA. The trend has been for printers to account for more of the equipment buying than trade binders, he says. "We see a mix of printers replacing old equipment with machines that offer more automation and efficiency, as well as shops acquiring binding equipment for the first time," Nguyen reports.

Since this issue was scheduled to be distributed at Graph Expo and Converting Expo 2002, it seemed a natural tie-in for a look at specific products in this category. Here are what the exhibitors say will be their 'Best of Show' offerings in the adhesive binding arena.

The AmigoDigital from Muller Martini (booth #1065) is billed as a professional-grade perfect binding system designed to meet the high-end finishing needs of digital printers and short-run book manufacturers. It is suited to in-line or near-line operation and is said to be specifically designed to plug into an on-demand workflow.

When operating in-line, the binder receives the job parameters directly from the digital print engine and automatically adjusts to the book thickness, width and length. In a near-line configuration, the system utilizes a measuring station to attain the book block dimensions so the length, width and thickness again can be preset.

The Sterling Minibinder from Spiel Associates (booth #3631) is distinctive because it's a single-clamp perfect binder that offers side gluing for hinged covers, says David Spiel. "It can produce as nice a book as machines costing many times its price," he claims.

Operating at up to 600 books/hour, the machine can bind pieces from 4x2˝ to 11x17˝ and from 1⁄8˝ to 2˝ thick. It mills and notches the spine to produce a strong book, and the strength of the nipper means scoring of the covers is unnecessary on most stocks, Spiel says. An auto sensor eliminates the need for the operator to press a button to activate the machine.

Fingertip Control

In booth #3431 at Graph Expo, Standard Finishing is introducing the Standard Horizon BQ-270 perfect binder, which features fully automated, pushbutton setup through an icon-based touchscreen control console. The unit is designed for single-person production at up to 500 books/hour. It features a newly developed, twin-roller side-gluing system, automatic air-suction cover feeding with in-line scoring, and same-location loading and unloading for easy, single-person operation.

The company will be showing its full line of next-generation Horizon binders, with from one to 15 clamps. They incorporate icon-based touchscreens and highly automated set-up using servo/stepper motor control, the director of marketing says.

Backing up its full product lines in prepress and press, Heidelberg's finishing display (in booth #1000) will showcase the new look and feel of its Quickbinder 200, reports Steven Calov, product manager for Heidelberg (USA) Finishing in Kennesaw, GA. The three-clamp machine operates at 1,500 cycles/hour and features touchscreen control.

According to Calov, a single-position clutch has been introduced on the binder to function as an override in jam situations in order to alleviate downtime. In addition, functions like milling, gluing, cover feeding and nipping are now controlled by individual inverters and motors instead of a fixed timing mechanism. Other new features include batch counting accomplished with PLC control of the delivery conveyor and a nipping unit that won't actuate if the cover is not fed.

Taking center stage in Baum's booth (#3442) will be the BaumBinder 300, an affordable perfect binding machine that offers notching and milling features not found on most perfect binders in its class, says Pellman. The ability to utilize hot-melt and cold glue in a single, compact machine makes it a fit with shops seeking to increase the variety of work they can process, including different stocks, he adds.

The binder features a fully automatic, self-centering cover station; automatic opening and closing mechanism; three programs for cover nipping; and an electronically controlled paper dust and chip removal system. Its glue tank is designed for easy exchange to speed setups, and job changeover also is facilitated by quick-grip clamping and automatic book thickness presetting.

Rosback Co. plans to capitalize on the show by introducing its new PerfectBinder Model 882 and Model 887 vacuum cover feeder (in booth #1855), says Ron Bowman, vice president of sales. The new binder builds on the best features of its predecessor, the Model 880, he adds. These include the ability to produce consistently strong and square spines, fast cycling speeds and a 2˝ clamp capacity.

One addition in the Model 882 is a new operator interface that provides centralized control from a master touchscreen, which provides complete monitoring of the system, and a production counter. The upgraded binding system also is equipped with two cover joggers, a self-adjusting nipper and variable conveyor tape travel.

Quick-change Artists

Duplo USA will again be featuring its MR 500 perfect binder, which is designed for short- to medium-run applications, says Jose Alvarez, marketing coordinator. The binder reportedly offers fast setup and changeover, while producing up to 600 books/hour. Its single-clamp design accommodates book thickness range from 2 sheets to 1.8˝. An automatic vacuum cover feeding system is said to provide good lift on any cover stock.

For higher volume applications, Duplo offers the four-clamp Quadrimax binder that processes up to 1,000 books/hour. Centrally located controls and pushbutton activation reportedly enable the unit to be manned by a single operator.

The market trends outlined earlier are not just impacting the design of new adhesive binding equipment, says Tricia Hendrix-Miner, marketing administrator at Prim Hall Enterprises in Plattsburgh, NY. The company remanufactures Sheridan UB binders to create complete binding systems for medium- to long-run applications. Customer requests for upgrades as part of the process now include digital readouts and remote adjust systems to reduce setup time between jobs and reduce manning requirements, Hendrix-Miner reports.

While it won't have any new binders in its booth (#3601) at Graph Expo, Prim Hall personnel will be on hand to detail its remanufacturing services.

Kolbus America elected not to be an exhibitor at Graph Expo this year. However, at the IPEX 2002 show earlier in the year, the manufacturer introduced a lower-speed model to its family of Publica perfect binding lines. Like its big brother, the new 8,000 cycles/hour machine is said to feature the unique technology of the company's ZU 840A gatherer to eliminate process bottlenecks. The higher volume model operates at 15,000 cycles/hour. Both systems operate via a central unit with a touchscreen display.
 

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