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At Berryville Graphics, a Milestone in Book Printing

July 1998
BERRYVILLE, VA—Berryville Graphics, reportedly the nation's third-largest book manufacturer, recently obtained its first patent and may soon seek another.

The patent was issued for the company's Duratech bookbinding process, an alternative to traditional smythe sewing that provides a "lay-open" quality for easy reading. Duratech uses a pliable cold adhesive, twice-reinforced with hotmelt and pulled into an old-world European-styled spine that has been tested by independent labs for durability.

Developed by Berryville engineers for use in conjunction with the company's linked in-line system, the Duratech process takes six-and-a-half minutes from binding to jacketed product, and produces 110 bound books per minute.

The Duratech patent is just one of several milestones marked by Berryville over the past few years.

As one of the first book manufacturers to go computer-to-plate, Berryville has faced some unique challenges. For example, since the CTP process eliminated film from the workflow (and, therefore eliminated bluelines), Berryville developed an alternative customer proofing system.

Berryville worked with Krause (manufacturer of the LaserStar CTP system that Berryville uses to manufacture its books) and Xerox (makers of the DocuTech digital printing system) to create a software program, wherein the LaserStar files could be output on the DocuTech to produce "bound galleys on-demand."

This proof, via a soft cover that is produced by laser instead of offset, allows customers to make approvals and/or corrections on the back cover of the book. Also working with Krause, Berryville was able to overcome the potential for error in data file transfer, which often accompanies CTP usage. The Berryville-Krause partnership resulted in a RIP system that proofs by page instead of by file, significantly reducing the introduction of errors whenever files are re-opened.

The latest accomplishment for Berryville is the invention and installation of a revolutionary robotics system that palletizes cartoned books as well as uncartoned jacketed books.

The installation marks an industry first, according to Berryville Graphics President Wayne Taylor, who claims his company is the only book manufacturer using the technology.

"Everyone has a robot programmed with specific moves," he says. "But no one else has a physical arm that handles stacks of books without dropping or marking them. That's what makes us unique."

Taylor says the robotic arm has a custom-designed clamping mechanism, which took Berryville engineers 18 months to develop.

"An equipment manufacturer gives you the basic tool, but to get a specific result, you've got to tweak the machine to do what you want," Taylor contends. "With our in-line system, we're able to electrically and mechanically engineer the 'links' between process centers so books are transferred from one machine to another smoothly and efficiently."

With special diverts integrated throughout the system, the accumulators collect the diverted books and refeed them back into the system to keep it continuously running.

"If the binder goes down, the accumulator refeeds the backload into the trimmer," explains Barry Hockenberry, Berryman's director of manufacturing services. "Conversely, if the trimmer goes down, the binder continues to run and accumulate books. The accumulator becomes a buffer area to ensure maximum productivity."

Furthermore, Hockenberry says if Berryville didn't have this buffer in its linked on-line system, the 90-percent efficiency the company is running at now would go down to about 60 percent.

"We're skilled in the disciplines of printing, and that allows us to do the things we dream up," says Taylor. "As with most great inventions, people consider them wacky until they're proven. Such is the case with our three linked in-line systems, the first of which was installed in 1993. A linked in-line bindery operation was just a concept until we proved it to be reality.

"At Berryville, we take an unconventional approach to book manufacturing," continues Taylor. "And that can be challenging in an industry where processes have been done basically the same way for 150 years. By coming up with new innovations, we're trying to convince the industry there's a better way of doing things."

Taylor claims several Berryville competitors have visited the facility, and many are "copying the Berryville approach."

"We figured our competitors would eventually get into the technology," explains Taylor. "But we're the pioneers. We beat the path. Even if others are copying us, we're farther along in the process. They don't have the wisdom and experience that we do, and that comes exclusively from years of hands-on experience."

Berryville produces more than 90 million Duratech-bound books for some of the largest publishing houses in the world, including Thomas Nelson Word, Henry Holt, Farrar Straus & Giroux, Simon & Schuster, Random House, Bantam, Doubleday and Dell.

BY Cheryl A. Adams

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