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September 2002

Football season is upon us, and the focus of most teams is on the quarterback. Some quarterbacks are pocket passers like the Saint Louis Rams' Kurt Warner, while others like to get out of the pocket and make plays on-the-run, like the Philadelphia Eagles' Donovan McNabb.

For the printing industry, talk of pockets brings us to the bindery—where new collating equipment can be the quarterback of the finishing department. Just like NFL-caliber players, collating equipment has to be tough, smart, reliable and flexible, equipment vendors say.

The same broad trends that are shaping the printing industry at large—shorter run lengths, faster turnaround requirements, and a shortage of skilled operators—are influencing the way collating equipment is being manufactured, says Don Dubuque, product manager for Standard Finishing Systems.

"Shorter run lengths mandate quick setups and changeovers, because setup time is amortized over the number of units in the run," Dubuque explains. "This is coupled with customers' expectations for faster turnarounds, which means printers need to produce more shorter-run jobs per day. That requires quick setups, ease of operation and reliable performance on a broad range of substrates."

These trends have led to the need for highly automated collating systems, he continues. "Automation is most effectively addressed through interactive, icon-based touchscreens that clearly and efficiently step the operator through all setups. This, in turn, leads to improved efficiency with quicker setup times and faster turnarounds, which is particularly important as run lengths decline. Automated, shortened job setup times translate into higher profits, more collator run-time, and the possibility to free up an operator to run another piece of equipment."

Latest Performer

The latest collator offering from Standard Horizon is the SpeedVAC, which offers high levels of automation through an icon-based touchscreen for quick, simple changeovers. Easy and powerful programming enables dual-

directional feeding, intelligent feeding, and a number of other functions that allow for continuous production and enhanced productivity at speeds up to 10,000 sets per hour. The programming, with touchscreen control, also allows for instant recall of previous jobs and the ability to break into jobs as needed for rush work.

According to Cliff Thompson, manager of marketing communications for Streamfeeder, many businesses that historically outsourced collating projects are choosing to bring jobs in-house. As these companies expand their capabilities, they are very focused on the long-term profit-generating capability of the equipment purchased, he contends.

"Flexibility, value, and ease-of-use translate to return-on-investment, so collating systems must be designed to be simple to use, easy to reconfigure and capable of efficiently handling diverse jobs," Thompson asserts.

Streamfeeder Universal collator systems are built to provide flexibility. Modular design using "plug and play" simplicity makes these systems easy to reconfigure as collating needs change. Component feeders can be removed from the line for standalone feeding applications, then reintroduced to the collator when needed. Typical Universal systems run the gamut from simple two-station configurations to sophisticated systems featuring 30-plus feeders.

Digital printing has revolutionized the way printed material is generated, points out Dennis James, manager of press planning and management for A.B.Dick, (the U.S. distributor for the Watkiss line of finishing equipment) and a high proportion of it needs to be converted into finished booklets. Most solutions to these finishing requirements are handled with the flexibility of collators, with various accessories such as stitch-fold-trim, bookletmakers or stapling applications, he says.

"There has been the attractions of online finishing, where the paper is put in at one end of the machine, and a finished booklet is delivered at the other. However, in many cases this is not the most efficient way to proceed, nor is it the most cost-

effective. For example, most digital printers can print sets sequentially, but this is much slower than conventional batch printing, especially on longer run lengths."

Near-line finishing, James says, allows the production rate of the printer to be optimized according to the print parameters, without affecting the finishing process, and is a better solution.

Finishing Off-line

Watkiss systems provide an off-line finishing solution for users of high-speed electronic copying, printing and publishing systems. The entry-level Eco Vario shares many features with the full Vario range. Three different types of feeders are available for the Watkiss Vario collating system. Each collating tower can include any combination of feeders to suit the application.

As a response to the growing needs of the digital printing market, Jose Alvarez, marketing coordinator for Duplo USA, recommends the IMBF (Intelligent Multi-Bin Feeder), a system that combines Duplo' s DC-10/60 interfaced with a PC computer.

"In addition, the IMBF can be interfaced with the MD-IN3 folder/inserter for the IMS (Intelligent Mailing System) solution," he says. "This is ideal for one-to-one marketing and custom collating and inserting needs."

Duplo's DC-10/60 offers high speed and ease of operation. Comprising a heavy-duty collator, it is capable of producing up to 4,200 booklets per hour when connected to the DBM-400 bookletmaker or up to 10,000 collated sets per hour. Its vertical design, modular styling and ability to handle a variety of paper types, sheet sizes and weights demonstrate superb versatility.

Oliver Matas, marketing manager for Longford Equipment, feels collating gear needs to be able to easily integrate with other equipment on the shop floor.

"The machinery and controls need to have the flexibility to work in synchronization with other specialized equipment so the customer can manage and operate the system from one source as a complete, turn-key production line," says Matas.

In that vein, Longford Equipment offers the Booklet Collation System, which is designed to collate and overwrap books for direct mail clients. The books are collated and overwrapped, then the package is flipped, ensuring that an invoice with the mailing address is glued onto the back of the package. The Longford System Controller ensures all components, from feeders to the glue system, are functioning as a complete system. It can achieve throughput of up to 6,000 packages per hour.

"The connection and synchronization of our collator with other equipment makes our machines attractive," agrees Dr. Cesare Sassi, of Pigna America (formerly American Binding). "Our machines are using many optional features for printing and paging control before gathering; most are used to avoid missing, double or reversed sheets."

Sassi notes that the options most required by his customers include: the multiscanner for printing control, the in-phase extra-blow for very light paper, and the emergency exit for wrong copy (double or missing or reversed sheet).

The S59 collator can be used for jobs like collating tabs, envelopes and greeting cards. It boasts six to 48 stations on six station modules. It provides vertical and horizontal stacking with in-line capability, and a maximum speed of 5,000 sets per hour (18 stations). These machines are produced in Italy by Tec-graf, which Pigna represents.

One of the biggest issues for customers of Fusion Concepts' Ed Marsh deals with flexibility. Users want to be assured the collating equipment they purchase will fit the needs of today and the future, he notes.

"Everyone is scared that even though they do letter-size today, they will need to do anything from business card to tabloid size in the future," Marsh remarks.

Fusion Concepts, the exclusive distributor of Pfankuch products, offers units with two to 32 stations. These systems assemble single or batch counted product sets with minimal operator assistance. The ZG collator series automates the assembly of hard-to-feed, sequenced products, is capable of counting two or three digits, and uses servo motor and PLC control technologies.

From Baum, the Baumfolder QuickSet 10 and QuickSet 20 collators produce 60 sets-per-minute, and offer multiple functions. Baumfolder QuickSet collators provide solutions for many applications. Features include crisscross or straight stacking, total and preset batch counting, large bin capacity, alternating bin mode, adjustable feed and separator pressure settings, easy bin removal and self-contained bin extensions.

The Prosystem USA Maxima modular sheet collator offers a variety of in-line finishing systems for the production of stitched booklets, calendars, business form sets, tabs and credit cards.

It collates bible stock up to binder board in sheet sizes from 33⁄4x4˝ to 28x40˝. Production rates are 3,600 to 5,200 sets per hour. Features include advanced single-sheet technology in a modular, two- to 21-station collating system.

Another well-known name among bindery circles for its folding machines, MBO America, is also the exclusive agent for Theisen & Bonitz collators. Theisen & Bonitz offers three versions: the tb sprint, tb flex and the tb eco. These collators can accommodate a variety of material, from lightweight paper to heavy chipboard, whether small or very large sizes. They can handle sheets from 23⁄4x315⁄16˝ up to 28x40˝. The tb sprint offers such standard equipment as a missed sheet detector at each station and double-sheet detector on the delivery. Up to 16 vacuum-suckers at each station assure a safe sheet transport.

Another offering, from the Rosback Co., is the Setmaster vacuum-top-feed horizontal collator for one-time carbon; newsprint; fabrics and vinyls; laminates; folded sections; business forms; wallpaper and floor tile samples; tabbed index cards; checks; calendars; etc. It boasts continuous loading, missing- and double-sheet detection system, and variable speed to 3,600 cph. Stitch/fold, trim, gluing, deep-pile feeding, duplexing and crash numbering are options. Standard and custom sizes to 30x40˝, from three to 50 stations.

Finally, the Sterling S59 gatherer/ collator from Spiel Associates will collate sheets as thin as onion skin and as thick as 1⁄4˝ pads at a rate of 6,000 sets per hour. It is also ideal for collating tabs, envelopes, greeting cards and practically anything that fits into the pockets. The stations are positioned on both sides, reducing the overall length of the machine by almost half.


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