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Collating Systems-- Adding to the Pile

November 2000

Ease of operation, speed and productivity, durability and the ability to produce a wide variety of applications, such as insertions and CD booklets, top the wish lists for customers, according to Paul Steinke, marketing director for the finishing systems division at Duplo USA. It launched the new System 4000 collating/bookletmaking machine at Graph Expo in September.

"The new System 4000 contains a unique, vacuum channel design for feeding the stock," Steinke remarks. "Each bin contains an independent vacuum and air supply, which provides equally consistent feeding efficiency from bin to bin, regardless of the number of bins in the system."

Steinke notes that the left direction provides bookletmaking at speeds up to 4,200 booklets per hour and the right direction provides offset or straight stacking of sets up to 10,000 sets per hour.

There have been particular issues surrounding which variety of collator is most appropriate for the user's applications. According to Bob Flinn, director of business development at Standard Finishing Systems, the increase in glossy paper stocks, digital imaging and the need for versatility have allowed suction feed to become the primary choice over friction-feed designs.

"With the reduction in run lengths driven by more target marketing and personalization, customers are increasingly seeking collating equipment with very quick changeover and minimal or zero makeready," Flinn remarks. "Recognizing this need, as well as the shortage of skilled operators, automation has become a key advantage."

He notes that the Standard Horizon SpeedVAC-100 is the only suction-feed collating system that utilizes "pulsed rotary" vacuum drum feeding. It is the same type of feed system used in high-quality folding machines to handle a wide range of stocks at high speeds.

Speed, accuracy, consistency and minimal adjustments on changeovers are some of the elements customers seek from collating systems, according to Jennifer Moffa, customer service representative for Smyth srl/Mac Manufacturing. Its Model P collator/gatherer can be expanded to include the Smyth fully automatic, high-speed sewing machine for producing sewn books in-line.

"By employing new technology, gathering and sewing costs have been dramatically reduced, increasing production, reducing labor costs and minimizing spoilage by eliminating unnecessary handling," she says.

Cliff Thompson, senior communications specialist for Streamfeeder, notes that surveys rank fast job setup and ease of use highest in appeal to packaging equipment users. Thus, the call is for a feeder that is easy to set up, operate and maintain.

Those two elements were addressed by Streamfeeder in the manufacture of its ST series. The feeders within a Streamfeeder collator can be removed easily from the system and moved to another line to work in other applications, providing flexibility of operation in a production environment.

MBO America distributes the Theisen & Bonitz line of collators and offers three versions: the tb sprint, tb flex and tb eco. They can accommodate the widest variety of material, from lightweight paper to heavy chipboard. The units are offered in three pile variations, the FP (2˝), VP (113⁄4˝) and the HP (27˝). The tb flex features a belt transport system for special synchronization possibilities.

Collating systems from Pfankuch Machinery automate the assembly of single- or batch-counted product sets. The ZG and EV collating and inserting series machines comfortably handle hard-to-feed and easily damaged products, as well as thicker booklets.

"With our feeders, companies can rely on our control systems, which prevent double feeds, to feed high value and sequenced products with confidence," notes Ed Marsh, president of Pfankuch.

Automation, versatility, speed and size of the machine, along with suction feeders, are some of the most popular features requested by customers, according to Steve Cutler, marketing program manager for A.B.Dick. In terms of versatility, he feels it is desirable to have one system that can do a variety of jobs, from saddle stitched books, corner and edge stitching, and collating with full capabilities for straight and offset stacking, along with batch programming.

A.B.Dick markets the Watkiss Vario collating line, a completely modular system that boasts the ability to intermix friction and suction feeders in the same tower and the convenience of choosing the number of feed bins needed. Users can add bins to existing towers rather than adding a new tower.

Baumfolder offers the QuickSet 10 and 20 collators, which produce 60 sets per minute and offer multiple functions to sort a wide variety of paper sizes, thicknesses and quality.

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.

MBM Corp. offers 6-, 10- and 20-bin vertical collators that can handle bond, NCR, card, coated and folded sheets in sizes from 5x8˝ to 113⁄4x17˝. Features include three-mode digital counter, totalizer, preset and a divider sheet insertion program.

A New Frontier in On-demand Finishing

(Editor's Note: The following was contributed by Mark Hunt, director of marketing for Standard Finishing Systems, a division of Standard Duplicating Machines in Andover, MA.)

As digital document production continues to grow, the debate regarding the relative merits of different finishing methods continues to accelerate. In-line, off-line, or automated off-line?

While each method has its advantages, a new application may help to bridge the gap between in-line and off-line. The solution is a new route to the finish line—an automated, off-line system that combines the flexibility of off-line finishing with the automated setup and end-to-end document integrity of the in-line approach.

The architecture behind this system is called DigiFinish, and the resulting bookletmaking and perfect binding systems are the product of joint development among Xerox, Horizon International and Standard Finishing Systems. The goal is to create and manage highly complex documents, merging digital black-and-white and color documents with end-to-end document integrity.

How It Works
All document finishing instructions are captured upstream, and they flow with the job. These instructions are conveyed by the Xerox DigiFinish Coordinator on a bar code or other machine-readable code. The operator scans this code, and DigiFinish communicates instructions to the perfect binding or bookletmaking system, which automatically sets up for the required attributes, including book thickness, finish style, paper size, stitch placement, fold position and face trim or three-knife trim measurements. The communication can also include data on how the different sets or sheets are to be combined in sequence.

The steps for DigiFinish bookletmaking are as follows:

* The operator scans the DigiFinish job ticket, and the entire system sets up for the job automatically. The operator is prompted on how to load sheets and sets into the system.

* Document construction begins with the Standard DocuFeed 150, where offset stacked sets are placed in the hopper and delivered downstream, set by set.

* The Standard Horizon VAC-100 vacuum collator then feeds a color cover or any of several insert sheets, as instructed, to complete the document.

* Next, an on-board camera reads stealth dots or some other code on each sheet or set as they enter the stitcher area, verifying that document elements are placed in the proper order prior to finishing.

* Finally, another camera reads the completed document as it exits the finishing system, providing closed-loop document tracking and integrity.

The color sheets may come from a conventional offset press, a Xerox DocuColor 2060, or any digital color source. In any event, the most important benefit is the ability to integrate different print sources to create complex documents, with end-to-end integrity and advanced system automation.

As digital printing gains greater market share and customers demand more short-run and highly personalized documents, this new form of automated, off-line finishing will fill a significant niche.

Indeed, when DigiFinish comes to market before the end of 2000, we may well reach another frontier in finishing on-demand.


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