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Digital Finishing -- Back End Boosters

May 2005
By Erik Cagle

Senior Editor

Digital printing, by all accounts, isn't what it was even two years ago. Likewise, any similarity between today's digital printing presses/output devices and short-term future technologies will be purely coincidental.

Scratch that last statement, for there's one notable exception: the quality of digital printing already has improved and is certainly on the fast track to mainstream acceptance for any type of job, not just those pigeonholed as "digital friendly" applications. More commercial applications are continuously being realized.

The masses have certainly gotten that point and are mobilizing the back end of the operation with equipment geared toward the finish line.

According to a TrendWatch Graphic Arts (TWGA) report released last October, "The Digital Bindery: Still Gathering a Full Head of Steam," 45 percent of on-demand digital printers planned bindery purchases in the next 12 months, compared to just 32 percent of commercial printers. In acquiring greater postpress capacity, notes the TWGA report, "anticipated benefits include reduction in labor expense, liability and privacy protection, reduced waste, improved turnaround, and better quality and quality control."

Prior to installing a Xerox iGen3 digital production press a year ago, White Plains, MD-based AGS—a member of the Consolidated Graphics (CGX) network—was declining at a rate of 2 percent annually. Since the iGen touched down, AGS' digital sales grew 100 percent and overall sales increased 12 percent. The company registered $30 million in total sales for 2004.

Digital Equipment Lineup

According to AGS' Adam Rutkowski, director of digital print, the company also boasts a pair of Canon imageRUNNERs and has tentative plans for another. Also pending for AGS was a C.P. Bourg BDF in-line bookletmaker for the iGen, slated to arrive in May. The real beauty of this stitcher/folder is its square-fold capability, according to Rutkowski, which allows users to square the spine for printing, then stapling.

"It's a great new feature we can offer our customers because it looks and lies like a perfect-bound book, but it really isn't," Rutkowski notes. "It also allows the option to print on the spine, which isn't possible on traditional saddlestitched books."

AGS currently has a C.P. Bourg BDF bookletmaker for in-line work on one of their imageRUNNERs. In terms of off-line capabilities, the company employs a Standard Horizon BQ270 perfect binder specifically for digital runs of 500 or less. Runs above that amount go on a Muller Martini Norm binder.

The company does a lion's share of perfect-bound titles for associations and small publishers, along with some degree of direct mail pieces. Looking ahead, AGS is hoping to leverage its variable data printing capabilities as a driver toward penetrating the healthcare and higher education markets.


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