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DRUPA 04 REPORT BiNDINg & Finishing -- Building Better Binderi

June 2004
by Dennis E. Mason

The just-finished Drupa 2004 in Germany was unquestionably the most comprehensive graphic arts trade show in the world. Nowhere else but every four years in Düsseldorf can one see the breadth and depth of equipment, supplies, software and processes on display for two weeks.

Although Drupas are dominated by the likes of Heidelberg, MAN Roland and KBA, with their particularly press-centric focus, it also provides a forum for companies that are far less well known, and for firms that only wish to be known. And while many journey to Drupa to see the latest in presses, or a complete selection of silk screen equipment or converting gear, Drupa provides the opportunity to gain some unique insights if essentially viewed from a distance.

Drupa 2000 was touted as the digital Drupa; Drupa 2004 was called the JDF Drupa. Both of these references correctly indicated important trends in the printing industry. One should not conclude, however, that digital and JDF indicate a focus only on the prepress and press control areas.

In fact, Drupa 2000 foresaw digital control throughout the printing plant, and Drupa 2004 demonstrated that JDF interfaces have application well beyond prepress and setting ink keys. At Drupa 2004, we saw the first steps toward the realization that the printing operation of the future can be a unified production facility, with centralized control and automation throughout.

Nowhere was the effect of digital technology more evident than in the postpress or print finishing areas—generally viewed as the last bastion of labor intensity and hard-to-define production processes. Here are some significant trends in the finishing area that were evident at Drupa 2004:

Trend I: JDF-enabled Bindery Equipment Foretells an Automated Future in the Bindery. Automating the production of both short and long runs, and the ability to account for the wide variation in formats and titles, could be seen throughout the exhibition.

For example, Muller Martini—the 900-pound gorilla of postpress publication assembly and finishing—showed a high-speed perfect binder operating in conjunction with a Delphax press producing short-run books. In fact, the entire Muller Martini booth was packed with JDF-enabled equipment, ready to take advantage of the interconnectability emerging from CIP4 protocols and broad collaboration among suppliers.

Another large-scale postpress supplier now ready to move downmarket with automation is Kolbus, where Drupa-goers saw book assembly makeready time cut dramatically. The larger manufacturers—those that typically support large publication printers such as Banta and Quad/Graphics—are clearly responding to the demands of these early-adopting companies for JDF-enabled machinery to be used in next-generation plants.
 

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