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INSERTING EQUIPMENT -- Inquiring into Inserts

June 2001

Although it may not be as flashy as a star-filled TV commercial during the last episode of "Survivor" or halftime of the Super Bowl, many companies are finding refuge from high advertising costs in a weakened economy by going a more traditional and cost-effective route—newspaper inserts.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Livonia, MI-based Valassis Communications, a leading printer of coupons and newspaper inserts, reported it is reaping financial benefits from the slowing economy. As advertisers look for ways to lure customers into their stores with sales and other ways to save, Valassis is providing much of the printing of the coupons, free-standing inserts and other materials being used as bait. And with this additional print advertising push comes an increased demand in the bindery—namely an increase in the need for inserting equipment.

As with just about every facet of the printing industry these days, automation is a key feature printers are looking for when buying just about any type of new equipment. Inserting gear is no different.

According to Greg Norris, manager of marketing communications for Heidelberg Web Systems, inserting equipment with automated features, especially for the newspaper market, are vital.

"Newspapers are extremely interested in technology that can increase speed and quality, and reduce costs by eliminating unnecessary labor—as long as that technology is cost-effective," Norris explains. He points out there are specific reasons for these specialized needs.

"The ability to selectively target inserts for specific readers and to extend advertising insert deadlines are two critical factors that can make newspapers a more attractive medium for advertisers," Norris contends. "Therefore, packaging and distribution centers are demanding inserting technology that is faster, that can handle increased volumes and that can deliver more advanced targeted inserting capabilities."

Versatility Is Key
Many newspapers are interested in versatility so they can handle Sunday packages with very high insert volumes, as well as daily editions where volumes are lower, but speed is more critical, Norris continues. He adds that the ability to select multiple delivery options is an important versatility feature for many of Heidelberg's newspaper customers.

Heidelberg's Magnapak cycles at up to 30,000 papers per hour and is capable of inserting and collating. A shaftless design allows individual hoppers to be shifted in and out of production for fully automated zone changing at full production speed. The Magnapak is expandable up to 80 hoppers, can accommodate up to four deliveries, and can be configured in many unique ways to meet the requirements of each newspaper.

While automation is important, Jesse Miser, assistant marketing manager at Baldwin Kansa, reports hearing one word over and over when speaking with prospective customers—flexibility.

"Many if not all of our customers are not only printing their daily or weekly publications, but are doing job work as well," Miser reveals. "The format of this work can change from week to week. Our customers are looking for inserting equipment that has the capability to run a broadsheet, tabloid or a quarter fold with minimal setup and changeover times.

"Along with the flexibility for quick makeready of the jackets," Miser continues, "our customers need equipment to handle the increasing volume of creative inserts." Miser says creative inserts would include lightweight single sheets, glossies, diecuts and ever-popular spadia wraps.

The Baldwin Kansa 760 news-paper inserter is designed for use by any size operation—from a small daily to a large metropolitan newspaper; from a four-page to a 128-page jacket; from single sheet inserts to large advertising supplements. Its modular design helps save space. It will run up to 11 inserts in a single pass. With the 760, users can pre-insert, then run the job back through if there are more inserts than stations.

Boom of Sales Ahead?
While Mike Paschell, vice president of North American sales for Ferag Americas, can't say for sure exactly what effect the current increase in newspaper insert production will have on his sales figures, he does feel the Multisert Drum from Ferag is a good fit for this type of trend.

With production speeds of 45,000 sets per hour direct from the press, Ferag Americas markets its Multisert Drum product to the newspaper inserting world. Based on Ferag's "Rotary Process," the Drum integrates postpress functions with high-productivity printing press operations. Its compact design and gentle processing are aimed at saving space and reducing costs. The Multisert Drum can function as part of a totally integrated, online system or as an independent, off-line operation.

But newspaper environments are not the only printers using some type of inserting equipment. Card inserting for magazines and catalogs, and board inserting for packaging and wrapping, are also popular uses. Providers of these units are facing challenges of their own, explains Randy Freeman, vice president of marketing for Quad/Tech International (QTI).

"As an auxiliary equipment provider, one of the issues we see becoming more prevalent is the quality of the machine interface," Freeman remarks. "OSHA, CE and UL codes are getting more restrictive relative to noise, guarding and ergonomic issues. OEMs like Muller Martini, Heidelberg and Sitma are adapting their guarding and control schemes to address these tightening standards.

"As these changes are made, it becomes an increasing challenge for integrating optional flexible equipment. For example, provisions may be in place for one blow-in card feeder, but an end user may have need for two on a job. Some changes may yield not inserting cards prior to stitching and moving to post-trimmer insertion. This may facilitate the insertion, but brings into play a different set of issues."

QTI's Back-to-Back Card Feeder is capable of inserting 18,000 cards per hour. It feeds two cards, one on top of the other, into one book. It eliminates the possibility of double insert cards being trimmed.

Since there is a sparse number of available skilled bindery workers in the industry, Matt Demers, marketing coordinator for Prim Hall, says inserting equipment automation becomes that much more important. Automated features also help to cut down on the need for employee training and unnecessary labor costs, he points out.

The Prim Hall PHL-700 series hopper loader can interface to various gathering machines. The loader accepts products most commonly in log form. The products are separated and delivered to the gatherer pocket, and are jogged to the gauge line to provide optimum conditions for efficient feeding.

For Cut Sheet Production
Mike Murray, president of Brackett, points to his company's Web-Master Twinstream Interceptor System as a solution for printers or bindery shops with increased inserting needs. The WebMaster interrupts cut sheet production on web presses at predetermined counts. It then automatically inserts dividers in counts as few as 10.

Muller Martini's Onyx/Rubin inserting machine can be used in-line or off-line for inserting, film wrapping and addressing. The Onyx inserting machine processes adhesive bound, stitched or thin folded jackets. Inserts can be placed in the main jacket in different positions or placed on top of the cover. The modular design of the machine allows the use of a wide range of auxiliary equipment, and can be configured in a variety of ways to tailor the product to market needs.

Another option, from Pfankuch Machinery, is the company's Friction Feeder/Autoloader. It handles product sizes from 1x1" to widths of 23". The Autoloader continuously supplies products into each feeder. It is designed for handling leaflets, inserts, plastic cards and other flat paper products. The Friction Feeder's stripper rollers ensure gentle product feeding without scuffing or complications from folded pieces.

Advance Graphics Equipment of York (AGE) offers several different types of inserting equipment, notes Bill Stober, vice president of sales and marketing. One inserting unit is a chipboard inserter, which is part of the company's High Pile Stacker with Batcher Inserter unit. It is used in the cut sheet market to produce packets of paper, Stober notes. The inserter adds a chipboard on top, on bottom or both prior to the product entering a shrink wrap system.

Inserting On-web
AGE also offers its Card-Sert Machine, which is designed to add a card, envelope, coupon or other insert on a web as it is being printed. With the increasing demand for higher speeds, the units are now designed to add product in the 80,000 to 100,000 copies per hour range, Stober says.

From Buhrs Americas, the Jacketmaster Inserting System boasts a maximum speed of 18,000 pieces per hour. The standalone system is extendible with a wrapping module. It can be integrated with binding systems such as stitching lines, gripper-conveyors and transport systems. It enables fully automated inserting or mailing lines.

Yet another option is MachTronic Products' Model 216 Pick-and-Place Feeder that delivers feeding in a simple, cost-effective package. It offers a smooth motion for gentle product handling. Its small footprint makes it easy to fit into many applications. Product packets, cards and various other materials can be fed.


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