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Graph Expo Review: Postpress - Leveraging the New Normal

October 2011 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
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If you drop a quarter in the gum ball machine and nothing comes out, you might curse, smack the side of it or give the rascal a kick. That’s fine; everyone’s invested money in something at one time or another and has gotten stiffed .

However, if you reach deeper into your pocket, pull out another quarter and drop it into the machine—in the hopes that you’ll get one, if not two, gum balls—you’ve revealed a fatal flaw in your DNA makeup. When the expectation is for a different outcome under the same type of conditions, well, as our pal Al Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”

OK, so it’s not wise to quote people who are smarter than you, but when it comes to Graph Expo, we have some givens. This is the new normal everyone talks about from an industry standpoint: i.e., the printer attendance level, the exhibitor volume. We’re not returning to 2000 levels or even 2005. Attendees lining up three and four deep around a booth waiting to talk to a salesperson, many with checkbooks in hand, is an outdated snapshot.

Printers and industry vendors, not wanting to become an Einstein statistic, have adjusted well to 2011-era business. Print shops can no longer afford to let a large group of people go enjoy themselves in Chicago for a few days on a scouting expedition. The vendors themselves cannot justify bringing gobs of equipment into booths the size of football fields. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Since we’re borrowing old adages, less is truly more. Instead of seeing a gaggle of tire kickers (the least promising of prospects), the printers and trade finishers who perused McCormick Place South from Sept. 11-14 had more sober intentions. There is clearly pent-up demand in the marketplace, particularly for finishing equipment. Just ask David Spiel, president of Spiel Associates.

“The past couple of years we’ve had good shows with less overall traffic, but much more serious buyers,” he notes. “Consequently, you can spend more quality time with them rather than with people who are really not interested in buying anything.”

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Spiel says his company enjoyed tremendous feedback with its Rilecart B-599 double-loop wire binder, which produces “more wire at a greater rate than any other machine in the world, including the million-dollar wire binds,” Spiel contends. “They take up to half a day to change over; the B-599 takes 40 minutes.”

It was a different kind of Graph Expo for Standard Finishing Systems, which for years has been notorious for lugging along tons of finishing gear. No, Standard didn’t slim down last month, but it did find a new way to get the most demo value from its own display and gear running in its partner booths, according to Mark Hunt, director of marketing.

“This year, our booth revolved around solution sets, putting together combinations of equipment to help customers and prospects visualize how they can streamline their production workflows,” Hunt says. “It’s been satisfying to see how customers react to this alternative approach.”

For example, Standard was running 30˝-wide rolls that were printed on an HP T350 inkjet printer with its Hunkeler PF7 double plow folder and CS6 cutter/stacker. Standard alternated between HP T-350 and Kodak Prosper pre-printed rolls to cover the wide-web landscape. The Horizon BQ-470 perfect binder was shown in-line to the HT-80 three-knife trimmer, and among the new gear, an entry- level Horizon BQ-160 perfect binder with PUR adhesive capability was shown in-line with the new CRB-160 cover creaser.

Graph Expo certainly was an exciting show for Duplo USA, which unveiled the DBMi high-volume collating and saddlestitch booklet-making system. The DBMi handles both long-run offset jobs and shorter digital runs, with digital finishing solutions being the primary buzz term at McCormick Place. Also on display by Duplo was an as-yet-named small-format diecutting system. With a rated speed of 4,000 sph, it fits most digital applications, according to sales manager Wayne Reeves.

Muller Martini showcased one of the more unique press conferences, providing an in-the-round presentation for reporters on a rotating gallery stage. Among the products in a three-minute shotgun presentation: the Sigma digital book production system (in-line, near-line and off-line configurations, with up to 1,000 variable length, width and thickness books per hour), the Orbit trimmer and the Primera E140 digital saddlestitcher.

Werner Naegli, president of Muller Martini USA, said it has been a fruitful year for his company, with brisk activity in new, used and remanufactured machinery, along with equipment relocations. Though the volume of purchases in the market is below past years, he feels there are niches of real activity and real interest. “We’re building our digital initiatives and showing real solutions,” Naegli explains.

Heidelberg USA continues to grow its substantial client base by emphasizing post-sales support. Dan Mauer, vice president of postpress product management, notes that Heidelberg’s booth was teaming with activity. “The sense I’m getting is that there’s some optimism,” he says. “It seems that everyone who comes in here is looking for a custom solution; consequently, we look to offer products that will enable printers to provide more value to their clients.

“We’re working with customers in a more consultative way, as opposed to just selling them the box,” he adds. “If you want to solve a problem, we’ll help you get there.”

A Cut Above

One of the showcase items in the Heidelberg booth was the Polar 92XT Plus with Compucut and barcode scanner (Polar is the predominant guillotine cutter for commercial printers in the United States, according to Mauer). Also prominent was a Ricoh Pro C901 Graphic Arts Edition digital color press equipped with Heidelberg’s in-line bookletmaker and cover imposer.

On the Kama side, Heidelberg promoted the ProFold 74 folder/gluer and the ProCut automatic diecutter/foiler, both of which cater to short and long runs in the digital packaging realm, as well as specialty work.

“We were excited about the interest shown in the Kama ProCut and ProFold because it shows that even in a difficult market, there are many opportunities for value-added and unique products,” notes Chris Raney, vice president, packaging, for Heidelberg. “Both Kama offerings are ideally positioned to enable our customers to respond to these needs by delivering great performance at a reasonable price. These products are just one more example of how Heidelberg’s product range meets our customers’ needs.”

Brandtjen & Kluge touted its EHG foil stamping, embossing and diecutting press, ideal for producing items including pocket folders, greeting cards, stationery, labels and packaging. According to President Hank Brandtjen, pent-up demand exists, but the ability for printers and finishers to pull the trigger from a financial standpoint is a different matter. Still, he was encouraged by the visitors to his booth, and knows his work has just begun. “The shows provide the leads, and then you have to follow up,” he says.

The Bobst Group decided to do a little thinking outside the McCormick Place box by hosting a “Finish the Day” event at the W.H. Leary Co. in Tinley Park, IL. Visitors were treated to food, drink, live entertainment and, of course, a demo of the Bobst Expertfold A-2 CS folder/gluer producing a Chicago-themed folder.

Spiral Binding/James Burn USA touted the redesign of its Alpha-Doc automatic punch, which now has three different speeds and can handle up to 48,000 sph. Also trumpeted was the high-speed Lhermite BB400 in-line Wire-O binder, with speeds up to 3,000 booklets per hour.

A slow and steady pace gave way to a doubling of visitors on the second day of the show (Monday), according to Andre Palko, president of Technifold USA. The sometimes publisher was in full bloom with the latest issue of his magazine, Bindery Success, the Graph Expo 2011 edition. Among the newer items on the Technifold menu is its new spine creaser for saddlestitchers. The spine creaser can be installed in 30 minutes or less using allen keys.

The Mailstream direct mail finishing system was the center of attention at the Rollem International booth. The in-line system trims, slits, scores, glues, tips-on, perforates and remoistens mail products ranging from self-reply remittances, folded products with tip-ons, and postcards with coupons, among others.

It was an eventful Graph Expo for Rollem, which had its Jetstream trimming, slitting, perforating and scoring system running at the Xerox booth in-line with an iGen4 color digital press, and at the MCS booth with that company’s inkjet addressing unit.

Elsewhere from a postpress standpoint:

• The patented MV-11 outsert system was among the new items promoted by Vijuk Equipment, along with the V-14 commercial/miniature folder. The machine features a third knife and boasts a capacity of 16 fold plates.

• Neopost showcased the new DS-200/PS-200 mail inserting system. The modular system can insert a wide variety of mail with an operating speed of 4,800 envelopes per hour.

• Hohner drew attention with its HSB 10.000-S saddle binder. The HSB can be changed from one job to another up to a maximum DIN A3 in a matter of minutes.

• The Saber X-15 paper cutter was promoted by Colter & Peterson. Available in four sizes (37˝, 45˝, 54˝ and 62˝), it features a 15˝ color touchscreen and boasts tool-less knife adjustment.

• Pitney Bowes unleashed the new Mailstream Wrapper productivity system, which can integrate into existing printing and mail finishing operations. The system can process variable page documents at speeds up to 26,000 pieces per hour.

• The Aerocut air-feed slitter/cutter/creaser, for the on-demand digital printing environment, was being showcased by MBM Corp. The Aerocut can crease and trim products ranging from brochures and cards to CD jackets.

• Kirk-Rudy unveiled a number of new products, including the 545T All-in-One tabber. The 545T holds 16˝ diameter rolls and runs in-line with most inkjets, binders and stitchers.

• MBO America highlighted the Brograma BSR-550 diecutting unit, which has a capacity of 12,000 cycles per hour and is ideal for punching, cutting, perforating, scoring and embossing. Applications include packaging, digital, label and direct mail finishing. PI

 

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