drupa 2012 - Finishing is Rolling Along
OK, I got through it; I’m back home (and glad to be). Now that I’ve had a few days to think about it all, here are my reflections on drupa 2012.
First, this was my sixth drupa, so I enjoy the luxury of a perspective of seeing the show evolve over a span of 20 years. Attendance was down (no surprise there), and there were few Americans in attendance. A consultant friend of mine estimates that about a thousand U.S. printers made the trip out of the 314,000 total attendance.
But the cost in both money and time to attend is substantial. Most U.S. printers will wait to see the new stuff at GRAPH EXPO 2012. It’s a lot cheaper, and you don’t need a passport.
The reason to go is that you’ll never see so much varied finishing equipment at one time under multiple roofs. Many exhibitors at drupa will simply never show up in Chicago, and that’s always been true. When I first attended in 1992, I encountered small finishing equipment companies that didn’t sell outside of Germany! That is still partially true, as many manufacturers simply consider the U.S. market to be too much of a challenge for them.
So, let’s dig down and get the big view.
Was there one BIG trend in bindery systems that stood out? The answer is, “Yes!”—and it was roll-to-bind. I certainly didn’t get to see all of the finishing equipment on display, but there were at least five major finishing and press vendors that showed roll-to-bind systems. This reflects the new reality of the digital workflow. The most efficient way to run most continuous inkjet or toner presses is roll-to-roll.
Since the work is pre-collated, mounting the roll on a finishing system offers a great opportunity for “hands off” automation. The roll unwinds and is either cut into single sheets or folded into signatures. From there, the materials are conveyed to the perfect binder. The binder is typically a four-clamp, or more. The latest presses are now hitting 600 fpm, so binder speeds have had to step up from the 1,000 books per hour that was common in the earlier days.
Because job runs continue to get shorter, the binder almost certainly has to have the ability to setup each clamp for a different book thickness. And that’s what was evident at drupa. Both the “traditional” binder manufacturers and the digital postpress vendors showed this concept. Since the vast majority of book production is soft-cover perfect bound, the market is there for these machines. Cover matching is typically guaranteed via barcode systems.
The overall impact of these roll-to-bind machines will be the capacity for continuous short-run book output with very little labor involved. The good news for printers is that they now have lots of choices. But...these machines do not come cheap. The combination of the unwinder, sheeter, multiple folders and the binder (and other various necessary peripherals) push the final price well past a half million dollars in most cases.
Printers investing in continuous digital print will not have much of a choice, however. To switch to digital print without also redesigning the bindery workflow could be a dangerous course.