Get Ready for All-in-One Printing/Finishing!
Throughout the years, press and bindery have always been two separate entities, each with its own skill set and workflow. The very nature of offset printing (please, DON'T stop the presses!) dictated full speed ahead on the press. Believe me, there were many attempts to integrate press and finishing over the years. A few actually worked. But most were considered as a drag on press output. When the in-line finishing module stopped (for whatever reason), so did the press. And this was a definite no-no.
But the digital model changes this thinking. A lot of digital print is about short-run (sometimes VERY short-run). Although offset presses have gotten a lot speedier in the make-ready, digital units are still faster and more practical for much short-run work. Cut sheet digital presses were the first to take an integrated "all-in-one" approach to print and finishing, offering a wide variety of integrated folding, stapling, and booklet modules.
And as cut-sheet digital presses have gotten faster, the finishing options have gotten more sophisticated. From simple stapled sets, to systems that can take 12x19˝ (or larger) sheets, and transform them into tri-fold brochures, statement sets, book blocks, business cards, or even perfect-bound books.
The "off-line" model is still the norm for faster continuous web digital. As with offset, there is a desire not to throw any monkey wrenches into the press while it's running. But the traditional bindery systems manufacturers see this as virgin territory, and are ramping up their offerings. There are now extremely sophisticated (and costly) in-line machines for the book printing market which can produce "perfect" perfect and saddle-bound books, in-line, at speeds of up to 600 feet-per-minute, 24/7. In the coming months, we will see a whole new crop of systems which can process the printed web into variable cut lengths, and then variably fold and trim each sheet according to a sheet barcode.
These new finishing technologies will advance the argument for combined print-and-finish systems. The efficiencies and effect on turn-around time will be too great to ignore. This will eventually make the "all-in-one" system the new digital model.