Make It Mechanical
Quick, what's the most widely used form of binding? If you answered mechanical binding, you are correct. Mechanical binding uses a mechanical mechanism (as opposed to adhesive, which is chemical) to bind two pieces of paper together. The mechanisms (and techniques) vary. The simplest being a paper clip or wire staple.
Mechanical binding is popular for a variety of reasons. One being that a good binder can be purchased for as little as $500. You certainly can't pick up an adhesive binder with that budget. This fact alone makes it accessible to even SoHo offices and individuals.
The chief selling point of mechanical binding is the total "lay open" quality of the process. The book (when opened), will lay flat on almost any surface, and the plastic or wire used ensures that the media can be repeatedly opened and closed.
This makes it ideal for reference media such as manuals, for journals, school student notebooks, church literature, real estate presentations, engineering and architectural media and many more. The most common methods used today are comb binding, plasti-coil, Wire-O and Velobind.
Probably the most durable is Wire-O, in which a metal wire loop is inserted through punched holes in the sheets. Wire-O has another advantage in that the number of punched holes required is less than with plasti-coil. Three punched holes per inch versus four per inch for plasti-coil. This may seem a minor difference, but fewer holes means an easier insertion process for the wire.
While mechanical binding machinery may small enough to fit on a desktop, there are high-speed punch and insertion systems that will run into the half-million dollar range. As a digital finishing integrator, I've been eagerly awaiting a chance to put together an in-line mechanical finishing system with a continuous web digital press.
One new development has been the "Snake-Skin" system from Spiral James Burn. This is a Wire-O product in which the wire is encased in a flexible plastic skin. This enables the wire to be packaged in a large box, as opposed to being wound on a mandrill. The box will hold three to five times the amount of wire, eliminating many machine stops needed to change wire. As the wire is pulled from the box by the machine, the "skin" falls away and is rewound on a separate spool.
Regardless of the process, the many advantages of mechanical binding mean there's still a big demand and a secure future for this type of finishing.