Loading Paper a ‘Breeze’ with Side Air Assist Technology

Over the past century, loading paper for folders hasn’t changed. The process has always relied heavily upon human effort to grip and air the paper prior to fanning out. Consider heavily coated, aqueous and UV stocks, and the difficulty and physical demands of this task increases exponentially. It’s an imperfect process that leads to mis-feeds, jamming and stock-sticking, as well as operator fatigue and injury. Side Air Assist (SAA), introduced at PRINT 09 in Chicago, helps to solve this longstanding problem.

The SAA loading device for continuous-feed paper folders injects high volume air between sheets on the feeder table prior to fanning stock, while sensors for detecting stock being loaded continually follow the paper.

This product actually has an interesting story. It was developed by Greg Gale of Progressive Folding & Binding in Cleveland. Greg runs a trade bindery, and as a hands-on owner he is especially interested in maximizing productivity. At first he built the machine for himself in an effort to improve workflow at his shop, but he realized he had something great.

“If the Side Air Assist was working so well for me, I felt that others would want it on their machines, too,” he said.

SAA users seem to agree. “The Side Air Assist unit has increased our productivity by 20% while reducing work for our operators by almost 70%. It has allowed them to work more continuously and without pain,” states Natalie Jones, purchasing manager for Herff Jones.

The SAA is currently only for MBO folders (1980s to present models), but the company plans to release one for Stahl folders in the near future.

There is a short, well-produced video posted on YouTube that shows just how easily this technology works. Reader tip: You may want to turn your volume down first before playing the video, unless you’re planning on having a techno dance party in your office!

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Trish Witkowski is Chief Folding Fanatic at foldfactory.com, and president of Rock the Mailbox. An educator, author, speaker and award-winning designer, Trish has a specialized expertise in creative solutions for direct mail and marketing, and is the curator of the world's most exciting collection of folded print and direct mail samples. Trish is the creator of the FOLDRite folding template system, and has authored many resources, most recently Direct Mail Simplified, and Paper Folding Templates for Print Design. She also hosts a popular weekly e-video series "60-second Super-cool FOLD of the WEEK", and is an instructor at Lynda.com. Trish holds a MS in Printing and a BFA in Graphic Design from RIT.
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