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!

Trish Witkowski is Chief Folding Fanatic at the online community foldfactory.com. She holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design and a master of science degree in Graphic Arts Publishing from Rochester Institute of Technology's School of Printing Management and Sciences (now the School of Print Media).

An award-winning designer, Trish held the position of creative director for a Baltimore-based agency for six years, and has taught design and desktop publishing at the college level. She has a specialized expertise in the area of folding and is the creator of the FOLDRite™ system, a 2004 GATF InterTech™ Technology Award winner.
Trish frequently publishes articles for graphic arts industry publications, and has written three books on the topic of folding: A Field Guide to Folding, Folding for the Graphic Arts: A Teacher's Handbook, and FOLD: The Professional's Guide to Folding.

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