Collating Equipment — Collating Cravings
BY CHRIS BAUER
The anticipation is over. PRINT 01 has come and gone. Printers from around the U.S. have headed home—although, for many, actually getting home after the terrorist attacks wound up being even more eventful than the show—with a full plate of information to digest after spending several days on the show floor in Chicago.
But distributors of collating equipment are banking on the PRINT show as being the appetizer that whet the appetite of printers hungry for collating gear. The equipment offered today includes a full menu of features and options to satisfy all of the industry's yearnings.
"The hot buttons are productivity, flexibility and ease-of-use," explains Mark Hunt, director of marketing for the finishing systems division at Standard Duplicating Machines. "Customers need systems that can collate and make booklets with speed and efficiency."
Throughput speeds are just one measure of productivity, Hunt points out. Users really need to know how many perfect books they can box and ship per shift, which he feels is a function of system reliability and consistent quality output. Flexibility relates to being able to quickly and easily changeover from job-to-job, or run two jobs simultaneously, he says.
Standard offers the Horizon SpeedVAC, a 10-station vertical suction collator with rotary-feed system. It feeds a broad range of stocks at up to 9,700 sets per hour. Up to six towers can be combined for 60 feed stations. The SpeedVAC has a touchscreen control console. Sheets can be delivered forward or backward into bookletmaking accessories, offset stackers or joggers for dual-directional productivity.
Integration Is Important
"Most of our customers are looking for integration features (mechanical and electrical) to connect the collator with automatic binders, saving working time," reveals Dr. Cesare Sassi, of American Binding. "The most required options are a multi-scanner for printing control, in-phase extra blow for very light paper and emergency exit for wrong copy, double, missing or inverted sheets. Customers are also looking for high-speed machines."
American Binding markets the S.8845 gathering machine with six to 36 stations. This machine gathers signatures or single sheets in continuous process and it provides a checking system for double or missed sheets on every station. The linear machine is composed by groups of three feeders each. Each group works independently and can be put before or after the carrying hook. If a group is not used, it can be disconnected and set aside.
One of the biggest trends affecting finishing devices, according to Mark Pellman, marketing manager for Baumfolder Corp., is the increased use of coated stocks and the growth of color in short-run jobs on coated stocks from imaging devices other than offset presses. This can cause printers to rethink what type of collator is best suited for their workflow.
"Many customers already own a friction-feed collator, but find that they need a vacuum-feed collator to feed the coated stocks," Pellman notes. "The price difference from a simple, friction tabletop collator to a vacuum feed model is significant. Manufacturers must provide solutions to meet the new imaging processes and inks at an affordable price to the customer."
Printers are faced with the need to be more competitive in the market as digital capabilities increase outside of the "traditional" print shop, he adds.
The new Baum QuickVac air/vacuum collator is said to provide collating capabilities that friction-feed collators cannot for coated and heavier stocks. The QuickVac features a modular, compact, mobile design with either eight-, 16- or 24-bin capability. Numerous functions such as collating with insertion sheets, chips and slips with front and back cover insertion, and alternate collating, increase the productivity of the finishing operation. It handles a variety of stock including coated, art and NCR paper.
According to Ron Bowman, vice president of sales and marketing for Rosback Co., one of the challenges collator vendors currently face is the increase in use of digital printing, which supplies pre-collated materials, and the larger use of the Internet for distributing brochures and manuals—taking work away from the traditional printer/binder.
Although digital printing has caused "minimal" problems for this market to date, Bowman warns that the potential is real. "It will start to affect demand for standard collators as more pre-collated material is digitally produced," he predicts.
System for Various Jobs
Rosback offers Setmaster vacuum-feed horizontal units for collating a variety of applications, from one-time carbon; newsprint; fabrics and vinyls; laminates; folded sections; business forms; tabbed index cards; and, of course, paper. Features include no-tool setup, continuous loading, missing- and double-sheet detection system, and variable speed to 3,300 cph. Also offered are stitch/fold, trim, gluing, deep-pile feeding, duplexing and crash numbering options.
Finding experienced bindery workers is becoming an increasing problem for printers and trade finishers, admits Hans Max, president and CEO of MBO America. As a result, he says collator manufacturers are providing more automated features and digital options on their new machines. This could help draw new blood into the industry and should make it easier to train less experienced workers.
"The younger generation seems to adapt easily to digital equipment," Max observes. To meet the graphic arts industry's collating needs, MBO is the exclusive sales and service provider of Theisen & Bonitz collating machines.
Theisen & Bonitz offers three versions of collators—the tb sprint, tb flex and tb eco. These collators can accommodate a wide variety of material, from lightweight paper to heavy chipboard. All T&B collators offer such standard equipment as a missed sheet detector at each station, and double sheet detector on the delivery. T&B collators come in various sizes from 9.875x13.75˝ to 28.2x40.125˝.
The tb flex model with a belt transport system offers high flexibility due to special synchronization features and reaches highest speeds in all sizes. The tb flex can be utilized to run stitch, fold and trim jobs into one direction and collating-only jobs into the other direction. This feature allows a faster job change.
"Another important item would be customization to (the printer's) specific application," stresses Jay Katz, vice president of Prosystem USA. "We are constantly customizing controls, machine configurations and building in-line connections to other downstream equipment in the customer's plant."
Katz reports that the trend toward shorter runs and personalization of products is always a driving force behind design changes in his company's equipment. Customized collating jobs requiring special combinations of sheets now require complete and variable programmability in each station of a collator, he explains.
Prosystem's Maxima modular sheet collator offers a variety of in-line finishing systems for production of stitched booklets, calendars, business form sets, tabs and credit cards. It collates bible stock up to binder board in sheet sizes from 3.75x4˝ to 28x40˝ with production rates of 3,600 to 5,200 sets per hour.
"Operator ergonomics are increasingly more important today, not just for health and safety reasons but for productivity, too," warns Jo Watkiss, communications manager for Watkiss-Vario. "The Watkiss collating system allows an operator to load and unload from a single position. Some other systems force an operator to walk back and forth 24 feet every time the machines needs loading or produces an error."
A.B.Dick has exclusive distribution rights for the Watkiss Vario collating and finishing system in the United States and South America. Watkiss Vario collators are built from a range of fully interchangeable modules, including control panels, feed stations, bases and other finishing options. Maximum sheet size is 14.25x20.25˝ with variable speeds to 7,200 feeds per hour. Features include one to 16 feed bins per tower, and different feed-bin styles can be mixed on the same tower.
Multiple Tasks Tackled
Collating machines are now designed for multiple tasks, states Oliver Matas of Longford Equipment. "After an eight-hour shift has been completed, a machine can be set up to perform sorting and stacking operations in preparation for the next day's shift," he says.
Longford Equipment offers units with custom-designed, flexible collation patterns, which combine with high-speed dispensers. Integrated turnkey systems are created with existing wrappers and labelers. Longford machines are designed for stationery, sports/phone/game cards, security printing, software packaging and various other printed materials. All units are microprocessor-controlled and can be supplied with optional detectors to monitor low/empty magazine, product insertion, placement verification or misfeed detection. Longford also offers encoders for in-line speed variation and timing of inserters.
In the future, collating units will increase in speed and continue along the high-automation path—making it easy for print shop employees from any department to step in and use the finishing gear when needed, predicts William Golde, president of MBM Corp.
The MBM DocuVac suction/air feed collator and stacker, with optional bookletmaker and face trimmer, is designed for fast production and changeovers for both offset and digital printing. The eight-bin configuration can be upgraded to 24 bins, with the addition of two more eight-bin towers. Features include preset and custom programs, and a control panel that provides step-by-step directions. Paper sizes from 5.5x8.25˝ to 12.75x18˝ and collating speeds of up to 3,800 sets per hour are possible. Online finishing capabilities include the DocuVac bookletmaker-102, which side, corner and saddle staples.
Collating equipment definitely is an area of the printing industry that has many choices from many vendors. The System 4000 from Duplo USA consists of up to six collator towers (60 bins), a dynamic bookletmaker, face trimmer and precision stacker. Together the system is capable of producing up to 4,200 booklets or 10,000 collated sets per hour. It has the ability to handle a variety of paper types, sizes and weights. Setup and changeover are automatic, with no manual adjustments required. Eight programmable settings allow operators to store repeat jobs and move from one to another by a simple pushbutton operation.
Streamfeeder collation systems feature FeedNet software, which enables full communication with all components of the collator, including friction feeders, conveyors, diverters, wrappers and other peripheral or host equipment. Systems range from simple, two-feeder lines to intelligent systems with more than 30 feeders. Bar code reading, sequential start/stop and line synchronization are available. Sophisticated, database-driven, one-to-one marketing is also possible utilizing FeedNet's capability to communicate with a PC-based host system.
Pfankuch Machinery provides units featuring from two feeding stations to 32 stations. The collating systems assemble single or batch counted product sets with minimal operator assistance. The ZG collator series, which automates assembly of hard-to-feed sequenced products, is capable of counting two or three digits and uses servo motor and PLC control technologies.
Collates Variety of Stocks
Another collator option, the Sterling S-59 gatherer/collator, available from Spiel Associates, handles a variety of jobs and collates sets quickly. It collates sheets as thin as onion skin and as thick as .25˝ pads at a rate of 6,000 sets per hour. The Sterling S-59 is also ideal for collating tabs, envelopes, greeting cards—virtually anything that can fit into the pockets. Stations on both sides reduce overall machine length by almost half.