A Look at How the Finishing Department Has Evolved for Digital Print Jobs
Allied Printing Services, Manchester, Conn.
Allied Printing Services, in Manchester, Conn., first invested in digital finishing in 2001 with a Standard Horizon StitchLiner equipped with a four-tower collating system. It’s still being used today to collate book blocks, saddle-stitch books, and fold and trim in-line. According to John Sommers, president and CEO, the company added the finishing unit when it installed its first digital press - an HP Indigo 5000.
In 2016, Allied Printing Services bought three additional pieces of digital finishing equipment from Standard Finishing Systems - a Horizon CRF-362 creaser/folder, a Horizon APC-610 paper cutter and a Horizon BQ-270V perfect binder.
“We have been really successful with in-line finishing on our Canon ImagePRESS C10000VP digital color presses, so we handle bookletmaking, saddle stitching, folding and scoring in-line. That’s enabled us to streamline our operations and avoid a second near-line or off-line process,” explains Sommers.
Prior to the addition of the digital finishing equipment, one challenging area for Allied Printing was tying up finishing equipment with excessive makereadies - which meant losing production hours with nonproductive setups.
“We were dedicating traditional finishing equipment to smaller projects where the setup took more time than the actual production run,” recalls Sommers. “That really was the impetus to push us into investing more in digital short-run finishing equipment.”
According to Sommers, digital finishing capabilities have helped Allied Printing Services to be more flexible and to adapt to the demands of the marketplace. It has also helped the company to be more competitive for shorter run and variable data digital projects. In addition, Allied has become proficient at managing and securing data.
“We’re doing a lot of read and print, where we are printing multiple components that have unique barcodes or alpha numeric codes. There are optical eyes on a lot of our finishing equipment. We’re reading those barcodes to validate that we’re getting our collations right. We are also using those barcodes to feed our inkjet systems and inkjet the correct, corresponding mailing address with the variable data that’s found in the booklet or in the envelope.”
Sommers adds that adopting digital and personalization capabilities makes it very difficult to outsource jobs. “Because we handle so much secure data, we can’t outsource any of that work - whether it’s printing, finishing or mailing.”
Moving forward, Sommers says that Allied Printing Services is looking at digital short-run diecutting, and potentially some in-line finishing equipment for its new rollfed Xeikon digital presses. “We are very diversified when it comes to our product mix, so we’re always keeping versatility in mind,” he adds.
Hatteras, Tinton Falls, N.J.
Another commercial printer that has invested heavily in digital finishing is Hatteras, headquartered in Tinton Falls, N.J. In 2014, Hatteras started to focus on digital finishing after it installed its first HP Indigo 7600 digital press. The following year, Hatteras acquired an HP Indigo 10000 digital press, and then added a second one in 2016.
“Traditionally, we had been a litho shop with 40˝ presses and a lot of the traditional folding, stitching, gluing, diecutting, and Wire-O binding equipment needed for that type of volume,” explains Bill Duerr, Hatteras president. “But as we started to get into more short-run, print-on-demand programs, we realized our commercial bindery equipment was inefficient.”
So Duerr and his staff started to look into digital finishing capabilities to support their digital presses. “We initially installed a smaller guillotine cutting system, and then acquired a Standard Horizon StitchLiner 5500.”
The company also added a VIVA inspection and tracking system to the StitchLiner. A Standard Horizon CRF-362 creaser/folder was also acquired for scoring and basic folding of digital products, and a Standard Horizon SmartSlitter was implemented to handle more variable-type cutting.
“We chose the finishing equipment from Standard Finishing Systems because we feel that their equipment and service are reliable. If a machine goes down, we know someone will be here to get it back on track right away,” Duerr explains. “The equipment has also provided a major cost benefit and has been a big time saver internally. ”
Duerr points out that one of the challenges of putting a digitally-printed piece on a commercial piece of finishing equipment was that the inkset for digital was not as secure as what could be achieved with offset inks, so there was more scuffing and ways to potentially compromise a printed piece.
“We had to do more off-line coating when we were finishing digitally printed work on our commercial equipment. Now, with the Standard Finishing equipment, we don’t have to apply an off-line coating to as many jobs because the Standard equipment handles the digital printed pieces much more delicately.”
As far as advice for other printers looking to invest in digital finishing, Duerr advises that, “if you can solve the digital finishing piece first, it becomes much easier to solve the digital printing part, because finishing is really the key to the whole puzzle.”
Impress Communications, Chatsworth, Calif.
Across the country, Impress Communications, in Chatsworth, Calif., purchased a Highcon Euclid III digital cutting and creasing machine in September from U.S. distributor Komori America, making it the first installation of the device on the West Coast.
“We chose the Highcon Euclid III because, together with Komori, it represented a partnership that we knew would be the most beneficial to us in the long run,” relays Paul Marino, Impress Communications’ executive director.
The company operates three Komori sheetfed printing presses equipped with H-UV systems — an eight-color Lithrone S40P with double coater; a six-color Lithrone SX29 offset press; and a four-color Lithrone S40P offset perfector.
The Highcon Euclid III laser diecutter complements the Komori sheetfed offset presses with its ability to remove bottlenecks in Impress Communications’ postpress department. Additionally, it delivers increased design flexibility by offering a wide range of applications that include unique packaging solutions, intricate cutouts, etching, unique scoring capabilities and 3D modeling. The company’s two Xerox digital presses, including a new iGen 5, run adjacent to the Highcon Euclid III.
Prior to adding the Highcon Euclid III, the limitations of steel rule dies meant that Impress would have to routinely alter a client’s creative vision or even turn down projects.
“With the Highcon, the power and flexibility of the laser diecutting array allows us to create whatever the customer can imagine - including intricately cut belly bands or wraps, personalized etchings of names on every piece of a promotional run, specialty seasonal puzzle pieces and pop-ups, and more.”
Marino offers the following advice to printers considering digital finishing equipment. “Don’t lose sight of a vision for what this equipment can enable your organization to become.”