Mechanical Binding — Bound for Success
By Erik Cagle
In one of many hilarious episodes from the long-running animated hit television series, "The Simpsons," bartender Moe Szyslak is hammering a crayon up Homer Simpson's nose to restore his less-than-Hawkingesque intelligence level to subpar standards. Don't ask why.
During the hammering, viewers can witness Homer's digressing intelligence as the crayon is pushed deeper into his brain. At one point during the hammering, Homer mindlessly blathers, "de-fense, de-fense," but the deeper, more acceptable (and thus dumber) level Moe reaches with the crayon (it's called a "Crayola Oblongata") causes Homer to utter, "Extended warranty? How can I lose?"
We'll not debate the merits of parts and service agreements; we've seen in the commercial printing industry that some service contracts are mandatory, which makes it more of a bundle with the product as opposed to a contract. But you don't need Homer Simpson's endorsement to appreciate the beauty in not needing the service contract component of a purchase in the case of mechanical binding.
David Spiel, co-owner and mechanical binding czar at Spiel Associates, appreciates the value of a hearty machine that is manufactured for sustainability—it's built to last.
"Some manufacturers make their money on service," Spiel contends. "We don't like to do that, so we do it right the first time. About 85 percent of the time, after we've installed one of our Coilmasters or one of our punchers, our customers don't see us again until they buy their next machine. This saves clients the price of costly service contracts on machines that, in essence, are meant to break down."
Spiel Associates' Coilmaster III plastic coil binding system may make its debut at the Drupa exhibition in May. As for the previous generation machines, Spiel notes that they have been extremely well-received. "All of my customers who have the whole system save well more than 50 percent on their plastic," he says. "Anyone who does a fair amount of books will save enough on plastic alone to pay for the machine."
Spiel Associates has worked with customers to tweak the Coilmaster when needed. When the system couldn't handle a margin larger than the bridge, Spiel invented a spreading device that forces the coil to jump past a healthy sized margin.
"When we found that inferior coil was causing our machines to act slowly or to jam up, we created the first in-line system where the coil is formed prior to insertion," Spiel adds. "Many of our upgrades were done free in the field, until the point where we had to bring them in-house for the upgrade. Now, we're incorporating all of the upgrades into the newer models."
The Coilmaster II is available for all sizes between 6mm and 30mm, and automatically binds books at speeds up to 700 books per hour (bph).
Some of the leading issues that customers should look at when considering the purchase of a mechanical binding machine (for spiral wire and plastic coil) include projected volume requirements, worker skill and space availability, advises Bill Francis, director of trade sales for James Burn International (JBI).
"Note that budget considerations are not mentioned here; that's because putting the cost considerations ahead of the real needs facing an operation too often leads to purchasing the wrong solution to meet your customers' needs," he says.
Francis notes that his company recognizes the need to produce products that are easy to set up and run, versatile, highly automated and able to fit the space requirements of a variety of environments. JBI's Wire-O Bind is designed for mid- to high-volume Wire-O binding applications. It boasts ease of setup with touchscreen control, and is compact and portable for near-line application of digital printing. It can bind documents from as small as two pages to 11⁄8˝ thickness in sizes from 2x3˝ to 13x13˝.
Stick with equipment that speaks to your workload, maintains Anna Massey, sales and marketing manager for Gateway Bookbinding Systems. "If 80 percent of what you do is over the .75˝ (20mm) mark with a 5˝ binding edge, then look for equipment that is geared for the thicker books," she says.
And if you happen to be comparing manufacturer A with manufacturer B (and perhaps C), Massey believes it's highly advisable to collect references. The input fellow printers and trade finishers provide can go a long way in helping to make a purchasing determination.
"Whether it's equipment systems or the binding itself, shop around," Massey says. "Talk to existing customers of potential suppliers. If it's equipment you're considering, did it work as promised? What about after-sales support? Explain that you're considering the same machine and you're looking for advice. Most people don't hesitate to share their experiences. And, if it's supplies (coil) you're shopping for, does the supplier ship on time? Does the product arrive in good shape and packed well?
"With regards to the supplies, don't always just shop by price," she adds. "If the binding is poor quality—poorly packed—this will have a huge effect on your bindery's productivity. Definitely factor price in, but don't factor quality out."
What customers like best about the PBS 3000 QS automatic coil inserter from Gateway Bookbinding is its ease of setup (QS stands for quick setup). No tools are required for basic setup and changeover.
"The on-demand environment needed a machine that was very productive, yet able to do smaller runs and not cost a fortune," Massey contends. "We feel that we have accomplished all of those objectives with the 3000 QS. The machine can jump from a .5˝ thick 8.5x11˝ book to a .75˝ book and back again in a matter of a couple of minutes. Fifty books or 5,000 books are no problem. It's very simple and very affordable. The simplicity and flexibility of the 3000 QS are what makes it so appealing."
The 3000 QS can accommodate tabs and extended covers, and produces up to 600 books per hour. Its binding edge capabilities are 5˝ to 12˝, with a 17˝ format also available.
Superior quality is the hallmark of an ideal binding system, states Diane Lanigan, marketing director for GBC. "Our products are well tested in the marketplace to show outstanding productivity and reliability," she says.
The DigiCoil, which GBC introduced in 1998, serves the color coil market with a design that handles assorted stocks, index tabs and oversized covers. The DigiCoil Color Coil inserter handles a bound edge 4.25˝ to 14.5˝ and an unbound edge from 5˝ to 12˝ with a 0.2475 oversized punch pattern required. It can produce 450 books per hour at 10mm and 250 per hour at 30mm. Coil sizes are from 8mm to 33mm.
Once a user has decided what brands of machines fit his or her needs for production volume, book sizes and the like, it is then time to seek out maximum quality and performance from within that group, says Vivian Sassi, marketing manager for Pigna America. A third variable is the cost/performance ratio—a tell-tale measuring stick for maximum return on the customer's investment.
The latest offering from Pigna America is the PB-735 fully automatic calendar, book punching and binding machine. The unit is able to punch and bind in-line up to 3⁄8˝ and automatically bind up to 9⁄16˝ on pre-punched product. Its production speed is in excess of 2,000 books per hour.