Saddle Stitchers — A Staple of Fine Finishing
BY ERIK CAGLE
Pity the poor saddle stitcher. It gets no love, no recognition for a job well done. Bindery operators want the stitcher to take care of business, and they certainly don't want to intervene in its appointed rounds.
When it comes to their stitchers, notes Darcy Maeda, public relations coordinator for Duplo USA, printers seek the ultimate in automation, in every aspect of the design. "They want the machine's stitcher heads, back jogger, side guides, stitch stopper, fold stopper, size adjustments, fold roller gap and conveyance roller position to adjust automatically," she says.
"Automation of this degree minimizes operator training time, so a highly skilled operator is not required to run the equipment and novices quickly become experts."
Versatility is another, er, staple of a fine stitcher, Maeda adds, and printers should learn if a bookletmaker connects only to a collator, or if it connects in-line to a digital print engine or functions near-line with a sheet feeder.
"Versatility is crucial for printers that either currently have both offset presses and digital printers or are looking into investing in a digital printer soon," she says. "Digital printers are now able to handle the short runs that aren't feasible on offset presses, so printers are in need of a finishing solution that's capable of handling output from digital printers."
Duplo's latest heavy-duty bookletmaker, the DBM-500, produces up to 5,000 booklets per hour. This set accumulation system accepts both set-by-set of the traditional offset market and sheet-by-sheet pre-collated output of digital printers.
The DBM-500 accepts output from off-line (DC-10/60 collator), near-line (connected to the DSF-2000 document sheet feeder) and in-line (with a digital print engine) sources.
With run lengths and turnaround times continually decreasing, Heidelberg USA came up with automated makeready functions for its ST400 stitcher that were designed based on printers' input to enable them to accomplish their customers' needs, according to Steven Calov, product manager.
"Everyone in today's market is looking to enhance profits, reduce labor, increase production and position themselves with a competitive edge over others in their marketplace," Calov states. "In order to help customers in this task, we have designed our computer-driven stitchers for users that purchase a single stitcher and those that require multiple machines. Customers with one machine can still take advantage of mobile feeders because they can easily configure the machine feeders based on the job parameters. They can purchase multiple cover feeders to run four-pagers instead of folding them first and then running them through the stitcher. Users can eliminate the folding process while gaining efficiency and increasing their profits."
Add Up the Savings
Calov points out that the ST400, with its automated, computer servo-driven technology, can reduce makeready time up to 50 percent. A user that runs four short-run jobs on a given day can save considerable makeready time, with a savings of up to two hours or more. Based on the hourly rate, that could translate into savings of $200 to $300 per day, he contends.
The ST400 boasts computer-driven stepping motors and servo drives for each component of the stitcher, which allows the operator to independently control each area without influencing any other part of the stitching process. The development of servo-driven mobile feeders include horizontal, vertical feeder, cover and card feeder, and card gluers for CDs. They can be placed on either side of the saddle chain to aid in machine layout and in additional functionality for special job layouts, providing flexibility to configure the feeders on the saddle chain based on the job specification.
Printers need a high-speed machine that can handle a wide range of products and that can stand up to the rigors of multiple-shift operations, according to Dennis Keihm, vice president and general manager of McCain Bindery Systems. They should be readily adaptable for applications such as ink-jetting, with a moveable caliper.
McCain offers a range of machines, from the 13,000 per hour S2000 to the McCain Tandem catalog machine, which produces at a rate of 24,000 an hour. The S2000 produces products from 3x6˝ to 11.75x19˝ with face cuts as large as 2.5˝. It boasts new makeready features including a new operator control module, downstream shutoff and sequential startup.
Every manufacturer has its own performance claims, states Bob Morton, president of Best Graphics, thus printers need to be on the lookout for productivity-enhancing features that enable them to make a more informed purchasing decision. He encourages shoppers to take notes at major industry trade shows.
As Seen at Trade Shows
"When we demo our stitchers at Graph Expo and other trade shows, you'll typically see Best Osako cover feeders running bond paper at 10,000 sheets per hour," he says. "This is possible because, after scoring, Best Osako stitchers register the cover with a pull side guide, fold the cover stock with a crimp fold mechanism and, finally, fold the cover after scoring. This folding-after-scoring capability enables printers to run very lightweight stocks at high speeds, eliminating the need to prefold stock and run it through a rotary feeder."
Morton notes that Best Osako stitchers employ unique tilt back/tilt forward design rotary feeders that pivot to either side of the rail, which provides a major advantage.
"Whenever signatures are weighted differently on each side—trifolds, response cards, envelopes, etc.—they will not drop vertically to the rail due to the imbalance," he says. "The feeder 'tilt' capability, coupled with the added vacuum power and consistency of individual feeder pumps, allows signatures to be easily positioned to drop squarely in place, making easy work of difficult signatures."
Heading the Best Osako line of stitchers is the 13,000 per hour 368AS AutoSet, with touchscreen control over key operations, set stitch head positioning and chain timing in only 15 seconds. The product line also includes the entry-level Estar and the 368AS HiLo Folio for maximum production.
In order to deliver quality results on multiple shifts and long runs, the stitcher system must be of sufficient industrial strength, according to Don Dubuque, marketing manager for Standard Finishing Systems. One area where this may be most apparent, he feels, is in the three-knife trimming area, where light-duty construction can diminish end-product quality.
"But what really differentiates systems are the speed, ease of changeovers and the degree of automated control," Dubuque stresses. "As average run lengths continue to spiral down, printers are looking for saddle stitching systems that provide fast, accurate and automated setups for efficient short-run production."
The fully automated Standard Horizon StitchLiner bridges the production gap between existing flat sheet collating/bookletmaking systems and conventional high-volume saddle stitching lines, according to Dubuque. Offset or digitally printed flat-sheet signatures are fed from the Standard Horizon SpeedVAC collator to produce true saddle stitched booklets with full-bleed trimming at speeds up to 11,000 two-up booklets per hour.
It behooves printers and trade binders to not only scout the stitchers that meet their production needs, but also make a thorough evaluation of the mechanics of each aspect of the machines in that range, states Jennie Stevens, director of advertising for Vijuk Equipment. Examining the list of features is not enough, she cautions.
"For example, exactly what does the quality control system consist of?" Stevens poses. "The Vijuk 321-T stitcher has a superior quality control system because it has photocell missing sheet detection, caliper-type double sheet detection in its feeding system, an oblique sheet monitor and a spine caliper to ensure complete booklets before it enters the stitching mechanism. Other manufacturers may offer only a caliper or an oblique sheet monitor.
"Second, not only do buyers have to examine the operational differences of the machine, but also the setup and maintenance in relation to time and the company's technical staff's abilities. For example, how complicated is it to do a trimmer knife change and how long does it take? The Vijuk trimmer has an easy access, single-assembly knife change that takes only about 20 minutes. Other manufacturers may have several sub-assemblies that have to be removed before you can get to the knife assembly, and it will take about an hour to make the knife change."
The 10,000 cph Vijuk 321-T saddle stitcher features adjustable gripper and suction pickup at 1:1 and 1:2 feeding ratios; and missing- and double-sheet detection. It also features oblique sheet monitor and spine caliper; on-the-fly adjustable cover scorer/folder/feeder; Hohner/flying stitching system with missing-stitch detection; single-assembly knife changes on trimmer; and two-up production.
Muller Martini offers a large, encompassing range of stitching solutions, led by the 20,000 cph Tempo for high-performance operation and selective binding. Its Optima line is versatile, expandable and offers CIP3 integration. The Prima family offers the S, AMRYS (automatic makeready system) and SB selective binding solutions, all rated at 14,000 per hour.
Other offerings from Muller Martini include the mid-range Bravo-S (12,000 cph) and Bravo-T (11,000 cph) with twin feeders. The compact Presto is rated at 9,000 cph, and the Valore churns out 6,000 cph.
When it comes to stitching heads, the goal is to provide an extremely low-maintenance solution, according to Tom Hagemann, product manager for ISP Stitching. "We find that people are neglectful in wanting to lubricate things," he remarks. "And the ease of adjustment is very important."
ISP's primary solution is the M2000 stitching head. It features a reduced operating force, which maximizes the interval between maintenance functions. The M2000 boasts wear-resistant components for extended stitcher life and a felt wire oiler/cleaner that cleans and lubricates, reducing maintenance.
Its redesigned magnetic rotator has no moving parts to bind or jam. Other features reportedly include easy work thickness adjustment, with a single screw turn providing accurate, simple adjustments, and factory-set wire straighteners that virtually guarantee future straightener adjustments.
Likewise, Hohner Stitching offers a full range of OEM and replacement stitching heads. Among them is the HSS-HK head for Muller Martini and Best Osako machines. Its electronic wire feed guarantees wire length accuracy within 0.004˝ and boasts 40mm minimum center-to-center distance. Wire length can be adjusted on-the-fly via pushbutton control. Its 12mm crown promises a 15 percent reduction in wire cost over the standard 14mm crown width.
C.P. Bourg offers the BDF-X with square edge. This bookletmaker can be used either in-line with a Xerox printer or near-line with Bourg's collator or feeder technology. The square edge feature is also compatible with Bourg's SBM-4 fourth generation signature bookletmaker.
The fully automatic 203 saddle stitcher book binding system from Rosback is a medium- to high-speed, heavy-duty saddle binding system that collates, stitches and three-knife trims professionally finished booklets. The 203 stitches books in sizes ranging from 4x7˝ to 11.5x17˝ at speeds up to 5,000 booklets per hour. Its 318 saddle binder handles small formats down to the CD size of 3.125x4.5˝ at 5,000 cycles per hour.