Digital Finishing – Your Way
I “grew up” in the world of direct mail, and later, high-volume offset finishing. Offset finishing began to get very creative in the 90’s in an effort to add subscriber customization to periodicals and catalogs. Conventional perfect binders and saddle stitchers began to be modified with sophisticated computer and PLC controls, many additional “pockets’ or feeders, and various inkjet addressing stations. In the early 2000’s, three-knife trimmers got the capability to vary trim sizes for each book.
All this was part of an effort to produce a customized and personalized book from static offset signatures. We’re deep into digital print now, where 100% customized content is the norm. The content variability is practically unlimited. Increasingly, customers are looking at the finishing end and wanting finishing solutions that are far from standard. The era of the “vanilla” book, mailing piece, or booklet is over.
Printers are attempting to be more creative than ever (with good reason), and increasingly, the prospect or customer applications that I’m tasked with require machine modifications that range from the minor, to very major. They also require a team effort between engineering, electrical and software, and there’s no guarantee that we’ll come up with a solution every time we’re asked (though not for a lack of trying). Requests range from actually modifying the format size range, to adding additional media feed capabilities, to special mods, which are controlled by barcodes and custom software.
Increasingly, the vendors who can supply systems that are “tuned” for the customers specific application needs will stand out from the crowd of finishing suppliers. This approach requires a collaboration between manufacturer and customer where special finishing needs are identified and developed in a joint effort requiring a lot of listening on the vendors part.
And there are trade-offs in engineering a system for a specific application which may limit its flexibility and usefulness for other jobs. But delivering a machine designed for their needs that performs well earns you a lot of future loyalty.