Is It Digital Finishing's Turn in the Spotlight in 2016?
OK, it's 2016. We're all pumped for a new and profitable year. Production digital has moved from a minor to a CRITICAL part of print operations. And digital has transformed both printings capabilities, and the necessary workflow. Digital's workflow process is quite different from the well-defined offset process we know.
Digital both offers wider possibilities (such as variable data and design), and compresses the production timeframe so that the work can be turned much faster than offset. This places a much greater focus on the finishing end. There's no advantage in having a digital press that can spit out a job in a few hours, without the ability to finish the work in that same time frame.
That's why I believe digital finishing will be "in the spotlight" in 2016. Virtually all of the major bindery systems' manufacturers are now concentrating on digital print. And they're introducing new offerings at a rapid pace. This year's drupa will see an eye-popping number of new and innovative bindery offerings designed specifically for digital.
Because digital presses produce work that's already properly collated, the integration of the press and finisher is critical. For cut-sheet digital presses, finishing modules have been integrated into the press. For continuous web presses, the standard input method has been the printed roll from the press. On both cut-sheet and web presses, what we are seeing now are multiple finishing operations within the same system. These include slitting, folding, punching, variable (individual) perforation patterns, set stacking, saddle and corner stitching, perfect binding, and more. The goal is to closely match the output of the press and finisher. In many cases, the finishing module(s) are now part of the press system. This doesn't always work, as (typically) a continuous web digital press can out-produce many finishing modules.
In either case, the melding of digital print and finishing has resulted in fast and flexible systems which can operate with much lower labor input. This is not "theoretical" but has been proven in dozens of real installations. These combined systems allow the printer great leeway in scheduling, and to produce more work in a compressed timeframe. In short, it's all good news!