Hey, The Barcodes Are Doing The Driving!
Over the years, software has become an essential and integrated part of almost any finishing system. The goal was (and is) to enable quick makereadies via simple touch-screen inputs by the operator. Additional software such as JDF (Job Definition Format) had the job of connecting all of the devices in the print manufacturing process, prepress, press, and finishing.
But the growth of production digital printing — whether inkjet or toner — presented new challenges. Each vendors' printer had a separate set of communication protocols on the output, or downstream side. This meant that the finishing system would have to have the ability to speak several different "languages" in order to interface with different printers.
There were efforts by the print vendors to develop universal postpress communications. But these were never finished. The more widely-adopted solution is a simple technology we all use every day. The barcode. Barcodes are simple and adaptable. They can be easily printed via imposition subroutines, and they can contain lots of information, depending on the symbology used. Barcode readers are both capable and affordable.
A barcode printed on a sheet, signature, or cover can trigger actions on a finishing system and record important data such as job number and collation order at the same time. Cover barcodes are currently being used to set three-knife trimmer dimensions on perfect binding and trimmer systems. Individual sheet barcodes are used to assemble booklets on digital saddle stitchers. They are used to change folding patterns on postpress plow folders and cutters, and to control stack output on roll unwinders and cutters.
Their usefulness as both a data-transmitting and recording device makes them ideal for these new digital postpress finishing systems. And this type of control can be adapted to almost any piece of machinery. In short, it is a mature and relatively simple control technology for postpress.