How Many Binders Do We Need?
Soft-cover book production has undergone radical change in the last 10 years. From relatively long runs, we are now in a complete "on demand" model where sophisticated sales data is fed back to the printer to ensure that inventories are kept at a minimum. So instead of setting up a perfect binder for a nice long book run at a decent speed, today's operator is faced with a dizzying array of jobs, from one book to five thousand. They will run 20 books, followed by 10, followed by 50, and son on. Trim sizes may vary considerably, and it's not always possible to gang similar trim sizes together to minimize format changes.
Over the past 10 years, perfect binder design has evolved to meet these new run requirements. The "new" design requirements call for single, to four, or five clamp machines that trade speed for quick set-up and flexibility. Horizon designed the BQ series using this concept, and their BQ-470s and 480s have been hugely successful.
Muller Martini took a relatively low speed system and completely re-designed it to become their SIGMA digital binder series.
Now Wohlenberg, a venerable German manufacturer is making another run at the U.S. market with their Quickbinder system. The Quickbinder combines the extremely solid build of German machines with the "quick-change" features needed for short-run production. This is not a lightweight system, but a five-clamp binder capable of cycling up to 2,000 books/hr. Format adjustments are via touchscreen, and the cover feeder is a proven rotary drum feeder design.
What sets this system apart from the rest of the pack is a gauzing station. This allows the user to create multi-page brochures and soft-bound books with a gauze backing, as well as book blocks for hard cover. It's a feature almost all of its competitors lack. Along with that, the milling station is of an advanced design, and the binder's adhesive station features swappable EVA hot-melt and PUR modules. There's no doubt that this machine will produce very high-quality soft-cover books. What may be in doubt is whether the market will be willing to bear the higher cost of such a machine.
Don has worked in technical support, sales, engineering, and management during a career in both the commercial offset and digital finishing sectors. He is the North American representative for IBIS Bindery Systems, Ltd. of The United Kingdom.