The Long-Run Bindery
Digital print has enabled true short-run book production, where the fabled book-of-one has become the new normal. Perfect binders and hard-cover book production systems geared towards this type of output have proliferated — which leaves a lot of print finishing operations wondering about which machines to invest in to stay up with (or ahead) of the competition. Given the shifting sands of today's print market, this is not an easy decision.
Many of their "heavy metal" binders are long in-the-tooth, and replacements for these represent a significant capital investment. So … should you invest in a high-speed, high-tech perfect binder that will run for many years to come? I believe the answer is "yes," and I'll tell you why. Today's machines are light-years ahead in machine control technology. Their multitude of features and controls make them well-suited to both short- and long-run production.
In the days of yore, fine-tuning a big binder after the initial makeready required lots of stops to tweak feeders, spine preparation, the cover feeder, and many more elements. No more. The new machines can be adjusted while running, increasing productivity. Cover cracking can be quickly overcome by a running adjustment in the cover nip and score section. Better yet, the various components on the binder are linked via software. So an increase in machine speed, for example, will also prod the milling station to run faster.
These are indeed "smart" machines, and the benefit is that they now become suitable for both long- and short-run work. You can run at 5,000/hr. plus for long-run work, yet quickly make the binder ready for smaller quantities. But the real payoff is the overall book quality that these machines will turn out. Short-run binders for digital will do a decent job, but the larger (and more sophisticated) binders will yield a higher overall book quality. In a competitive environment, that's an advantage that cannot be overlooked. So, if you're looking at retiring an older "heavy-duty" perfect binder, or hard-cover system, take a good look at the multiple benefits the new system technology can bring.