New Members Join the Digital Postpress Club
While continuous inkjet sales are bigger than ever, the number of postpress suppliers has remained somewhat static, with printer vendors outnumbering the number of postpress vendors.
But that's changing. Digital printer vendors have something of a natural preference for running their presses in "print only" mode with nothing extra attached to potentially gum up the works. But the very nature of continuous inkjet (no plates, very short back-to-back runs) argues strongly for integrating finishing so that a complete product can come out the end with little labor involved.
VITS International, a New York-based manufacturer of web finishing systems, has long made ultra high-speed and quality sheeters, former-folders and other web press auxiliaries for offset and gravure. They've now re-designed a number of systems for the digital market, the latest being the SPRINT Variable Data Finishing System. SPRINT's approach (and capabilities) are unique in that the system can process media at speeds of up to 1,500 feet per minute, well beyond the current output speeds of today's continuous inkjets. But what sets SPRINT apart is the system's ability to process the 30" and 40" wide inkjet webs into discreet book blocks or direct mail letters.
In the case of direct mail, this includes postal sorting inline at speed. No small feat. SPRINT can fold, cut and shingle multiple webs (without disturbing the shingled stream). SPRINT's batch cycle time is a very fast .85 seconds, and it can process full bleeds with a variable cut and chip-out. Cut lengths can be as much as 25". The finished book blocks, or direct mail, are delivered "ready-to-go" for further processing. For book printers or direct mailers (both users of inkjet), the SPRINT system offers a true end-to-end production module when paired with a high-speed inkjet press.
IBIS Bindery Systems is not a newcomer to digital finishing, having debuted its first digital saddle stitcher in the late 90's. But, the firm has continuously evolved its Smart-binder machine to stay ahead of the needs of the digital community. IBIS listens a LOT to its customers and prospects, and have no hesitation in building a Smart-binder to a customer's desired spec. (Although they'll charge for this!)
At Hunkeler Innovation Days, IBIS paired with Canon Solutions America to feature an inline Smart-binder with several new features—among them the new Dynamic stitching option. Processing variable data booklets presents many technical challenges, including setting the proper amount of stitch wire for booklets. IBIS’s new Dynamic stitching option, coupled with its unique trimmer transport design, allow booklet page counts to continually vary between eight pages and 200 pages without stopping the machine for manual adjustment.
The new IBIS Dynamic Stitching system automatically feeds the correct amount of stitching wire for the number of pages in each varying book, eliminating any adjustment intervention by the operator.
IBIS has also developed an automatic stitch-inhibit system for single sheet booklets, as well as a sheet buffer system which acts as a "flexible coupling" between the printer and the Smart-binder. It allows production of very thin booklets (along with higher page count ones) without having to slow the printer down. The buffer can also allow the printer to continue running if the stitcher stops momentarily.
This growing number of small (but meaningful) refinements keeps the Smart-binder Plus HS at the top of the heap for in- and near-line variable-data booklet production.