Hunkeler Innovationdays; the Search for the Perfect Book Block
Hunkeler Innovationdays is approaching. Over the years, this biannual event has steadily grown until it has become a "must" for companies seeking out the latest in digital finishing technology. You can see tons of digital printers all over the place, but this is a venue that is "finishing centric" all the way.
And for book printers, this is a chance to see the “best of the best” finishing technology for their workflow. Digital print has enabled both very short-run and “book-of-one” production. The key to both being the ability of the finisher to create stable book blocks from a digitally-printed web. Several manufacturers have jumped on this market opportunity, including Hunkeler, Kolbus, Tecnau, Muller Martini, IBIS, and VITS International. The basic engineering behind a digital book block system is to take control of the web — either directly from the continuous printer, or “near-line” from a separate roll unwinder. The web widths that we are now dealing with in continuous digital are 20", (which is the majority), 30" and now 40"-wide webs.
Although many book printers use the 20" platform, wider is better since the yield is more impressions per linear foot of web. Depending on the web width, operations such as plow-folding, “ribboning,” or cutting the web into “ribbons," and cross-folding are performed to convert the web into folded and stacked signatures, ready to load into a binder. Since we now deal with multiple short runs in the book world, these systems must have very high levels of automation in order to quickly change signature formats with minimal operator intervention.
Some of these web folders will also glue signatures together to produce a very stable book block, and some will create a steady stream of signatures that will feed directly into the perfect binder, creating a seamless press-to-book workflow. As always, signatures are ID’d via barcode to verify sequence and title. These systems are fast, with web speed capabilities from 600-feet-per-minute to over 1,000 fpm. And they are expensive — ranging from slightly below a million dollars, to well over. But if you are a book printer looking to jump into digital web printing, they are essential productivity tools that will justify their initial high investment many times over.
If you’re planning on attending Hunkeler Innovationdays, you will see the very latest and greatest in digital finishing technology. It’s time well-spent!