Hard pressed printers are increasingly able to find opportunity, margin, and customers through the new finishing solutions, reports Wayne Robinson
Finishing is now recognised as a key value add opportunity in the print production chain, often making the difference between winning and losing an order, between keeping and losing a customer, between a decent margin or a razor thin one.
Rayne Simpson, general manager finishing at Ferrostaal says, “Print is competing against the iPad and all manner of digital communication, and it is in the design of the product, the finish particularly, where print can score. Just doing things the way it has always been done isn’t going to deliver the same results as in the past, printers need to give more, and finishing is where that more can come from.
In the digital print sector all the major engine developers including Konica Minolta, HP, Canon, Ricoh and Xerox now have strategic partnerships with finishing equipment suppliers, and either have inline finishing solutions or options for offline. A digital print system these days will allow you to produce perfect bound or saddle stitched perfectly collated product, with cover, all in one pass from the press of a green button.
HP for instance has its Universal Finishing Interface for its Indigo presses, connecting the press and its workflow to automated in-line or near line finishing machines to eliminate manual intervention, improve turnaround time and enhance document integrity. It has also developed, in collaboration with Lasermax Roll Systems, the FinishReady controller, a central interface that integrates the Indigo with the finishing equipment to manage and track the status of every job through each finishing step.
The closer links between printing and finishing are increasingly seen with the increasing number of on-press enhancements that printing press manufacturers are launching. These included stitching, gluing, coating, numbering, perforating, die-cutting, cold foiling and holography. Currently, such enhancements are normally added to offset presses, although new Israeli company Scodix did launch an inkjet digital coating/variable thickness embossing machine, which uses UV-curable matte or gloss varnish to emboss offset or digitally printed products at up to 1,200 A3 sph.
Finishing developments are by no means limited to on-press or the digital sector though. Both Heidelberg and MBO now have buckle folding machines that can deliver higher productivity by feeding the sheets landscape rather than portrait, and thus reducing the in-feed length by around 30 per cent.
Up until now, this meant that higher operating speeds were required in the second folding station to ensure that the gain was not immediately lost, as the 90 degree turned sheet returned to its full in-feed length. This problem has now been overcome by separating the products into two parallel streams before being fed into the second station, and thus eliminating the need to run it faster and hence loss of fold quality; such a simple solution that one wonders why no one has done it before.
MBO demonstrated its special transfer table installed behind the first folding unit of a T 960 Perfection folder whose second unit was equipped with two parallel side-lays and a deflector. As a result, the folder can handle up to 18,000 sph when folding 16 A4 pages. In addition, the system can be retrofitted to all MBO buckle folders in the Perfection range.
In the case of Heidelberg, the facility is available for its Stahlfolder T Range, it says that it was developed to help the finishing department keep up with the XL format high speed sheet-fed presses.
The increase in the speed of presses is also one reason why finishing equipment is being increasingly automated, and not just with larger format machines. Examples include the new B2 sized KH66 combination Stahlfolder which can run at up to 30,000 cycles an hour and whose new cross-fold unit can be set up 80 per cent faster than before; the new Perfecta 92 TS B2 guillotine with TS control, automatic waste removal and a swivel back-gauge; and the MBO T 535 Perfection buckle folder which has a slitter shaft cassette as standard and touch-screen based Vario Control Plus which enables sheets to be monitored throughout the process.
Swiss finishing solutions developer Muller Martini has a new saddlestitcher with a high end 16,000cph performance capability, the Primera 160, aimed at heatset printers and trade finishing houses.
Muller Martini says the new Primera 160 has net output of 16,000 cycles per hour in all run lengths and wide range of sizes with a clearly laid-out setup wizard, and an automatically synchronised feeder, gathering chain, stitching machine and three-knife trimmer. In contrast, the Primera E160 features an automatic makeready system. It automatically sets the feeder, stitching machine, three-knife trimmer and stacker to the required size and synchronises them.
Automation is also the key feature of the Horizon AFC-746F B1 folder, which is claimed to be the fastest in the world, operating at 240 m/min. Changeover times are reduced since signatures can be set up according to the imposition plan, connectivity being provided via Horizon’s new pXnet bindery control system. Bernie Robinson, managing director of Australian distributor Currie group says, “Horizon is addressing the lack of skilled staff in the bindery these days, and the need to get jobs out of the door far more quickly than in the past. Innovations such as the HT80 conveyor and three knife trimmer for the BQ470 perfect binder and the BQ160 for short run bookbinding, even down to runs of one, highlight the company’s commitment to helping printers in these key areas.”
Another reason for the demand for more automated finishing equipment is the continuing trend by printers to bring their finishing in-house. As highly skilled operators tend not to be available in such situations, the machines need to be easy to operate especially as runs become shorter and more jobs have to be processed in a shift. This has also resulted in more modularity being required. A good example here is the range of equipment based on its high speed mailroom technology which Ferag/WRH Marketing has developed for the mid to lower performance segment of the commercial printer market.
For instance, its EasySert inserter linked to a Streamfold quarterfold system plus a new JobTrim three side trimmer and a new JobStack 90 compensating stacker. Ferag’s focus is on simplicity, with two different markets addressed: the smaller newspapers and the distribution companies.
While some finishing equipment manufacturers are moving down market, others are doing the reverse as in the case of Duplo, with its Alpha saddle stitcher. Capable of speeds of up to 12,000 books an hour, it was originally launched as a near-line model. However it is now available in a new in-line version. This enables stitched books to be produced straight after printing with no manual intervention since the print engine feeds directly into the Alpha where the sheets are collected, folded on to the saddle and stitched with Hohner heads. The books are then trimmed.
The in-line/off-line or near-line debate continues. Off-line finishing tends to be favoured by commercial printers who have to cope with all types of jobs that come through the door. It also makes sense when the devices operate at different speeds, thus limiting the overall productivity if run in-line.
In-line operating, on the other hand, tends to work best where format variations are limited, the job is less complex and high volumes are involved. Manpower also comes into it: it is easier to operate an automated in-line system and requires fewer operators.
This is also one of the reasons why multi-function finishing machines are being developed. Examples include Rollem’s JetStream which can be used to slit, trim and slit, gutter slit, perforate, score, collate or stream feed and semi slit. Most settings can be pre-programmed and jobs can be produced at 5,000 sph.
Then there is MGI’s new DF360 which can laminate, cut, slit, crease and perforate. It can take sheets up to 360 x 740 mm making it suitable for book covers, brochures and business cards.
A further common combination is folding and creasing, the latter being essential with most digital printing to eliminate cracking problems when folding. For instance, Morgana Systems new free-standing AutoFold Pro can work with any creaser. It is aimed at digital printers who cannot justify the cost of a fully integrated creaser/folder such as Morgana’s DigiFold, the latest model of which is the DigiFold Pro, and it can crease and fold at speeds up to 6,000 an hour. The DigiFold Pro can also handle a wider range of stock, and has a higher pile feeder.
For printers with an eye to stepping ahead of the competition and offering more to clients, finishing today offers great opportunity.
Finish as easy as ABC with GBC
Conveniently located in St Peters, which is probably the geographic centre of Sydney printing, ABC Finishing has been providing total finishing solutions to the print industry since 2004. The family operated finishing outlet has grown significantly over the last seven years, specifically with additions to its celloglazing equipment. Entering the industry with the purchase of the GBC Delta and later, due to an increased job volume, ABC added the GBC Voyager A1 Celloglazer to its production finishing line.
Priding itself on efficiency (one-two day job completion), ABC provides a range of high quality finishing services, including; celloglazing, foiling, embossing and die cutting to Sydney and surrounding southern suburbs. It says GBC was the logical choice for not only lamination equipment but also digital and offset lamination films – due to the extensive range and next day delivery. Chinna Ramanathan – lamination consultant at GBC Australia - who has managed the account with ABC Finishing since its inception, has seen the company grow, despite many players in the market struggling to stay afloat. GBC has provided the range of GBC films to suit digital and offset lamination applications to the industry for the last five years.
David Day, owner of ABC Finishing visited GBC’s designated lamination and celloglazing area of its162sqm stand at PrintEx and was drawn to the newly released Sagitta Celloglazer; specifically the high production speed and skid plate – allowing the operator to wheel in pallets of stock for efficient set-up. Day says, “The Sagitta is the next logical step for us and, with the potential to expand into a new facility in the near future, the Sagitta is definitely a piece of kit we are strongly considering.”
Day says that with no job too big or small, from business cards through A1 printed material, ABC Finishing, in conjunction with GBC’s finishing equipment and film, printers can be assured their jobs will be completed to the highest standard within an efficient timeframe.