Bound To Last
For binding, it's not enough to be fast; it also has to be strong. That's why Muller Martini (www.mullermartini.com) teamed-up with digital printing provider Océ Printing Systems (www.oceusa.com). For the first time this year, Muller's AmigoDigital perfect-binding system linked to an Océ DemandStream 8090CX digital printing system with Hunkeler paper handling equipment. The result: A workflow that will produce commercial-quality paperback books in a single pass.
"We maintain that quality quotient by incorporating into the AmigoDigital the same perfect binding techniques we use in our high-volume equipment," says Andrew J. Fetherman, manager of Muller Martini's Digital Finishing Division.
Based on Muller Martini's AmigoPlus line, AmigoDigital is enhanced with electronic and mechanical interface modules that enable it to work inline with a variety of digital printing systems. In the on-demand market, it's the only system that produces commercial quality paperbacks at speeds up to 1,000 cycles per hour.
The process behind on-demand binding begins by measuring gathered signatures to verify the size of the book block, which is aligned, then clamped. The backs of the signatures are milled and roughened to create a receptive gluing surface. "Here, the number of milling and roughening knives is important—the ability to adjust milling depth and book hangout," admits Fetherman.
The spine gluing station is the next stop by applying glue to the front and back pages of the book block before a cover feeder marries the cover to the book.
According to Fetherman, this particular system can be adjusted for two- or four-line scoring of the cover to prevent cracking and ensure a tight fit. The appearance of the book is also treated at a built-in nipping station, which checks registration and squareness of the book's backbone.
The ABCs of binding
But according to Reindl Bindery (www.reindlbindery.com), types of binding vary by necessity. At Reindl, case binding, for instance, is treated by a Kolbus BF2000s 7-station compact case-in line with head banding, round- and back-capability and adhesive application technology. Each signature is sewn to create the strongest, most durable binding method on the book market. Accordingly, case binding also requires that spines not be perforated, possess a 3/8-inch high folio lip and stairstepped marks. Used for library editions and children's books, the alternative, McCain and Moffet side-sewn case binding, stitches through the book block and parallel to the binding edge.
For trade paperbacks, traditional perfect binding is another option wherein spines are perforated and run with end boards; whereas with thread seal perfect binding, individual signatures are sewn when unfolded. For smythe sewn binding, covers are locked together with stitches for soft-bound books, unlike wire stitching, which is used when up to four wires are placed approximately 1/8-inch away from and parallel to the spine.
Book-mart Press (www.courier.com) also supports digital binding and finishing production. For short-run books, the company provides sewn paper and case binding, as well as adhesive paper and case, repkover (or layflat), saddlewire, wire-o and thermal adhesive tape. Book-mart reports that for very short runs of one-to-500 copies, it offers on-demand DocuTech electronic printing. It all depends on the book's end use. "We try to find out from a publisher how a book is sold, who's using it and will it be a one-time read or used on a daily basis," explains Michelle Gluckow, executive vice president. In order to save money, she says that binding is specially chosen based on this end need. For instance, a reference book used by a student requires strident durability and tightly sewn, stitched or glued components. In contrast, a trade paperback that's good for one read before ending up on a shelf can satisfy less stringent requirements, thus saving its publisher unneccesary cost.
"The publisher's generally got the specifications laid-out," explains Dave Schanke, Banta's (www.banta.com) market segment vice president of general publishing. "Most of the time, it has to do with cost."
Schanke says that primarily Banta services soft-cover perfect binding, as well as spiral binding in the trade and educational markets. "From print to binding, an average job—50,000 four-color run—might take three to four weeks," he estimates. "You can't bind a lot faster than you print. That usually take two-to-three shifts within a 24 hour period."
Bill Sommer, Banta's customer service group leader, adds that in-house, "The press in a Cameron belt is connected to the binder. One revolution of the belt creates a book and goes right into the binder." By connecting these processes, Sommers believes that the book production process is generally much faster. Additionally, he says that it's not uncommon to customize imprints on covers within this same cycle, as most often with catalogs and special edition book projects. Essentially, the binding process is reconfigured to attach specialty covers on books. "It matches-up the custom content with custom covers," says Sommers. "You can't afford to stop and start the binder. We'll start from the back of the process and move forward."
He explains, "When you're talking about dealing with 2,000 imprints in a million run, a book like this would take a million-and-a-half pounds of paper. It would be some 40- to-50 semi truck loads. If you don't have a way to move production efficiently, a project like it takes two-to-three months. Our goal is to pre-set the bindery for a large project like that."
As a result, Banta uses a DocuTech for its perfect binding. "There are three of these perfect binders in the plant," says Sommers. "There are able to bind from 150 pages right up to 2,000 depending on the bulk of the paper."
Supply and demand
Automated Graphic Systems (AGS) (www.ags.com) discovered that servicing both traditional and print on-demand markets pays off. Because not everyone wants to order thousands of books at once and pay to keep half of them in inventory, to meet the demand for short-run books produced quickly, the company developed an online Print On-Demand ordering system. Users can submit titles into AGS's Digital Library by logging onto its Web site (www.ags.com/pod) to immediately order books. AGS says it then prints, binds and ships titles well under deadline.
The company reports that its DocuColor 2045 produces color covers at near-offset quality, while the Docutech 6180 turns-out all black-and-white text at a rate of 180 ppm. AGS' in-house bindery also allows publishing customers to choose from perfect, plasticoil or wire-o binding to finish print on-demand products. Its print on-demand system is not limited to electronic files, though. If a publisher has backlisted titles, legacy data or out-of-print hard copies, AGS can capture those assets digitally. From a secure online library, publishers can then view titles and order the amount of books required when needed.
AGS client Don Parham of Bernan Press (www.bernanpress.com) admits, "It may be possible to save a few dollars here and there by going with the lowest bid each time, but turnaround is often twice as long and quality assurance is an unknown."
C.J. Krehbiel (www.cjkrehbiel.com) also touts digital capabilities when it comes to book production, and specifically, binding. The company's in-house capabilities consider both standard and customized trim size on a variety of book production projects. The company claims that its in-house bindery is one of the largest in the Midwest, able to accommodate even the most unique of requests. Hardcover adhesive and smythe sewn, saddlestitch, wire-o, spiral and mechanical binding are options that make a final printed product a professional piece.
The company adds that an important aspect of book production is being able to control waste to reduce cycle time, increase velocity and thus save time and money.
At Port City press (www.portcitypress.com), once a book is printed, the company's custom-designed layflat binding service is used to perfect bind. Other binding and finishing options include film lamination or press varnish, schoolbook perforation and three-hole drilling.
Right here, right now
But for those publishers who are interested in the latest binding alternatives, Marsh Technologies introduced PerfectBook, a machine that jogs, binds and trims paperbacks in lot sizes as small as one. The PerfectBook series of machines have Web page interfaces that allow users, either on a local area network (LAN) or on the Internet, to send a book package to the machine. From there, the process is automated, resulting in a printed, bound and trimmed book with black-and-white internal pages and a four-color cover. The PerfectBook can produce a 200-page book in less than two minutes.
"I believe this is the first fully variable format one-off book production machine of its kind," says Jeff Marsh, managing partner of Perfect Systems (www.perfectbook.com). "Combining the proven Web interface engines of my other company, Marsh Technologies (www.marshtechinc.com), and the short-run book production technologies developed and patented by Perfect Systems, has eased the developmental task of integrating and controlling low-cost print engines dramatically. Now, with very simple mechanical devices and control systems developed, the task of adapting other printer strategies becomes a straightforward task."
Depending on the needs of a publisher, binding capabilities vary between the most traditional hard-cover technologies of major runs to even up-to-the-minute on-demand production that can output a soft-cover one book at a time.
In the end, the needs of publishers are top priority. Says Fetherman, "How a book is manufactured is every bit as important as how it is printed."
-Natalie Hope McDonald
For a complete list of book binding providers, visit BookTech's online Buyers' Guide at www.booktechmag.com.