Demand for perfect bound books shows no sign of abating. If there has been some loss of volume to ereaders in recent years, there has also been an explosion the number of titles available. Add in supply chain management systems being adopted by publishers and the result is inevitable. The average order for a book has fallen steeply.
With the growth also of private publishing, the need for short run perfect binding continues to grow. And the emphasis, as elsewhere in the industry, is on shorter runs and faster turnarounds. Even the larger book printing businesses are opting for equipment capable of supporting ultra short production runs, just as single-clamp binders are designed for small batch production.
The difference lies not in the individual order size, but in the combined total. A small printer may be handling a couple of hundred books a day; a larger business may be handling 20,000 books or more. It is scale not capability that separates one from the other.
At the lower end of the scale products like Fastbind’s Pureva are hand operated, but deliver a PUR bound book, one at a time. For more serious production there are a number of single clamp binders on the market. These should offer proper spine preparation, side gluing as well as spine gluing and a clamp able to take a decent thickness of book. There will also be differences in how the spine glue is applied, especially if it is a PUR adhesive.
PUR glues work with the moisture in the paper in order to create a bond that is stronger than the fibres of the paper. The drawback is that the glue will also react with moisture in the air. Many companies have found that application nozzles become blocked, or worse that a partially used tank of expensive glue is completely wasted.
On the other hand the strength of the bond combined with PUR’s ability to work with coated papers, digitally printed and thicker papers makes this a get out of trouble glue. It is a technical issue that has spilled into common usage, so that buyers will specify a PUR glue knowing that it should work even if such a glue is not necessary.
Morgana was fast to spot the opportunity with PUR adhesives for digital printing just as it had realised the need to crease digitally printed jobs. It badged and sold an Italian machine from KGS until earlier this year, Morgana’s parent company Plockmatic stepped in to acquire the business and provide the platform needed for expansion. “We are seeing a healthy interest in their equipment,” says UK sales and marketing director, Ray Hillhouse.
There are three core machines in the range, the Digibook 200, 300 and 450. All are single-clamp machines. The latter has received a new delivery to minimise the risk of the spine slipping as the book is delivered. And PUR remains the most important option for gluing.
“We get strong interest from countries like Indonesia where hot melt bound books fall apart and where there is a massive culture in photo books,” he says. “We have had a good year in the UK with 28 units installed. France likewise is becoming a good market.”
The sealed tank design helps eliminate some of the handling problems and cuts out waste at start up and shut down. “There is a skill element to working with PUR and we are 100% behind it,” he says.
Newer glues can dry within hours making it possible to offer a same day service rather than needing to let freshly bound books rest overnight before handling. “The books achieve 80% of the full cure in a few hours enabling them to be handled with confidence,” he says.
Watkiss sells another Italian made machine, the Mama Lega 420, a single-clamp machine using a hot melt rather than PUR glue. It thus avoids the additional cost of dedicated PUR applicators while delivering a bind that is almost as strong.
This is thanks to a new generation of EVA glues led by Planatol’s Planamelt, but including options from other consumable producers. The Lega 420 will bind a book with a spine length of 420mm and up to 50mm thick running at 180 books an hour.
Duplo has its feet firmly planted in the PUR camp with the DB500, also available as a standard hot melt machine and the PFi Bind 2000, a single-clamp binder designed to Duplo’s specifications in Hungary. An orbital valve ensures that only the required amount of PUR is made available to the book spine, leaving the remainder sealed inside an enclosed tank.
As well as problems with moisture, some PUR glues will need venting though microencapsulation adhesivees have largely removed this problem. Even so operation in the now disused darkroom is discouraged.
Chris Cooper, managing director of Terry Cooper Services, says he has noted a resurgence of interest in EVA glues in response to the newer adhesives that are becoming available and as a reaction against problems that printers have encountered when running PURs.
“People are still looking for a perfect binder to handle shorter production runs and want a small binder for these jobs because of the expense in setting up a large binding line,” he says. “But interest in PUR is dropping off a bit as the glues that are now coming out are very, very good and can cope with digital jobs.”
The Premier 420 configured with EVA is a sub £10,000 investment, but Cooper is more excited about the latest addition to his portfolio. This is the binder from JMD. “They have wanted us to sell it for many years, but I always felt it was quite expensive. I agreed to see it at Drupa and I reckon that it is as good as any binder on the market. I couldn’t fault it. We can sell it on that quality.”
The challenge, acknowledged by the manufacturer, is to get machines on the ground in the UK, where the Horizon BQ470 has carried all before it in terms of four clamp binders. Cooper reckons that he will be able to offer the JMD “at a sensible price”.
It is certainly specified to meet modern requirements from automatic measurement of spine thickness to the soft drop delivery to minimise damagee to the spine. “And we have customers that like working with TCS, they know our support and they trust us.
“We can put together bundles, the JMD binder with a Challenge three-knife trimmer. The trimmer will connect to any binder on the market, including Horizon, either as near line or inline. We think we will be able to put the two together to create the single-source solution.”
The Italian Risetec machine is another aimed at the short run, automated set up part of the market, able to cope with longer runs of multiple small batches. The BR4 is designed for digital bookbinding and offers refinements like end papering and gauze application that become work arounds on other equipment. It will bind a book to 55mm thick, either from a block that has been produced on an inkjet web press or from a conventional gathering line.
It can run inline with the latter and potentially inline with a digital press. At Drupa it was being put through its paces with Planamelt glue loaded.
Wohlenberg's Quickbinderr has been split into three models to appeal to slightly different market segments. Supplied by UK agent Friedheim International, each will run at up to 2,000 cycles an hour, can be loaded by hand or automatically, can have two spine preparation stations, four scoring positions on a cover and a pressing station after gluing.
The variables according to Basic, Universal and Digital designations, include nozzle or roller application for PUR, a hotmelt spine glue version, automated block feeder and gauze application for case bound books.
The Tecnau Libra 800 is again Italian designed and is a completely automated line capable of producing book of one, that is successive books in a completely different spine length and spine thickness. The first is in operation at Rotomail in Italy and others have been sold to Eduprint and Magprint.
But the 800lb gorilla of the market is Horizon. It has the entry level BQ160, the single-clamp BQ270 and the highly popular BQ470. This can be teamed up with an HT30 three-knife trimmer, working as a near line device. The HT1000V is the fully variable three-knife trimmer that is paired with the four clamp binder in fully automated configurations.
“The production run of 200-300 books is now mainstream,” says IFS technical sales director Jason Seaber. “The BQ470 is perfect for that type of job. This means that the challenge is the three-knife trimmer and setting this up to match a batch of this size. Even if the trimmer is a semi automated machine, it will take 10-15 minutes to configure. Any advantage of automatic set up for the binder is lost.
“This means that we are getting a lot of interest in the automatic three-knife trimmer. It is not because of any growth in book of one, but because of growth in short run book production and there is no time for setting up the trimmer.”
Inevitably too the binder operator is also responsible for managing the trimmer. When he is setting the trimmer, there are no books going through the binder. The trimmer becomes the bottleneck, hence the interest in automation, says Seaber.
If this is a key trend, the move away from PUR is not necessarily wise he suggests. “We do get asked about the advantages of Planamelt and we have customers who find it a good alternative to EVA. But we do not recommend it as an alternative to PUR, the bind strength is not the same. It is better than a conventional EVA, especially on thicker papers so we consider the new range of glues to be complementary to EVA.
“Across the finishing industry, there is enough scope for all types of glue to be used. At first there was some confusion, but that has now eased,” says Seaber. “We are very clear that the printer needs to understand the applications, the types of paper to be used and the print processed. Then as a partner we can suggest the best glue to use.”
The Horizon can accept a JDF job ticket and is gearing towards full automation. The next member of the family, the BQ480, which was previewed at Drupa, will have greater levels of automation and connectivity and a soft drop delivery. It paves the way for Industry 4.0 style connectivity.
Kolbus has been at the heart of the German Industry 4.0 initiative, using its CoPilot system for remote monitoring and for automatic set up. The company has published the protocols needed to operate the binding lines, enabling a press manufacturer to drive the binder from the press control desk.
And the binder has been designed for this level of automation. There are no parts to switch over to accommodate different book formats Robert Flather points out. Instead, every change is carried out automatically, even on the standalone machines.
With the Webfolder, based on technology from Timson, employed, the binder will hook directly to a digital press for sections from 4pp to 128pp. This feeds the KM200 as the binder for digital book production. As a book block enters the clamp, it is measured and all subsequent settings are adjusted to suit that block, changing settings on the fly for both thickness and height.
Across the border into Switzerland, Muller Martini has been equally vociferous about automation and robotics using the term Finishing 4.0 to promote the idea of complete connectivity and automated set up of production processes. At Drupa the demonstration underscored this with a preprinted reel being unwound and moving over an adjustable former folder.
As the job switched between one format and the next, the folder would move according to the parameters in the job, identified by barcode. Running a collection of educational books, these emerged finished in a sequence that suits the student, the class or the school.
The company has been using servo drives for almost a decade and with the Sigmaline was the first to link finishing to a digital press. It has taken the experience from these and linked to a beefed up Connex system to build a system that potentially could be controlled through a web portal in response to an incoming order for a book.
That is currently a step too far, but book of one production is part of what is possible. Folded and gathered sections are gather and fed to the Vareo binder which has been redesigned to be gentler on PUR bound books as they emerge from the machine. These are then trimmed on the robotic Infinisteam trimmer. A robot arm holds the book and presents it to the saw for trimmer in the desired direction.
“It becomes a touch less workflow,” says sales manager Dave McGinlay.