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Back to Basics

Bind it and Trim it

They say everyone has a book in them. Harry Mottram discovers a whole lot of new machinery that means every printer can become a book publisher with the very latest kit With one machine you can finish booklets above and beyond A4 landscape and down to as small as A6

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The three-knife trimmers of the Wohlenberg range include the Trim-tec 60e, sold widely around the world to print shops and print finishing factories

Many units make light work

It is always difficult to turn away business, but when someone comes into your print factory and asks for 20 copies of their book to be printed, you know the price could be too much. In the past the costs of such a small print run, coupled with a large number of pages, would have made the order astronomically expensive with all the collating, folding, stitching, and trimming. A 200-page illustrated children’s novel or a sporting evening booklet of a few pages for short runs was a loss making labour of love, but not now.

Growing market

From just a few thousand pounds there is a growing number of printing presses designed for the booklet making market that can turn out 200-page volumes in print runs of just a few copies and yet managing to keep costs down. It is a growing market as self-publishers in their thousands pen their memoirs, poetry, novels, and non- fiction books. Plus, marketeers, conference organisers, colleges, and developers have a need for A4 landscape booklets to promote one off events. Sports clubs, societies, and associations increasingly like to publish their achievements and even annual accounts in a colourful format. Digital printing has helped to make this possible along with a change in expectation amongst customers who may no longer want to print in mono on poor quality stock, but rather demand a premium finish for their publication.

Ray Hillhouse, vice president offline business at Morgana Systems, comments: “The demand for short-run, high quality booklets is increasing with every new generation of digital print engine, so the need to finish reliably to the correct quality level is an essential part of the overall production flow. Being able to produce a wide range of booklets, both in terms of size and thickness of booklet, can be a key choice—that’s why our standard machines can produce up to 140 pages, with the option to go to 200 pages with the BM500. The merger of Morgana with Plockmatic, who are a key supplier of inline bookletmakers to all the major print engine manufacturers, has given Morgana a unique insight into the needs of customers in this sector—why and when they will choose an inline system or a near line system to meet their production demands.”

Some of the benefits of the new range of booklet presses are summed up by Bryan Godwyn, managing director of Intelligent Finishing Systems (IFS), who says the fully-automated settings to govern length, balance, format, and thickness are an attraction. He says its design also aids sheet transport and jogging, scoring and folding, stitch and fold monitoring, and the positive jog register at the trimmer. Another plus point is the variable thickness production, along with A4 landscape stitching on the new IFS presses. Indeed, more than 5,000 copies an hour can be achieved. And there is the compatibility bookletmakers have with collators and feeders, comments Godwyn, making it possible for printers to turn into publishers.

The demand for short-run, high quality booklets is increasing with every new generation of digital
print engine

The prices of bookletmakers and trimmers are picked up on by Lewis Price, managing director of Ashgate Automation. He says: “At under £16,000 for the bookletmaker and trimmer and sub £22,000 with our in-line square fold unit, it really punches above its weight. Digital presses from the likes of Ricoh, Xerox, Konica Minolta, and others have the facility to print a long sheet which meets the growing demand for short-run A4 landscape books. More automated finishing systems, costing £30,000 to £40,000, are still unable to produce A4 landscape books. You are looking in the region of £70,000 plus to do this.

 The KF640 bookletmaker with squarefold and trimmer, said to be the first of its type on the market according to Ashgate Automation


“They operate at about 5,000 books an hour, with job set-up times far in excess of the KF640. Our system, which operates at 1,000 books an hour, will handle a maximum sheet size of 640 x 320mm, which means that SRA2 sheets will not require pre-trimming of the short edge on a guillotine prior to producing A4 booklets.

With one machine you can finish booklets above and beyond A4 landscape and down to as small as A6

For shorter runs, it is ideal because it is simple to set up, adjust, and to change from one size to another. With one machine you can finish booklets above and beyond A4 landscape and down to as small as A6.”

Cutting edge

The trimming part of the process is vital to the overall finish for booklets, and one piece of kit that fits the bill are the Wohlenberg trimmers from Friedheim International, which has been at the cutting edge of print finishing for a century. Based in Hemel Hempstead, the company says the key to Wohlenberg trimmers are their higher cycle rates, with less wear, and a more precise trim. The three-knife trimmers of the Wohlenberg range are the Trim-tec 25o, 60e, and 90e—which the company has sold in their thousands around the world to print shops and print finishing factories.

The stylish looking Wohlenberg Trim-tec 60e is an inline three-knife trimmer with motorised adjustment in dynamic-drive technology


In a statement the company says: “The Trim-tec 25o is an offline, compact, solid, and low cost universal machine for trimming of perfect bound products, newspaper, and saddle stitching products. It has been developed especially for customers with a solo perfect binder in the small and middle edition segment. One of its strengths is the special application requirement, in which, due to its generous sized kit even oversized products can be trimmed on all four sides without problems. The adjustment accuracy can be guaranteed due to an easy graphical touchscreen operating interface with corresponding visualisation of all functions on the terminal.”

The company also talks positively about its Trim-tec 60e and 90e models, which complete the range of trimmers. The Trim-tec 60e is an inline three-knife trimmer and teams up with the Wohlenberg City e perfect binder, which the company says has been completely re-created to allow a comfortable and quick overview as the Navigator is operated by touchscreen and can be repositioned accordingly. Top of the range is the Trim-tec 90e high speed three knife trimmer with an integrated counter stacker for perfect binding systems.

“Since we launched the BM350/500 this has been and continues to be the key unit for us,” says Morgana’s Ray Hillhouse


Morgana’s Hillhouse is equally enthusiastic about the way their bookletmakers have developed. He comments: “Since we launched the BM350/500 this has been and continues to be the key unit for us. Being able to produce booklets up to 200 pages opens up a whole range of print products that would have previously gone to perfect binding. Couple this with our Squarefold option and you have a very attractive, perfect bound looking document produced much quicker and with minimal skills. We are also seeing lots of high quality, heavy papers being used in the machines—it’s so easy to print on a wide range of high quality stocks and finishing it with the Squarefold option gives the booklet a very high-quality look and feel.”

Morgana’s vice president offline business, Ray Hillhouse, says demand for short-run, high quality booklets is increasing with every new generation of digital print engine


Many of the booklets ordered by customers are for sale in bookshops or at promotional events such as concerts, theatres, and major tourist attractions and as such need to have barcodes and pricing graphics added. Hillhouse of Morgana notes: “One recent development has been to add barcode reading to the entire range of bookletmakers and feeders. We are taking requests for barcode reading on the lower-end models for a range of applications including financial statements and pension documents, so the demand for variable page count, personalised booklets is definitely increasing.

“One other popular addition has been our suction-fed two-bin feeder, the VF602. This has been designed specifically for digitally printed pre-collated jobs. The enhanced features of this system illustrate again our ability to listen to customer feedback and introduce a product that solves problems, speeds production, and removes hassle for operators as far as possible.”

IFS’ managing director, Bryan Godwyn, details the latest adaptations, improvements, and evolutions of his company’s bookletmaker and trimmer. He says: “The newest edition to the IFS portfolio of solutions is the Horizon Stitch Liner Mark II. It marries the efficiency and ease of operation of flat sheet collating with the productivity, versatility, and quality of a saddle-stitching system. It enables operations to meet the ever-increasing requirements of the market. The system can be configured as a conventional collating system for offset print production and a high-speed sheet feeder for pre-collated digital production. It combines all processes, from flat sheet collating, scoring, folding, and saddle-stitching through three knife trimming in a single operation.”

Increase productivity

Godwyn says it is an easy to use system and can be used to create A4 landscape booklets and pocket booklets, ‘with an expanded booklet size range and increased productivity’ up to 6,000 booklets an hour.

Lewis Price of Ashgate says its new large-format KF640 bookletmaking system is the first of its type on the market. He comments: “It is designed to produce a maximum booklet size of 320 x 320mm and more common sizes like A4 landscape and 12 x 12”.”

Ashgate also supply a squarefold unit which sits between the bookletmaker and the trimmer. Price comments: “It is by far the best way to give books and magazines a professional bound appearance with the security of a stapled finish. The squarefold unit can be bypassed depending upon the type of job.”

The Horizon Stitch Liner Mark III has a production speed of 6,000 booklets per hour

Manufactured by KAS Paper Systems in Dunstable, the bookletmaker and trimmer like its competitors is also compact, taking up less floor space—another attraction for printers operating out of smaller premises. The Ashgate boss notes: “Whilst it can produce 3,000-4,000 booklets in a morning, it comes into its own on short runs of anything from one to 1,000 books or magazines. Typically, it will produce up to a 100-page booklet comprising 25 sheets of 80gsm and a card cover.

Being hand fed, it is much more forgiving when finishing ‘added value’ booklets such as those with laminated board covers, laminated card sheets, and foil covers.”

On costs Price says: “It’s a flexible, cost effective pro-clench flat clench staple system. Inexpensive to run, for example, the staple heads cost less than £150 as opposed to some cartridge-based staple heads which can cost the end user in excess of £1,300 per head.

“Since the launch earlier this year we have found a large number of printers are still using the time consuming and inconsistent process of manually folding and stapling short-run A4 landscape booklets. This is a wake-up call for them. You don’t need to do it any longer when there is a professional, efficient, affordable option.”

Xerox launched its new Iridesse production press recently alongside the new Watkiss Power Square 160X as a preferred finishing solution.

The Power Square 160 has been designed to meet the needs of mid-volume digital printers who demand outstanding book quality combined with robust and reliable performance. Using proven Watkiss technology, it delivers added-value professional booklets for a wide range of media including A4 landscape books. There are optional accessories for full bleed trimming and book stacking, it offers genuine increases in productivity and efficiency.

O Factoid: Figures released by The Publishers Association show that 2016 was a record breaking year for the publishing industry with sales of books and journals reaching £4.8bn, their highest ever level. The increase in sales of 7 percent on the previous year is the largest growth in a decade, when in 2007 digital was first included.O

The Power Square 160 is a single integrated machine that includes all the processes needed to produce high quality booklets (rotate, staple, fold, square-spine, face-trim), which has many benefits compared to complex multi-module systems, including seamless process control and ease of use.

It features JDF/JMF compatibility for streamlined machine setup and control in integrated environments and a state of the art control system that includes remote diagnostics for pre-emptive maintenance. The Power Square 160 is a sister product to the Power Square 224, providing booklet making solutions across the spectrum of cut-sheet digital printers.

Paul Attew, sales director at Watkiss: “Our Power Square booklet makers are not the only solution for digital presses, but what sets them apart is their ability to deliver consistently good book quality combined with robust and reliable performance.”

Writing in The Guardian before last Christmas, Danuta Kean notes: “Independent publishers have unleashed a boom in sales, according to new research. Latest figures from Inpress, which works with 60 of the smallest players in the books industry, revealed sales up 79 percent in the last year.”

The Publishers Association also noted the rise in book sales which contradicts the idea that ebooks are the future. In the UK book sales that include booklets and children’s books were worth £4.8bn—their highest ever level. The internet may have encouraged many things but it has aided the growth in self-publishing and the advent of digital presses and the new range of bookletmakers and trimmers has led to a boom in short-run booklets. It is a market that many printers are tapping into and investing in.


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