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Need To Know

Binding Horizons

The printing business is changing all the time with financial pressures mounting on companies. One option is to bring bindery in-house. Is it a good idea? Harry Mottram sets off in search of the answers

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All bound up: book binding is an ancient craft that can be automated with the latest kit

All bound up

With its long history, bindery is an ancient craft that straddles the worlds of hand finishing of bespoke volumes and the modern mass production of automated binding machines. And there is a large area of work in between where both hand and machine binding are employed. All of which suggests that even the main processes of saddle stitching, perfect bound, hardback and coil bound will depend on the number of books, pamphlets, magazines and booklets in a print run. Many printers send all of their binding work to specialised print finishers who have all the kit and expertise required for binding, especially when prestige binding is required, such as leather and cloth bound books.

Many printers send all their binding work to specialised print finishers who have all the kit and expertise required for binding

Commercial binding falls into four categories. Perfect bound paperback books and magazines are held together with a strong adhesive and is a cost-effective method for mass production. For a more prestigious finish, then a hardback or card is used which ups the cost but is ideal for short run special editions and stationery items like diaries, wedding guest books and books of remembrance. Hardbacks they will also be more durable and last longer. Saddle stitched or staple bound using either automated stapling or a wire is one of the most popular methods of binding magazine and booklets with fewer pages while coil binding tends to be for reports and presentations.


With prices rising for materials, labour and overheads such as utilities some print firms are moving more of the work they normally send to trade printers and finishers in- house in order to control costs. Binding is one aspect of finishing that could be brought in-house with the right expertise and equipment in place. At the most basic level few print shops, instant print houses and jobbing printers will be without some form of spiral coil binding machine whether it is a manually operated one for a few hundred pounds to automatic binding systems running into a couple of thousand pounds or so. Most large offices and marketing firms will have one for creating reports, but for printers binding student dissertations and presentations for clients are their usual customer base.

Stepping up to a higher level, the Cardiff printing company Westdale Press decided to buy more bindery kit earlier this year. The firm opted for a Kolbus BF 513 for casing-in line, a Kolbus DA 260 casemaker and an Aster Pro sewing line. The reason, said the firm, was to offer a ‘bespoke’ level of book and magazine printing - as shorter runs of higher quality had become the norm. The company has always had a level of bindery in-house but wanted to increase the amount so as to increase profitability and turnaround although some bindery work will continue to go outside.

The company has always had a level of bindery in house but wanted to increase the amount to boost profitability and turnaround


Bryan Godwyn of Intelligent Finishing Systems (IFS) based in Hemel Hempstead, says his firm constantly listen to customers to glean what the market trends are from the products they are asking about. He comments: “For them, affordable automation that impacts productivity and profitability are the key talking points. Short-run soft cover books, including book-of-one, remains, by far, the most popular sector for our products and solutions. It’s because they are fast to set up and easy to operate solutions – factors that are so important. With fewer skilled staff delivering more services, faster systems must deliver high quality results, quickly and effortlessly. We also believe greater integration of different products will continue to move forward as printing organisations link as many processes together wherever possible to keep their ‘up time’ at a maximum.”

Short-run soft cover books, including book-of-one, remains, by far, the most popular sector for products and solutions

Of course, not every printer wants to bring bindery in-house, leaving plenty of work for the specialists like trade finishers Leeds Die Cutting, cited by IFS’s Godwyn as a company investing in more advanced bindery kit. His firm supplied the Leeds firm with a Horizon BQ-470EVA perfect binder and a Horizon CRF-362 creaser folder.

Ian Bradley of Leeds Die Cutting says: “We already had a Horizon BQ-270 perfect binder which ran very well. But then we needed a more productive system. The BQ-470 was the perfect next step. It is ideal for short to medium runs and will also handle longer runs.”

Horizon Stichliner Mark III: there are two application glue rollers for superior, efficient application, auto-side gluing and automatic measuring of book thickness for accuracy

Godwyn says the Horizon BQ-470 four clamp perfect binder is suited to mid-range soft back book production with higher production speeds and has ‘instant make readies’ for runs-of-one. And there is the key to this part of the print industry. The ‘book-of-one’ as many call short print runs are no longer unusual (although a print run of one probably is) but print runs of a handful of books or a few dozen have become popular as technology has brought costs down. It is not a market to be ignored.


Somewhere in the middle are bindery machines like the Premier 420 and its automated big sister the Premier 435 Auto perfect binder. Dean Stayne of Terry Cooper Services, which supply the machines says that small instant print shops and printers in general are under enormous pressure to keep costs down, so anything that can improve efficiency and provide value for money is of interest to printers. He says: “They need to complete shorter run jobs in a fast and efficient manner that delivers a healthy boost to the bottom line. Bringing processes in house saves time and costs and supports throughput flexibility for a more streamlined process.”

Dean Stayne, sales manager, Terry Cooper Services

He adds: “Cost-effective systems that are easy to set up and operate are key. They enable operations to offer more services while maintaining staffing levels. To do this effectively and profitably, businesses need systems that can be run as and when demand dictates.”

The Premier 435 Auto perfect binder certainly fits Stayne’s brief of being fast and efficient as it is capable of binding up to 450bph and with books that are up to 58mm thick. It is also a two-in-one machine that offers the ability to run the feeder section as an auto creaser for jobs that do not require binding. Then, once re-coupled, the single clamp perfect binder offers automatic cover feeding with inline creasing and auto delivery reception.

The Premier 435 Auto perfect binder is capable of binding up to 450bph up to 58mm thick


Clearly there are benefits to bringing bindery in-house but of course there is a cost. Installing a new system and having staff available ready to operate the kit means more overheads. So, what about ROI? Iain Bullock of Renz UK says it depends on which end of the market the printer is aiming at. He comments: “On our entry level desktop machines we expect a quick ROI. On the more automated machines this ROI might be over a couple of years, but it could also add a very profitable revenue stream to their business.  We offer advice based on the volume of work and the projected volumes. We have always taken a consultative approach in advising and guiding customers including the particular kit they should think about for entering the market and the range of run lengths they are handling. For many printers, wire binding equipment is the obvious choice for the profitable calendar market and a range of book work. For other jobs, like school homework, diaries then coil binding is a good option.”

(L- R) Mathew Hart, Ace Binding director; Lee Sherburn, Renz service manager; Rob Hart, Ace binding director; Alison Fear, Ace binding director; and Dermot Callaghan Renz sales manager, with the Renz Inline 500 Compact

Ace Binding in Birmingham bought a Renz Inline 500 Compact automatic punching and binding machine and installed a Renz Inline 500 Classic fully automatic punching and binding machine. Rob Hart of the firms explains: “We took the decision to invest in the Renz Inline 500 Compact because demand for wire binding meant we were full and having to run a lot of overtime shifts. It addressed that immediately and paid for itself in six months. It more than exceeded our expectations. Then demand grew quickly which meant we were starting to run more and more overtime shifts again. We even got to the point where we were having to turn work away. We spoke to Renz and they recommended the next system up - the Inline 500 Classic. It was a no brainer. It has more than doubled our capacity. That gives us some breathing space especially in the run up to our busiest time of the year.”

O Factoid: There is PUR or polyurethane reactive adhesive while perfect binding uses ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA). O

The investments paid off says Hart, as the firm expects the new system to achieve return on investment in 18 months. Steve Giddins of Perfect Bindery Solutions would agree with that. He says his firm has a lot of interest from printers seeking to bring bindery in-house to keep costs down. And it is partly due to the increase in technology that makes bindery easier to operate, such as the Smyth book sewing machines that his company promotes.


One firm with a high profile at the recent Print Show was Friedheim International, which sponsored the Printers Bazaar, offering firms a chance to look at print finishing and other allied sectors. Friedheim feature the Wohlenberg perfect binders, manufactured in Germany, as well as bindery equipment from Italian manufacturer, Zechini. Wohlenberg has three high-end binders in the City-E, the Vento and the Quickbinder, while Friedheim point print finishers to Zechini’s range of casemaking and bookbinding machines which found favour with visitors at The Print Show with sales being chalked up.

With a bindery set up like this, Bindomatic printers can also offer an extra service

Case study

It could be a case of a stitch in time for the Falkland Press in Letchworth, as it changed its name this year to PrintedEasy.com to reflect its move away from a traditional, partly automated set up to concentrate on being an automated online business. The firm has bought in more bindery in-house with an investment in Horizon book production technology by replacing its 10-year-old StitchLiner 5500 with the latest generation StitchLiner Mark III from IFS. PrintedEasy.com specialises in saddle stitched, perfect bound and wiro bound brochure printing. From its 43,000 sq ft facility in Hertfordshire, it runs a Heidelberg SpeedMaster XL 106, two B2 HP Indigo 12000s and an HP Indigo 7900, alongside a range of finishing equipment.

The firm says: “The next-generation Horizon StitchLiner Mark III builds on the hugely successful innovative StitchLiner series. Complete with servo drive technology, the system runs at a maximum speed of 6,000bph and up to 12,000bph with two-up production. It can produce A4 landscape booklets at speeds of up to 5,300bph. Equipped with a new large 12.1” HD colour touch screen there is also a quicker and more precise knife movement and variable thickness production as standard with new Hohner 52/8S stitching heads.

John Ellis, the finishing manager of PrintedEasy.com, comments: “We chose the StitchLiner Mark III to help improve our production and service delivery. We wanted something that would support our ability to meet faster turnaround speeds on jobs and expand our workload capabilities. We liked its ease of operation, quicker make ready times and its ability to handle A4 landscape work. We also trust the Horizon brand. It has helped improved production speeds on stitching and collating jobs. We expect to achieve return on investment in three to four years.”


Crown Litho in Aldershot chose a binder after learning about a type of glue. The glue in question is Planamelt from the Planotol firm in Germany, used in the Premier 420 Single clamp Perfect Binder supplied by Terry Cooper. The glue is suited to the digital market for the perfect-binding of catalogues, brochures, telephone directories and magazines. It can be processed on standard hotmelt equipment without modification and is suitable for roller and nozzle application tackling papers up to 250gsm.

It really is all about the glue when it comes to perfect binding with two schools of thought. There is PUR or polyurethane reactive adhesive while perfect binding uses ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA). And Crown Litho’s Bob Avery has a view on the subject. He says: “Planamelt is a cost-effective solution that provides many of the benefits of PUR. It is the next best thing. A key attraction is the fact there is no need to wash up like there is with PUR. This means we can use the system as and when we need it without spending time setting it up and cleaning it down. I didn’t know about the glue until I started researching the market. Then I saw that Terry Cooper Services offered it on the Premier. We took a closer look and decided it was exactly what we needed.

“We were saying yes to perfect bound work but then would need to send the work out which resulted in longer turnaround times and additional costs. The Premier allows us to handle shorter runs more cost effectively. Now we are happier to quote the service. We expect to pick up a lot more work and because the system itself is so cost effective we think it will pay for itself very quickly.”

The Premier 420 includes a book clamp design for safety with an adjustable cover clamping station that adapts to different kinds of cover; round or square spine corners as needed. There are two application glue rollers for superior, efficient application, auto-side gluing and automatic measuring of book thickness for accuracy.

One of the themes that has come across in researching this feature on bindery has been how more printers are moving away from traditional set ups of isolated stations of print production. A system that saw printing and finishing as totally separate stages of production. Instead larger print firms are looking at greater automation and increased in-house finishing including bindery which can be a lucrative part of the business. And with a bindery set up they can also offer a service to other printers opening a second revenue stream.


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