First Digital, Then Automation and Finally, Total Flexibility
Recent investigations of the book printing industry in India and Bangladesh reveal that some of the textbook, trade and educational books and materials are moving to digital printing. Our editor files an initial report from his visit to Hunkeler Innovationdays 2019 in Lucerne in end February on book printing. Part 2 of the coverage in our May issue will reflect on the new presses shown as well as interesting value addition technologies at HID for labels, packaging and security printing.
Digital print enables short runs of a greater number of titles and materials for publishers and more efficient production of textbooks even if it is used just for sampling and printing a few signatures needed to complete orders. In India, most of this migration is to sheetfed drum and toner digital presses followed by conventional binding methods.
Some of the larger textbook and trade book suppliers also use webfed inkjet presses and some automation for binding. However, the a utomation is generally a selective offline module for chopping, folding and perforating signatures (forms) of digitally printed reels. These are collated on conventional collating and binding systems that have to be set up for each format and pagination (spine thickness) of the book. Both digital migration and automation go hand in hand and need to be looked at from several perspectives and levels.
Migration and automation Level 1
We see book printing increasingly becoming digital and this is shown even by the larger number of brand new monochrome drum and toner digital presses imported by Indian printers in the past year. At the same time, a few more monochrome inkjet systems are coming into place that are operated either reel to reel, or reel to chopper, slitter and stacker which produce stacks of A4 or A5 sheets in the correct page order on a conveyor and which can then be manually taken over to a perfect binder.
A more automated roll to stack solution was shown at Hunkeler Innovationdays in Lucerne this year with a high performance Gen8 finishing line with a WI8 web inspection module that reads the codes on the printed web for front and back page verification, a CS8 linear and cross-cutting module, a separator module that pushes each cut sheet slightly and an LS8 stacking module that creates discrete and cleanly stacked loose leaf blocks on a conveyor for taking into the perfect binder in the case of books. What is new about the Gen8 finishing line is the Dynacut function that allows variable format production while running so that the printed web can contain from 1-up, 2-up, 3-up or 4-up combinations of perfect bound books with varying cut-off length changes. It is also possible to perform double-trims in the case of bleed pages or products.
This finishing line can handle all kinds of paper from 40 to 300 gsm with full saturation color printing at speeds up to 180 meters a minute. Thus, it can also produce stacks of posters or leaflets of varying sizes from a single printed web and this line can also contain Hunkeler’s PC7 coater module that can be placed right after the unwinder and preceding the linear and cross cutting module.
Automation Level 2
The second level of migration we see is about automation, which relies even more on the intelligence of digital documents printed with a machine-readable code. This can be on digitally printed and page encoded webs which were being produced on various inkjet presses at Hunkeler ID, but also on cut sheet digital presses such as the impressive Canon VarioPrint i300 printing during the show and being demonstrated with in-line finishing of various print products.
Since every page and signature has a unique code, it can be processed individually whether it is cut in individual pages or folded, perforated and collated automatically on the basis of the codes which contain the title and signature number and other production workflow information including trim size and the cover identification.
This level of automation permits batch production of short run titles and generally requires the paper processing modules to be set for folding, perforation and collation. The setting is of course automated and remote controlled in most of the inline finishing equipment but it nevertheless does need to be changed for the format size and pagination.
What one saw demonstrated at Hunkeler was that every operation in book production has been automated and to some extent in the future these automated machines will be linked physically by conveyors or laser-guided vehicles (LGVs) and machine-readable codes. However, the most practical form of book finishing automation combines several modules in which a printed reel delivers a book block.
The key Hunkeler finishing module here is the PF7 double plow folder, which can process webs up to 30 inches width and perforate, fold and chop them into 4, 6 or 8-page signatures. Depending on paper substance weights and formats, this module can execute and deliver parallel, double parallel, roll and loose leaf blocks or budget bound blocks using the SD7 module for short shelf life products.
An automated paper process line generally takes digitally printed reels with encoded pages and delivers chopped, perforated, folded, collated and perfect bound book blocks. Demonstrated at HID 2019 were such finishing systems from Horizon and Muller Martini for perfect binding and by IBIS. IBIS demonstrated its Smart-binder on the Xerox stand at HID 2019 in-line with a Xerox Trivor printer and a Hunkeler web-cutter, as well as off-line from a SB-097 sheet pile feeder and produced a range of different high quality booklets, some stitched, some glued and some with a separately fed cover. The HID Show Daily was printed and bound each evening at the Xerox stand and glued in the center and finished on the IBIS system.
High quality sewn books with end papers and lining
Another very interesting line demonstrated at HID 2109 showed the automated production of high quality paperback and hardcover books using three inline machines from Meccanotecnica. The first machine or module was for automatic book folding and sewing. The entire line is fed by a printed web unwinder station, chopped on the Hunkeler CS8 module and fed into the Meccanotecnica Universe Sewing machine for scoring and folding, collating and sewing operations.
The sewn blocks are conveyed to the second module for finishing a sewn block with nipping, end-papering, back glueing, lining, cover feeding and perfect binding and a laydown station. The untrimmed bound book is then conveyed to the third module, a fully automatic 3-knife trimmer that can read the thickness and variable book size and trim data for automatic set up and alignment for trimming accuracy.
The trimmer has two stations – one for the front trim and the second for head and foot trim. Apart from automatically trimming individual books of varied formats and thicknesses delivered from the finishing unit on a conveyor, the Meccanotecnica can also trim piled books of the same format and thicknesses to achieve a production of 2,400 high quality books an hour.
The automated run of one book at at time
What we were also able to see at Hunkeler this year was the third level of automation which is totally dynamic not only in terms of the adjustability of the paper processing (perforation, folding, chopping, gathering) but which can be programmed to change the location of the tooling at very high speeds. This type of completely automated system can keep up with a printed web unwinding at 130 meters a minute with a large number of books of varied format and pagination printed on it.
In this demonstration a reel printed by a digital press containing several books printed serially was supplied to the infeed. These books can be a run of one, or two or however many books may be immediately required – as long as they require the same quality of paper and where the run sizes are suitably small if combined in the same print run. Very short runs can absorb the occasional wastage of paper for a book format that does not efficiently match the web width for all the titles to be printed in a single run without a reel change.
900 completely different books in an hour
At this level of automation the chopping, creasing and perforation discs move dynamically from page to page or signature to signature – accommodating format and pagination changes. This high level of automation was demonstrated at HID 2019 by a Hunkeler line starting with a preprinted web that contained 5 or 6 titles including a sheet music book, a cook book, a book about the future of printing and another couple of titles.
The unwind fed into a fly folder that can perforate and fold either once or twice generating 4-sided or 6-sided signatures, one by one. Each signature can be different and after a single book is completed, another can enter the stream which goes on to cross-cutting, gluing, turning, stacking, destacking and is then conveyed to the perfect binder which in this case was a Muller Martini Vario binder. Running at 130 meters a minute, the line can bind 900 books in an hour – each book being a different title with its own format and pagination.
The bound books were then placed in a wooden box that could be moved to the new Muller Martini Infinitrim 3-knife trimmer that had two robotic stations that each picked up a single book, decoded its trim size requirement and cut it accordingly before placing it on another conveyor. There was even a robotic vehicle at the show that delivered the bound books to the robotic Muller Martini Infinitrim station.
To implement this kind of a book-of-one solution, the printer needs to have the workflow to drive the press first of all, so that orders can be pipelined and printed digitally according to the production plan. It is a system of course that is meant for a printer who has to supply a large number of titles in very short runs and within a tight timeframe.
Hunkeler Innovationdays is a new kind of university that is especially fascinating for those who love the professional finishing of print products and the architecture of books. Printing and book binding is emerging from the domain knowledge of craftsmen and master binders in the past, to a future of software-driven and targeted products produced by machines programmed for automated engineering operations.
There was a lot to learn at this show and in our second article in the May issue of Indian Printer and Publisher, we will describe some of the new print, value addition, security and packaging developments demonstrated at HID. By the way, the next biennial Innovationdays will be held from 22 to 25 February 2021, again in the extremely beautiful city of Lucerne in Switzerland. The event usually takes place at the beginning of Carnival time.