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Mechanical-binding options

Jul 1, 2004 12:00 AM

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From plastic comb to coil to those ubiquitous binders from our grade-school days, mechanical binding typically is used for calendars, catalogs and instruction books. Why use mechanical binding? Books lie flat when open, mixed stock can be used within one piece and the final output can include various elements, such as foldouts, tabs and inserts. Finally, this style may be a good alternative for the budget-conscious print buyer. For printers considering adding mechanical binding capabilities, here are some new product introductions.

Fully digital puncher; automated coil binder

The Quantum P70iX by General Binding Corp. (GBC) (Skokie, IL) is a fully digital, high-speed production punch designed for the digital-print market. The system reportedly supports all common punching patterns, including three-hole, comb, Velobind, Twin-Loop wire and Color Coil. Custom die patterns are also available. The puncher is preprogrammed for common paper sizes and can store 20 custom jobs. The P70iX can handle sheets from 5½ × 5½ inches to 9 × 12 inches, including mixed weights and cover stocks, at speeds up to 72,000 sph. GBC's patented inverter technology reportedly reduces marking and scuffing.

GBC also offers the DigiCoil Color Coil inserter, which can accommodate 4:1 Color Coils in sizes ranging from 8 mm to 33 mm. Change-overs reportedly can be done in two minutes, without tools: The operator measures the document on a built-in scale, installs the correct spine formers, sets a knife-height adjustment lever and presses a button. Operators can load one document while another is being cut and crimped, resulting in outputs up to 450 books per hour. DigiCoil binds books with a bound edge of up to 4¼ × 14½ inches and can incorporate index tabs and oversize covers as needed.

Various-substrate covers

Continental Binder & Specialty Corp. (Gardena, CA) offers a variety of covers suitable for printing, silk-screening, foil stamping, embossing, debossing and diecutting. Cover materials include paper, poly, pajco, and rigid and flexible vinyl. Index tabs and specialty poly-packaging products are available. Continental also designs custom turned-edge, vinyl, poly or leather book covers for presentation pieces. For those who need it, the company provides binding services, as well as new and used binding equipment.

Plastic coil former/inserter; versatile punch

Spiel Associates' (Long Island City, NY) Sterling Coilmaster II coil-binding system creates coil from plastic filament and automatically inserts it into the book from the first hole forward. Cutting and crimping also are automatic. On-demand coilmaking eliminates the need to store plastic coil and reportedly results in cost savings of up to 50 percent when producing 12-inch lengths of coil. The system binds books with margins of up to 3/16 of an inch, with round or oval holes, at up to 700 books per hour. Tooling is available for sizes between 6 mm and 30 mm.

The Sterling Punchmaster 20 punches sheets from 4 × 5 inches to 20 × 20 inches and is capable of punching anywhere on the sheet, not just on the spine. The punch is suitable for comb, spiral and double-loop wire, as well as tabs, door hangers and windows. An optional air feeder allows for the punching of signatures and heavy board. Micro-meter die adjustment facilitates sheet centering. The Punchmaster can run at up to 125,000 sph.

Plastic spiral binding line

Kugler-Womako, a Körber Paperlink (Hamburg, Germany) company, has introduced the HS 542 P, a fully automatic plastic spiral binding line. Based on the HS 542 wire-binding machine, this version features a newly designed binding module capable of out-putting plastic-bound, as well as double-wire and spiral-bound, products. The machine reportedly reaches speeds of 160 punch cycles per minute and 45 binding cycles per minute. Paper and board of various thickness may be used. Options include a stacker, spine trimming for pre-glued products, and different feeders for covers, half-sell sheets, dividers and pockets. Applications include stationery, college books, planners, maps, calendars and more.

Casemade and vinyl binders

Metropolitan Loose-Leaf Co.'s (Montreal, QC) casemade binders are available in genuine or imitation leather, or printed paper, with vinyl, chrome or brass-plated metal corners. The company's sewn turned-edge process reportedly is suitable for professional applications such as portfolios, presentation covers and menus.

Also available are standard vinyl binders, with edges sealed over stiff, flexible or soft padded boards, available in traditional colors, or two-tone or multigrain finishes. A clear-view overlay may be added to the binder's spine, front and back covers for permanent or temporary inserts. Clear-view covers with ribbed-hinge reinforcement also are available.

Integrated coil forming/inserting

The Plastikoil Concept QS from Gateway Bookbinding Systems Ltd. (Winnepeg, MB) interlines the Plastikoil New Concept former and the PBS 3000QS automatic coil inserter for on-demand plastic spiral binding. Coils are formed in the required sizes, then conveyed into position for insertion. The operator completes the coil insertion into the book by activating a foot pedal to cut and bend both coil ends. Basic setup can be done without tools. A Hot Start feature enables the former to stop and restart without coil distortion.

The system can produce up to 800 books per hour. Units also can detach for independent production.

Custom-configured punching systems

The Renz America (Agawam, MA) AP360 punching system is available in both a fully digital and a manual format. The digital format uses servo motors for quick adjustments without tools. Machine settings are entered on a screen and can be saved in memory. On the manual format, hand wheels with analog position indicators reportedly provide quick, accurate adjustments.

Regardless of which control system is chosen, users can choose between either continuous or pile/stack feed input, and pile/stack or jogger output configurations. The system can punch lengths from 100 mm to 360 mm, with a maximum thickness of 3½ mm, at speeds up to 100 strokes per minute. A variety of dies are available.

Binders, folders and folios

Holden Custom Products (Richardson, TX) specializes in packaging and promotional products, including customized binders, folders and CD cases. Binder styles include vinyl, film-laminated paperboard, four-color litho-wrap casemade, easel tent, catalog, poly and more. Most are suitable for screen printing, foil stamping, embossing and debossing, as well as one- to four-color offset printing.

Customizeable binders and online templates

Wilson Jones (Lincolnshire, IL) offers a wide range of binders, indexes, report covers and more. Print Won't Stick locking round-ring view binders reportedly resist toner transfer. View-Tab presentation binders support single-sheet customization for the spine and front cover and include transparent dividers said to be a cheap and quick alternative to custom-printed dividers. Binding covers can be used for wire- or comb-bound presentations and can be layered to create different looks. Custom templates are available online for designing binder covers and other products; see

Inserter options; power crimper

SpiraFlex (Greenville, WI) offers the CIM-800 plastic-coil-insertion machine with a patented four-station design, capable of out-putting up to 800 coils per hour. The operator places a book on alignment hooks and loads a coil. The book automatically moves to the insertion station, where the coil is inserted, crimped, then discharged. The CIM-800 binds books from four inches to 14 inches on the binding edge and four inches to 13 inches wide, with thicknesses between 1/16 to 1⅞-inch. Coils can range from 6 mm to 50 mm.

Also available is the CIM-200 plastic-coil-insertion machine, a semi-automatic tabletop unit that accommodates coils from 6 mm to 45 mm in diameter and outputs up to 300 coils per hour.

The LC600 plastic coil power crimper crimps the end of a coil using SpiraFlex's patented rotary crimper at up to 1,000 coils per hour. This model handles books up to 25 inches wide and coils with diameters from 6 mm to 50 mm. Adjustable bend angle allows the user to bend past 90 degrees.

Automatic inserting into custom binders

ESKCO, Inc. (Dayton, OH) manufactures custom loose-leaf ring binders and accessories, as well as custom-made vinyl products such as document holders, calendars, job jackets and more. A recent investment in robotic technology has helped automate ESKCO's clear overlay and entrapped-style ring-binder product line. Printed sheets now can be inserted automatically during the production process, reportedly saving customers time and money.

Combination punch and bind

The manual 210PB combination punch and bind system by Tamerica Products, Inc. (Rancho Cucamonga, CA) punches and binds booklets up to 12 inches in length and two inches thick. The system can reportedly punch 20 sheets of paper at a time. Additional features include disengageable dies, adjustable margin depth and com spreader controls.

Wire-O binding tips

By Chris Eckhart

Keep in mind the following tips when designing a book for Wire-O binding:

Start with a sample

Provide the postpress department or trade bindery with a sample of the project. This allows your finisher to measure all margins, copy placement, final trim size, tab placement and more.

Make sure the sample is produced on the exact stock that will be used for the production run, so your postpress department can measure the book bulk and determine the proper binding pitch. For books bulking ½ inch or less, 3:1 wire (three holes per inch) will be used. Books thicker than ½ inch will require 2:1 binding.

Avoid punching into copy

All images and text should be kept clear of the spine area to avoid the punched binding holes. For books using 3:1 wire, leave at least a ⅜-inch margin from the spine edge to the edge of the punched hole closest to the spine. That margin should be at least ½ inch for books using 2:1 wire.

Plan tabs properly

To bind in tabs automatically with the text sheets, leave a “shoulder” of at least ¼ inch from the edge of the tab to the head or foot of the sheet. To realize even greater production efficiencies, have your finisher collate tab pages for you. This will ensure page-specific tabs are located properly and will also make binding different-size pages much easier.

Chris Eckhart is co-owner of Eckhart & Co., a bindery specializing in mechanical binding, looseleaf manufacturing and information packaging. Contact him at

More on Wire-O binding…

By Chris Eckhart

  • Wire-O and combination runs

    Occasionally, the requirements of a project will call for different versions to be produced with different binding styles. For example, many companies produce a high-end version of their annual report for their major stockholders and the board of directors, and for placement in high-traffic areas within company offices. A combination run of Wire-O and perfect-bound annual reports can handle the need for both standard and “elite” versions.

    Although perfect binding isn't suitable for projects with mixed or heavily coated stocks, a combination perfect-bound/Wire-O run enables easy stock changing for each binding style. Run the Wire-O books first with a high-quality No. 1 sheet, then switch to an uncoated stock for the perfect-bound copies, without changing plates. On-press UV or aqueous coatings also can be used to give the Wire-O sheets a premium look.

    Due to the different margin requirements of perfect and Wire-O binding, the printed area may need to be shifted to avoid punching into copy on the Wire-O bound copies. Consult with your finishing department prior to printing to ensure all margins have been accounted for.

  • The case for cased-in Wire-O binding

    Cased-in Wire-O binding is an attractive combination of a hard cover with the layflat capabilities of Wire-O binding. This allows it to possess characteristics of both case binding and mechanical binding styles, without compromising the advantages of either.

The durability of cased-in Wire-O makes it an ideal binding solution for books that will receive extended and repeated use, such as journals, how-to books and cookbooks. Books that will be featured in retail locations are also prime candidates for cased-in Wire-O, thanks to the high visibility of a wraparound cover, which can accommodate spine-printing needs.

Production options are numerous for cased-in Wire-O binding. Books can be bound with a wire diameter of up to 1¼ inch, which is large enough for most applications. There are also plenty of options for the cover, such as cloth, offset printed and film laminated paper, and leather. Other decorative options include foil stamping, embossing and screen printing.

Cased-in Wire-O is still a relatively underutilized binding method. Since some print buyers and book designers aren't comfortable with this option, there is a selling opportunity for astute print sales reps willing to educate their customers.

Wire-O Binding Co., Colorful Story Books merge

In September 2003, Wire-O Binding Co. Inc. (Brooklyn, NY) merged with Colorful Story Books (South Plainfield, NJ). Wire-O Binding Co. since has transferred all equipment to Colorful Story Books' 34,400-sq.-ft. building.

Wire-O Binding Co. was founded in 1935 as the Manhattan-based manufacturing arm of Wire-O Binding Corp., the Poughkeepsie, NY-based producer of binding equipment. Robert Murphy, now a vice president with Colorful Story Books, bought Wire-O Binding Co. from its original owners in 1982.