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Oct 1, 2002 12:00 AM

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Inline finishing devices range from pre-folders, plow folders, perforating units, diecutters, slitters, rotary trimmers, inkjet imagers, and imprinting and mechanical numbering devices to gluers and special chemical applicators. Complete systems are offered by Innotech (Valley Cottage, NY), Scheffer Inc. (Merrillville, IN), Western Printing Machinery (WPM) (Schiller Park, IL) and Systems Technology Inc. (STI) (San Bernardino, CA). A host of other vendors offer individual inline components and standalone equipment.

Today's systems are more sophisticated than ever. “Years ago, you might see four plows and a rotary cutter with diecutting, perf and gluing,” says Paul Palmer, executive vice president, Lehigh Direct (Broadview, IL). “Now there are hot-melt applications, UV release coats, kiss cutting, two kinds of diecutting in the same path, as well as complex personalization.”

Palmer cites shaftless presses as a key enabling technology. “It helps expedite makeready, because you don't have to cut into the drive shaft when installing additional inline capabilities. Auxiliaries are more efficiently installed and all timed electronically.” Take-off tables that can increase delivery speed by up to 30 percent are another recent innovation. “That's been an important technology breakthrough during the past five years,” notes the exec.

Lehigh Direct has eight web presses, including its most recent addition: a Heidelberg M600. The finishing system on the six-color, fullsize press includes five plow towers and up to six-ribbon capability, enabling the production of multiple diecutting, pattern gluing, perforating, slitting and channel scoring.

An imaging tower with a Scitex (Dayton, OH) 16-head inkjet system supports high-speed personalization. Lehigh worked with a custom equipment manufacturer to design a bracketing system that stabilizes the imaging system to eliminate web flutter for maximum-speed applications. Palmer expects these types of collaborations to continue.

“We're developing technologies in partnership with the OEMs in which we're driving exciting new specialized equipment, including customized finishing units and other ancillary equipment,” says the exec.

To maximize its inline capabilities, Lehigh is developing portable auxiliaries that can be moved from press to press. The direct-mail printer is also investigating inline cross-folding options.

“It could basically double the real estate of an inline component,” says Palmer. “Traditionally, you're delivering one-fourth, one-third or one-half into the cutoff. If you could cross fold that, folding something in half, then it could fit in a 6 × 9-inch or a No. 10 envelope.”

Palmer is bullish on the direct-mail market: “We can produce highly personalized direct-mail products totally finished inline that serve the needs of a growing universe of customers. These customers are finding that direct-mail marketing is effective in generating leads, driving store traffic and bringing new customers to their websites.”

The current economic climate, however, has tightened many commercial printers' purse strings. Some are investing conservatively in new equipment, and inline systems are no exception. “[The inline finishing] market seems cold right now,” says Dennis Mason, principal, Mason Consulting (Westmont, IL). “In general, printers add equipment for two reasons: either they don't have enough capacity or they have a technology problem that's preventing them from getting new business. Usually it's capacity, and that's not an issue at the moment.”


Many printers we contacted for this story are installing various inline devices to improve or expand the quality of their finishing capabilities. Several are replacing pokey legacy equipment with speedier new models.

Source W (Trafford, PA), a midsize commercial printer with a Harris M200 and M110, is currently evaluating inline trimmers to eliminate some bindery work it outsources. Tony Falcocchio, manager, press operations, says an inline trimmer will reduce costs while providing a competitive advantage. “It's going to open some doors,” says the exec. A gluing system as well as a compensating stacker are next on his wish list.

Proline (Avon, CT) replaced an older, slower stacker with a Gammerler (Hanover Park, IL) KL 5000 stacker after rebuilding one of its two Goss C700 presses. The company specializes in inserts for newspapers — “long-run, minimal plate-change, wide-web jobs,” according to John McDonald, general manager.

The exec likes the KL 5000's speed and the quality of its stacks. “The crush is great — the stacker squeezes the product into a nice square bundle,” he says. Training Proline's four crews took about two hours per shift.

A desire to improve counting accuracy while reducing labor led commercial web printer Berlin Industries (Carol Stream, IL) to install STI's Accu-Count Tabber.

A shingled stream of products enters the system and passes under a high-speed laser counter. Next, the products go through a label applicator, which applies a removable label onto the leading edge of the product at a predetermined count. The shingled stream is trapped between upper and lower belts that automatically adjust for the shingle thickness. The shingle exits the streams for further downstream processing.

“It has saved labor in the pressroom and bindery while increasing the accuracy of our counts,” reports Bill Hoffman, vice president of manufacturing.


R.R. Donnelley & Son's Mattoon, IL, facility installed a Scheffer cover-production system to replace a hand-me-down. “This plant was originally rotogravure and letterpress,” explains Mike Lucier, web offset technical supervisor. “Two old Motter folders were brought over from the letterpress side and put onto an offset press. They were slow and left a lot of pinholes on the covers.”

Lucier says the Scheffer system's ease of use as well as its design are distinguishing features. “Other systems have ‘skates,’” he explains. “After the product goes through the cylinder on the rotary cutter, it goes into little belt wheels that control the sigs. But this system doesn't have that [simplifying setup].”

The cover-production system combines prefolders, angle bar sections for format configurations, plow folding, slitting, scoring for heavy paper stocks and a rotary cutter.

According to John Nader, Scheffer sales manager, the cover-production system can deliver multiple folds or flat products at high speeds. “It's a versatile alternative to traditional cover production done on a double-former folder for four- and eight-page products, or sheeters for flat items.” Nader adds that the cover-production system is also “the perfect solution for other magazine/catalog inserts, such as mini-catalogs and bind-in order forms.”

Anderson Litho's (Los Angeles) quest for quality, high-speed folding led it to install Innotech's Innoformer geometric air bar on three of its six web presses. All three presses — a six-color and two eight-colors — are MAN Roland Rotomans.

“The bottom line was the quality of the fold compared to conventional plow equipment,” says Ed Binder, director of operations. “The quality of the fold is not compromised by the speed of the equipment.”

The exec adds that the Innoformer's makeready and consistency further distinguishes it from conventional systems. “Some conventional equipment takes a while to get back, to readjust after every splice, but the Innoformer equipment maintains consistency and its settings throughout the run.”

Innotech was among 24 vendors that donated equipment or services for the new web press GATF recently installed (see below). The Innoformer prefolder will make single and double gatefolds in the web prior to entering a combination folder, increasing the range of product configurations to include single and double gatefolded covers, 12-page square tabloid and slim jim.

The prefolder can make folds up to 13 inches at the operator side edge or 10 inches at both edges. Other features include an adjustable creasing roller, pull roller with nip wheels and motorized lateral positioning with remote control from delivery.

Cross-folding solution

At Graph Expo, Scheffer Inc. (Merrillville, IN) will debut a cross-folding solution. “It's been tried before,” says John Nader, sales manager. “People have put a bucklefolder from the bindery up to the end of the rotary cutter and hoped to keep up with the output. We're offering cross-folding on the end of a high-speed, variable-cutoff, inline finishing system. After the product is cut off, we will direct the product into folding cylinders, a jaw and tucker cylinder, which replicates the lower half of a publication combination folder, and jaw-fold in half each individual piece prior to shingling the product in a continuous stream.”

According to Nader, all folding configurations, including map fan folds, diecutting or otherwise, can be made as they would in a typical inline setup. “After cutoff, whether it's one-, two- or three-up on the image, these products can be cross-folded in half, with or without a lap, to double page counts and add new product formats.”

Scheffer also plans to incorporate a second jaw fold. “This would also give us the ability to letter-fold opposite the web direction on a 16-page press,” explains Nader.

Inline finishing products


Western Printing Machinery Co.'s (WPM) (Schiller Park, IL) FlexDie Cutter is said to be the industry's first portable ribbon diecutter. It can be mounted on any plow tower in an inline system, enabling users to offer value-added products such as continuous-scalloped pieces, kissed-cut labels or diecut shapes. The unit is independently driven and cart-mounted for flexibility and portability.


Heidelberg's (Dover, NH) PFM-2 folder module complements its PCF-1 pinless combination folder. Potential users include printers that primarily use combination folders but also require former folders. The PFM-2 is a pinless, freestanding folder that delivers magazine, square-tab and slim-jim signatures that are open on three sides, with or without laps. With two standard formers, it can deliver two eight-page signatures or four-page signatures from a four-page-wide press. With a six-page-wide press, it can also deliver two 12-page signatures.


Foldex Corp.'s (East Greenwich, RI) Viking Series folders are capable of handling a wide range of cutoffs and being configured for various folds and signatures. In partnership with stitcher manufacturer MotterStitch, Foldex offers stitching options for tabloid and double-parallel products. Throughputs of 90,000 copies per hour reportedly can be achieved. Utilizing electronic line shaft techniques, Foldex and MotterStitch also offer non-intrusive retrofits on folders lacking mechanical provisions.


Gämmerler Corp's (Hanover Park, IL) new line of stackers includes the PrintPath STC-700 compensating stacker, KL 5000 compensating stacker and KL 6000 indexing and compensating stacker. They feature a multilingual control panel, an open turntable that prevents jams, and large window-style guards for viewing machine operation. The KL 5000 and 6000 pivot tables are said to increase throughput and reduce cycle time. The KL 6000 pre-collection system gently lowers copies through the stacker's chamber, enabling it to deliver aligned bundles of hard-to-stack products. Gämmerler also offers the PowerLift palletizing system, which reportedly enables operators to pick up multiple bundles at the same time with minimal lifting force.


At Ipex, QTI (Sussex, WI) announced WE'LL Corp. will install the first Ribbon Control System (RCS) 4000 in Japan. The RCS will be installed on WPM (Schiller Park, IL) inline finishing equipment. The line slits a full web into three ribbons. These ribbons can then be folded, glued and cut to take product from a Mitsubishi or Sumitomo press or a preprinted roll. The RCS 4000 will control the lateral and circumferential positioning on the individual ribbons after they exit the outfeed unit. It will also control the circumferential position of the rotary diecutter.

WE'LL is said to be one of Japan's fastest-growing printers. The 1,000-employee company specializes in inserts, catalogs and magazines.


Valco Cincinnati's (Cincinnati) RobondPro is a microprocessor-controlled fluid-application system for precise dispensing of adhesive and fold-softening fluids in web presses. It can apply glue on either an intermittent or continuous basis at machine speeds of 1,000 m per minute. Glue and softening volume adjust automatically with machine speed.

Dispensing valves are mounted to motorized cross-web bridges, enabling quick positioning of gluing and softening patterns. Several valves can be mounted to the same bridge with fully independent motion. A fold-softening concentrate that is automatically dosed into a water stream is said to facilitate flat folds while eliminating cracking and brittle paper.

GATF's new web press is ready to go

GATF (Sewickley, PA) recently held “Webtoberfest” to celebrate its new four-unit MAN Roland (Westmont, IL) 38-inch Rotoman heatset web offset press. Rated at 60,000 iph (50,000 iph for folded products), the Rotoman press replaces a Harris M110 halfweb press installed in 1980.

“This is the launch of a new era for web-offset lithography,” said Jerry Williamson, chairman of GATF, and chairman and CEO of the Williamson Printing Co. (Dallas). “The research and training centered around this press will in turn boost general automation, quality and productivity for our industry.”

Williamson thanked MAN Roland and 24 other companies that donated labor for the installation or press accessories. In addition to web-press training, GATF will conduct process variable reduction research to determine the optimum conditions and settings for operating a press at peak efficiency. The association also will conduct high-speed tests on ink, paper, plates and other consumables.

In the works since 2000

The seeds for the press installation were first planted during a meeting of representatives from MAN Roland and GATF at Drupa 2000. Early in 2001, MAN Roland's Yves Rogivue met with George Ryan, president of GATF, and Ray Hartman, chairman of the Web Installation Committee, to continue the discussion. By June, MAN Roland and GATF had finalized the press arrangements and the association had the support it needed from ancillary suppliers. In the summer of 2001, Banta (Menasha, WI) donated the time and expertise of Charles Dine, manager, corporate industrial engineering, to evaluate and prepare the future home of the press. The Rotoman arrived at GATF in April 2002.

The shaftless press features six AC drives provided by Siemens. These independent drives are controlled by MAN Roland's PECOM system, which synchronizes the units to maintain the speed, tension and register of the web. The PECOM central console controls the entire production line from reel splicers to folder — monitoring the printing process, inline finishing, color register controls, and blanket and chill-roll washers.

The AC drives provide a signal to the PECOM system on torque and other operating conditions. Once collected into a configurable database and combined with closed-loop color information, GATF will analyze these data to ascertain optimum operating conditions.

The press also features a MEGTEC (De Pere, WI) match-speed splicer (flying paster) with integrated infeed splicer, which eliminates the festoon. It can operate at speeds up to 3,350 fpm with a roll weight up to 4,650 lbs. MEGTEC also donated a Dual-Dry TNV dryer/oxidizer system. An integrated thermal recuperative oxidizer is built directly into the unit to destroy VOC emissions.

GATF is now offering operation, preventive maintenance and problem-solving training: Advanced Web Offset Press Operations (Oct. 21-23), Troubleshooting Web Press Problems (Oct. 30-Nov. 1), and Slashing Web Makeready (Nov. 6-8). For more information, see, where you can also find press installation milestones (keyword search “Big Dig”).