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Fold on

Feb 1, 2009 12:00 AM

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Jack Rickard knows folders. Rickard, president of Rickard Bindery (Chicago) is a third-generation binder. His grandfather, Fay, founded the family business in 1900 as Rickard Circular Folding and reportedly created the first mechanical gatefold attachment in 1920.

Equipment at the 80,000-sq.-ft., three-shift operation includes more than 80 folding machines of all makes, sizes and varieties 22 gluing machines, five saddlestitchers (up to 12 pockets) and two pocket folder/gluers.

Occupying almost 40,000 sq. ft., the bindery's folding area features equipment from MBO, Heidelberg/Stahl, Vijuk, H+H and others for oversized, miniature, map, gate, pharmaceutical, specialty and standard folding. Twenty-three folders are dedicated to small-format projects such as pharmaceutical inserts. Rickard has 10 primary oversized/map folding machines and some of the largest folders in the country — the largest accommodates sheets up to 44 x 80 inches. Typical oversized folding applications include posters, store displays (signage ranging from 40 to 80 inches in length and six or eight inches in height) and maps.

“We define large format folding as anything wider than 30 inches,” says Rickard. “Ninety-eight percent of all folding machines are 30 inches or less in width, which means they take more length, typically 50 to 60 inches. There is an exception: If the width is less than 30 inches but the length exceeds 60 inches, the job is still considered to be large format. We can fold jobs up to 80 inches long, which is very, very long.”

Specialty and short-run help

Some printers with large-format presses are running multiple-up jobs destined for a sheeter or cutter and don't require outside finishing services. Others will ask Rickard to help with a specialty or short-run job that doesn't mesh with the all-purpose folders in their postpress departments. “For an occasional $5,000 job, there's no [ROI] for a folder that can cost $200,000 to $250,000,” Rickard explains.

Labor is another consideration. “Most binderies set upper limits on total paper poundage employees can effectively handle on an hourly basis,” says Rickard. “Large format stock weighs significantly more than normal sized paper. For example, the same 40 x 72-inch sheet weighs about three times as much as a typically sized 25 x 38-inch sheet of equivalent stock. Naturally, more labor will be required to handle the extra tonnage, not only on the loading end, but also in offloading and packing.”

Rickard has cultivated a reputation for tackling impossible jobs. Among large-format projects, few are as challenging as those printed on synthetic substrates. “They are just miserable [to deal with],” says Rickard. “You need all of your skills. At the most basic level, you're taking a very large sheet and getting it down to a size that's convenient for consumers. Often times, you wind up with a pretty darn thick piece of plastic.”

Maps printed on synthetic substrates offer the end-user many benefits. They are difficult to rip, almost impervious to rain or coffee spills and fold into a handy size for reading and storage. But the same accordion folds that make maps easy to fold and hold can present a huge challenge in the postpress department. “You get six or seven accordion folds into it and the job doesn't want to lay down and take a crease,” Rickard explains. “When it goes into the plate, the folds that have already been made want to spring open, creating resistance as the paper is being pushed into the folding machine's ribs.”

Just when things are looking up, a plastic substrate can buckle before it hits a paper stop. “It folds in the wrong place and you get a big jam,” says Rickard.

Coping strategies include equipping folders with oversized rollers, opening the plates as far as possible and using Teflon tape to ease the paper into the ribs. “Plastic substrates don't lie down and die,” the binder declares. “They retain the memory of their flat condition and are very spongy, which causes all sorts of problems.”

Plastics make it possible

On a positive note, many jobs printed on plastics provide some creative and practical sales and marketing tools. Rickard has produced tape measures distributed in Lands End catalogs and Sears appliance departments. “We will take a 40 x 72-inch sheet and fold it all the way down to six inches,” says Rickard. “We've modified our paper cutters to cut three-quarter-inch strips for tape measures.”

For the clothing company, distributing the tape measures reduced returns and exchanges. Salespeople at Sears give customers the tape measures and ask them to confirm that their new appliances will fit through doorways as well as the intended installation spot. “It's a clever piece of marketing,” says Rickard.

Contact O'Brien at

Find it at

New cutters & folders

“Micrometiculous” (December 2008)

“The cutting edge” (November 2008)

Finishing VLF jobs

The whole package (June 2008)

Big finish

Now cut that out

Let's all go to Miami

Graphics of the Americas Expo and Conference is a popular trade show for the printing and publishing industry in North/South America and the Caribbean. Now in its 34th year, the conference will take place February 26-28, 2009 in Miami. See


Eliminate cracking problems on heavy coverage

Tech-ni-fold USA (Montague, NJ) helps printers and binders combat ink cracking problems on greetings cards, leaflets, brochures and book covers.

The patented Tri-Creaser Fast Fit produces deeper creases on the problem area of stock that is prone to cracking without damaging it. The softer, rubber compound stretches the fibers in the product, allowing it to fold without the ink cracking.

The 8 option device works using a color coding system. The cut in the rotary creasing inserts allow quick and efficient application without having to remove the shafts from the machine.


Six feet & a folder

“Like any other folding job, preplanning and technical knowledge are critical for ensuring customer expectations are met,” notes Jack Rickard. “As an example, consider a press sheet measuring 40 x 72 inches. The narrow dimension, the 40-inch width, must fit within the mouth of the folder, meaning it must be run on an appropriate-sized piece of equipment. Then, six ft. of paper (72 inches) must work its way from the continuous feeder into the folding plates. Not only does the paper have to get there, six feet of stock must clear the first fold plate prior to the next sheet entering.”

According to Rickard, speed expectations need to be refined when thinking about larger folding jobs. “The sheer size of the product being handled means that the concept of ‘high speed’ in large format folding is drastically different from the normal or miniature folding worlds. When planning turnaround times, your customers' expectations should be set in the 1,000 to 3,500 sph range, depending on the specific factors of each job.”

The secret to successful large-format folding is getting the product's length down to a manageable size. “Accordion folds work well because the very nature of the fold allows the product to remain flexible in the right angle section,” Rickard explains. “This flexibility is an important factor because the more pliable a sheet the less stress it will endure, resulting in less wrinkling or gusseting. Once in the right angle section the product is brought down to its final size.”

It's the Baum

Baumfolder (Sydney, OH) Baum 26-and 30-inch wide floor-model paper folders offer high productivity and trouble-free operation. They are available with 8-page and 16-page right angle units, and Baum K20 knife folder for increased flexibility. The reverse-drive continuous feeder provides longer production runs. Other features include removable adjustable-center slitter shafts, sealed ball bearings, automatic grease canister, helical gear drive, built-in batch/total counter, diagnostic messages, patented front blow bars, easy computerized sheet gap control, with combination fold rolls standard. See

Swift pile turning

EZ Turner (San Jose) lets users turn piles in less than 30 seconds. Operators can turn 1,200 lbs of paper up to 37 inches high for 41-inch press, or 35 inches high for 29-inch press. No hydraulic or electric motors are required. The EZturner 40XL has a minimum pile height of 37 inches and a maximum pile height of 48 inches. It can be used with high pile presses with extended delivery as well as presses running cover stock. See

Fold operators are born (and then molded)

David Trutzenbach, a folding guru who got his start in 1957 as a 15-year-old bookbinding apprentice in London, recently retired after nearly 25 years with MBO. He says folder operators are born and then molded — he estimates it takes three to five years for novices to perfect their skills. Got a folding, handbinding or postpress question? E-mail

Count thick stock without curling

Also at GOA, U.S. Paper Counters (Cairo, NY) will launch the Count-Wise III. It can count materials up to 0.007 to 0.030 at speeds up to 1,000 cpm. See

Large format cutting

Schneider Senator's (Rochester, NY) E-Line 185 (72.83 inch) and 260 (102.36) guillotine cutters target large format applications. The cutters can be equipped with various peripheral equipment to create fully automatic cutting lines.

Key features include:

  • Mechanical knife drive and hydraulic clamp.
  • Computer-control with TFT-color monitor.
  • Electrical drive equipment: 400 volts, 50 cycles (other voltage optional).
  • Pneumatic clutch with overload protection.


Inline offset cutting system

With H.S. Boyd's (Tulsa, OK) inline offset cutting (IOC) system, printers can diecut, perforate, crease and cut in-line on an offset press. The system uses chemically etched, machined, flexible dies — complete with blanket bars specific to the user's press. See

Digital inkjet spot UV coater

MGI's JETvarnish digital inkjet spot UV coater will make its U.S. debut at Graphics of the Americas (GOA). The offline digital inkjet spot UV coater on the market provides an alternative to offset spot UV coating.

Designed for larger format applications, the JETvarnish accommodates sheets up to 20 × 29 inches and uses MGI's patented drop-on-demand (piezo) inkjet technology.