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Growing with photo books

Mar 1, 2009 12:00 AM

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“Photo books are keeping us busy,” says John F. Jacobson, Jr., president of On Demand Machinery (ODM) (Elizabeth, NJ). “We still do a lot of on-demand work with companies such as Lightning Source, but this has been our biggest growth area in the last four years.”

In the days prior to digital photography and printing, most wedding albums incorporated glued pages and resembled children's board books. A single copy might cost $1,000 vs. $150 to $200 for a digitally produced book. “Instead of a single [event], today people might order books for multiple occasions,” says Jacobson. “A lot of companies also utilize photo books for catalogs or real estate prospectus.”

ODM's users range from small printers with one digital press and book production line to a photo processor with 25 presses and 18 sets of ODM equipment under one roof. Most customers have HP Indigo presses and produce an average of 750 books per day.

Some ODM users have outgrown entry-level binding options or are looking for more flexibility. “Our core system is case making for producing a hard cover and casing, which is our Sticker casing in and Smasher building in machines,” says Jacobson.

The Casemaking line consists of the Spreader Topside gluer, the Slider Case Gauge, Stomper turning in machine and the Squeezer rotary press. ODM also offers an automatic side sewer (“Super Sewer”) as well as a fully automatic, self-adjusting building in machine (“Super Smasher”).

A basic ODM system, depending on the configuration, typically costs $80,000. “If you just bought a $500,000 digital press, you don't want to skimp on bindery equipment,” says Jacobson. “Our customers can produce high quality books equivalent to those produced on traditional high-volume bookbinding machines.”

Jacobsen urges prospects to consider the value of an individual photo prints vs. a bound, hardcover book. “It's usually $0.30 per print vs. $25 to $30 for the photo book,” says Jacobson. “[Would you] still want to skimp?”

Jacobson proudly notes ODM products are made in the United States. “Given these times that's important to us and it should be to others, too.”

About ODM

ODM traces its roots to American Graphic Arts (AGA), a used equipment dealership founded in the 1920s. In the late 1970s, AGA hired John F. Jacobson, Sr. as part of its effort to expand beyond used presses and die cutters.

Jacobsen Sr. was formerly a plant engineer at the Tapley Rutter Co. (Moonachie, NJ), a company known for its fine Bibles and extra-bound books. In 1985, he bought AGA and the company increased its equipment rebuilding and custom retrofitting activities.

In 1997, as the first digital presses were coming to market, AGA launched ODM. Jacobsen Jr. says years of rebuilding used equipment helped the company identify and avoid potential design flaws. “The first few years were tough, but the [on demand market] has blossomed in the last few years,” he says, “It's going great. Last year we sold 100-percent new machinery.”