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Picture perfect

Apr 1, 2011 12:00 AM

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Photo book categories include general albums, wedding albums and specialty books. All-purpose albums are big business for Blurb, Lulu,, Kodak Gallery (orginally Ofoto), Shutterfly and Snapfish. Wedding albums command a premium price, thanks to leather cases, gold foil, special papers and other extras. Specialty books are another high-end market, with museums and real estate companies commissioning catalogs in unique sizes and unusual finishes.

Popular album sizes range from 5 × 7 inches up to 12 × 12 inches and larger. Some processes start with a duplex printed single sheet. Sheets are then assembled and bound as a book block. PUR adhesive is a good fit for photo book production. It's strong — but sufficiently flexible to lay flat — and can securely bond with coatings or fuser oil, an important consideration because most photobooks incorporate full bleeds. C.P. Bourg, Duplo, Horizon and New Bind all have machines with integrated PUR systems or as third-party add-ons. (See “Go to Glue,” July 2009.)

Alternatively, a larger sheet size can be used; the sheet is folded in half. Creasing or scoring the sheet prior to folding prevents toner cracking. Sheets are printed on one side. The blank sides are cold glued and then assembled into a book block.

Some albums use a “stiffener” made of a heavier weight paper stock or a board glued between the blank pages. When assembling the folded photo sheets, or signatures, the paper, or board, is glued to the blank side of the sheet. The assembly process is sheet/board/sheet/board and so on.

For the pages to seamlessly bond together, the board must be slightly smaller. The stiffener attaches to the photo paper slightly above the fold line for optimum lay-flat performance. The glued pages then act as flexible hinges and open fully. Some photo book assembly machines incorporate two mechanical stops for this purpose. One is for the photo sheets and the other is for the board, which creates a gap of a few millimeters on the folded edge.

Photo book equipment options range from simple table-top models that use self-adhesive papers to more high-end systems that use special rollers to apply an even quantity of cold glue. Book blocks or cased-in books bound with cold glue generally must be pressed under heavy pressure for at least an hour before further processing. Gluing and mounting systems for high-volume production can feed a folded sheet, pass it over a cold glue roller, feed a board, then mount the set. Vendors offering specialized photo book equipment include Duplo, GP2, On Demand Machinery, Photobook Technologies, Spiel Associates and Zechini.

Briefly Noted

  • Spiel Associates' ( Sterling Doublebinder can bind up to 300 lay-flat books per hour. It glues the spine as well as between the sheets and offers PUR-like bonding strength.
  • Cromwell Bonded Leathers ( gives covers a luxe look.
  • Nordson ( BetterBook binding hot melt and PUR adhesive solutions include premelting, side and spine gluing and end papering.
  • Zechini's Mephisto can create glued photo book blocks as well as traditional hard cover cases.

Short run case making

  • Finishing Resources distributes Zechini's Roby Junior 2 short-run case-making system A fully automatic board feeder feeds and positions the board pieces onto the cover material.

Don Piontek is the principal of Finishing Resources, a distributor of print-on-demand finishing solutions.Contact him at