Why Automate the Folding Function?

by Mark Pellman, BAUM

The need for automating and/or improving the folding process has become more prevalent today than ever before.

  • Shorter run lengths can require more frequent setups.
  • The emergence of digital short run printing has changed the imaging process but the need for bindery and folding is still there.
  • Less setup time saves cost.
  • Skilled bindery labor is harder to maintain due to a lack of trained personnel and the depletion of a generation of bindery operators.
  • Off-shore and other outside sources are creating costing pressure requiring bindery work to be more cost competitive.
  • The ability to repeat jobs quickly with minimal setup is key to keeping costs low.

How to Determine What Level of Automation is Required

Automation can add considerable initial equipment cost to bindery equipment. Completion of a payback or return on investment plan is critical before purchasing automated equipment vs. manual set-up equipment. Note that all processes required for folding cannot be automated. Many automated bindery machines can claim a fast setup, but is the setup accurate for a quality job?

A complete list of current and anticipated work for the folder should be made to determine if automation is needed. If you are running signatures for books and rarely are making changes to the fold, automation may not benefit your particular job mix. If you are running several short run jobs with frequent changes, automation will pay for itself.

After determining that you have several set-ups, determine how many operators you currently use and how many you might be able to use if automation were added to the process. Determine the skill levels of your operators and match their abilities to the automation to ensure that the investment will pay.

It is important to completely evaluate all the needs for the equipment. All automated folders are not equal. Quick set-up of foldplates (and other guides, etc.) is great for making creases in the paper.

You also must analyze other applications, such as for scoring, slitting and perforating.

  • Can the folder score heavy stocks?
  • Can a wetscore be added?
  • Can pre-slitters be added on larger machines?
  • Can the fold plates all be set to deflect?
  • Can a microperf be performed?
  • Can various gutter trims be performed?
  • Can waste from trimming be removed properly?
  • Can multiple-up work be performed with slitting?
  • Can edge trimming be performed in the 2nd or 3rd stations?

Automate and Innovate

It is great to have automated equipment, but can the automation alone provide the level of quality that is needed? The bindery has multiple processes that all must work together to provide a quality printed and finished product. Automated products cannot automatically adapt to some functions like registration changes of sheets during imaging or printing, paper and ink stretch, and operator errors. Variances in the guillotine cutting process, paper quality, grain changes, etc. also can have an effect.

It can be difficult to repeat the same job time after time if one of the processes before folding can affect the consistency of the paper to be folded.

You must provide more than just automation to provide quality. You must provide information when you automate. An operator must know how to make a fold square, or score paper, or perforate, to name just some of the information needed for the highest quality and productivity from the folder.

Automated equipment should inform the operator as to how to load the paper, how to orient the paper for the proper fold, and more. Automated products that fail to inform the operator of the basics will frustrate the operator and cause MORE set-up time.

Mark Pellman is the director of sales and marketing for BAUM. BAUM has a line of floor-model folders featuring automation and information. The ifold is an industrial touch-screen computer that is mounted to new Baum ifold-compatible floor model folders. ifold provides information right at the machine 24/7 for all operators of all skill levels. AutoSet was developed by BAUM to provide a more advanced setup capability for the operator through automation. AutoSet combines all of the features of ifold and then goes further by adding automation to the folding process, teaching the operator how to setup, operate, monitor production, and maintain the folder. For more information, contact the Baum Sales Office at (800) 543-6107 or visit www.baumfolder.com.