The Importance of Stitching Wire

by: Harry Lewis, Dorstener Wire Tech

Saddlestitching has been successfully used as a binding process in print media for many years. The simple, low cost process is ideal for catalogs, brochures, calendars, annual reports and many more binding needs.

It’s important to the industry because saddlestitching offers a choice in the binding process, with benefits and characteristics that outperform other methods. Stitching is simple to lay out, fast to process and, with the third stitch application, offers long life expectancy that outlasts that of a product produced using perfect binding technology. Saddlestitching has better cross-over properties, enhances the center spread ad space and allows for a smaller chance of product failure due to its simple design.

The benefits to companies using stitching over perfect bound technology include low investment costs, low maintenance and lower capital equipment cost. In addition to cost factors, stitching provides a safe, predictable profit margin. Unlike perfect bound technology, stitching is safe for both equipment operators and the environment. Stitching is the answer for a low-cost, flexible solution for binding needs.

How Does Stitching Impact the Bottom Line?

With proper set up, a company is ensured profitability with stitching. This simple, straight forward application makes it easy to estimate jobs, unlike more complicated forms of binding. A company’s profitability is dependent upon reduced down time and maximum operating speeds. Operator experience, excessive downtime and low-quality wire all are factors which contribute to frustrations in the stitching department.

In order to achieve success and increase profitability, a company must recognize that trained and knowledgeable operators are essential to a company’s output. The choice of high-quality wire and the proper set-up of the stitching line all contribute to a company’s profits. Poor performance of stitching wire is one of the most costly issues in the bindery today. A wide range of issues can arise when running low quality wire, including operator frustration, unexpected down time, excessive head repair and slower production speeds – just to name a few. Low quality wire can cost a company thousands of dollars per year. When a stitching line is down for just 10-15 minutes in an eight-hour shift, the cost can be more than $50 for one 15-minute stoppage. If a company has a three-shift operation running five days a week, the cost would add up to greater than $40,000 per year for just one line, all due to a 15 minute stoppage due to a lack of quality in a basic supply item. If a bindery has a low performing stitching line, upgrading to a premium wire could be the answer. The solution to many of the common saddle stitching issues can be overcome by utilizing a high quality wire. A high quality wire will not flake, is pre-lubricated and is spooled properly on a strong, reliable spool.

High quality wire is a definite factor in the performance of the stitching process. Dorstener Wire Tech has implemented a system incorporating high-quality wire with newly designed de-spooling equipment, transport carts and the proper spool size to compliment the high-speed stitching lines. A company should consider each phase of the stitching process, but most importantly, the choice of wire.

What Factors Should be Considered When Purchasing Wire?

Wire is often thought of as a simple product that is just another commodity, when in fact it means the difference between making or losing money on many jobs. Is a high quality wire being used in the binding process? Does the vendor know where the wire is made? Does the vendor have control over the quality of the wire? Does the wire comply with consumer product safety concerns (for example, what is the lead content)?

There are three major factors to consider in the quality of wire:

  • Surface condition and tensile
  • Coating quality and lubrication
  • Wire cast (how well the wire flows off the spool)

Surface Condition & Tensile: The most common issue affecting wire surface condition and roundness of the wire is the quality of the drawing dies and how well the drawing process is maintained. The die is just like any other knife. When dull, it will scar the surface. Dull drawing dies also will heat up the wire, changing its properties and causing uneven tensile throughout the spool of wire.

Coating & Lubrication: Zinc-coated wire, also known as galvanized wire, is the most common type of wire used in saddlestitching today. There still are some companies using tin-coated wire, but it is expensive and does not provide any measurable benefits over a high-quality galvanized product. Stainless steel is another option. Stainless wire should be considered if the end product will be in an environment where the wire is exposed to extreme conditions or because of industry requirements. Medical, food, and pharmaceutical packaging are included in this area.

The corrosion resistance coating on wire is a critical component of wire performance. If the coating is too thick or and has an uneven thickness, it can cause flaking. This is a common problem with low-quality wire. This increases wear and tear on the stitching head components and leads to higher maintenance cost. In manufacturing electroplated wire, the zinc bath must be maintained and checked on every wire lot. If the zinc bath is out of its normal operation parameters, it must be adjusted to avoid poor coating conditions. If a binder is experiencing flaking issues or a buildup of zinc dust on the stitching heads, a premium wire product can eliminate these issues and save money.

A high quality wire will be pre-lubricated during the manufacturing process with a very light coating of oil on the surface. This lubrication is actually absorbed by the wire, giving it a super smooth surface. The application of this coating is critical and ensures performance of the wire as it de-spools and travels through the head. A high quality wire has a proper amount of lubrication to increase line speed and eliminate the adhesion of zinc dust to head parts. In many cases, a low quality wire will have too much or no oil. Too much oil can be as bad as not enough, causing the heads to gum up and slowing production reduce run speeds.

Wire Cast & Spooling: Wire cast refers to how smoothly and evenly the wire flows off the spool. When spooled properly, wire should have a large cast (more than 1.5 times the diameter of the spool) when the wire is allowed to run free on a flat surface. The wire also should lay flat and not tangle or twist.

Wire cast can vary greatly from each spool size. Five pound spools typically have smaller cast than a 35 pound spool. The advantages of a large spool are apparent in the wire cast, but some flexibility is lost with large spools. For medium (5000-9,000 per hour) speed applications, DWT recommends using a 35lb or 200lb spool. The 35 and 200 pound spools have a large inner core that provides a substantial de-spooling advantage over 40lb and 70lb spools.

Stitching wire issues are not always obvious. Sometimes, they appear to be mechanical issues or even operator issues. Before spending money on new stitching heads or reprimanding operators, it’s always a good idea to take a hard look at the stitching wire being used.

Will Spending a Little More on a High-Quality Wire Help My Process?

Using a premium stitching wire can dramatically help improve the throughput process (the number of product produced in eight hours divided by 8). As a gauge, the throughput should be 80 percent or higher of the mechanical speed of the stitching line. Once the machine is running, it should run non-stop until the operator shuts it off. The printed product is seldom the cause of a shut down. If a binder is experiencing low throughput on a stitching line, eliminate one very large variable – low-quality wire. A high-quality wire will reduce down time, reduce head maintenance, reduce operator frustration, increase throughput and increase the profitability of the binding operation.

Companies using high-quality wire on well maintained stitching lines will win more orders. Investing in high-quality wire reduces the cost per stitch, allows the binder to produce a more accurate quote and puts more money on the bottom line.

Harry Lewis is product manager, stitching wire for Dorstener Wire Tech, located in Spring, TX. For more information, call 281-651-6226 or visit