Book Trimming in the On Demand Age

The Binding Edge
Book trimmers from Challenge Machinery feature modular pieces to adapt to a variety of configuration needs.

Historically, book trimmers were designed for long-run production environments; however, today’s on demand marketplace is dominated by short-run productions, which carry distinctly different production requirements. Trimming technology needs to be able to reduce or eliminate makereadies so that book size changes can occur on the fly, with little or no human intervention, said Britt Cary, director of marketing/sales for The Challenge Machinery Company in Norton Shores, MI.

In today’s on demand environment, the efficiency and versatility of automated trimming technology is much more important to on demand book printers than fast production speeds. Cary offered his opinions on the latest technology in book trimming and a glimpse into what the future holds in this arena.

How has book trimming equipment evolved over the years?

The old book publishing business model focused mainly on titles for which publishers expected to sell thousands – if not millions – of copies, and typical trimming run lengths were correspondingly large. High-volume three-knife trimmers meant that manual set-up was required every time you changed the trimmer to a new book size position, which could take hours. This method of production was acceptable at that time because typical run lengths were so long and the need for size changes were relatively infrequent.

As on demand, digital, variable data and similar print models began to flourish, the need has shifted for quick makereadies and size change technologies to accommodate the much shorter runs – down to quantities of one.

How has the popularity of digital print impacted book trimming needs?

Primarily, digital printing has driven the need for book trimming technology to evolve. Digital printing allows book printers to cost-effectively print titles in very low volumes. This has created a corresponding need for trimming equipment that can keep up with the ultra-short-run, quick-turnaround demands of today’s digital markets. Therefore, trimming equipment has evolved to offer automated technology that creates makereadies very quickly with little or no need for operator intervention. This feature helps digital printers efficiently produce ultra-short runs to meet the quick-turnaround demands of their customer base.

Automated workflows are critical to increased productivity in the bindery. How has book trimming technology kept up?

Book trimmers now are available with full automation features. Using barcode reading technologies, certain trimmers now can read the trimming specifications from a barcode on the book block and can completely set up the job without direct operator intervention. This technology is ideal for digital printers that produce dozens – if not hundreds – of different book jobs each day and need to reduce makeready and book size change times down to the absolute minimums.

What advantages do modular solutions offer?

Trimming equipment must adapt in response to changing on demand book printing technology, as well as adapt to the changing needs of individual publishers. Book trimmers have adapted by providing inline, nearline and offline configurations. Each configuration features modular pieces, which create a perfect fit for current trimming needs and will adapt to future needs. With this modularity, customers purchase the configuration that best fits their current production demands and then they have the ability to adapt to future needs without purchasing a whole new system. We recognize that our customers’ trimming needs are constantly changing, and our versatile CMT series is designed to accommodate this reality. Being able to adapt through modularity is a key competitive benefit that Challenge provides.

What needs does Challenge anticipate in the future for book trimming?

We anticipate that advances in book trimming will continue to be driven by the growing on demand market. This means that book trimmers will become faster, smaller – in terms of both size and footprint – and more affordable. We also anticipate that barcode or similar automation technology will become more widely adopted as on demand printers realize the significant benefits for their production workflows.