Saddlestitching Industry Evolves as Some Printers Move Function In-House

by Jen Clark, The Binding Edge

As equipment manufacturers develop machinery that can handle both digital publishing and finishing capabilities easily and efficiently, some trade binderies have seen a drop in work orders for saddlestitched products, which traditionally had been a large segment of their business. For others, as the work remains steady, new developments in saddlestitching equipment and supplies offer a crucial competitive advantage.

Sonja Nagy, chief operating officer of Texas Bindery, Cedar Creek, TX, said the family-owned trade bindery has seen a substantial drop in saddlestitching work as technology advances and printers choose to keep that kind of work in-house. “Most of the newer digital equipment have inline saddlestitching features,” she said. “Before the advent of digital equipment, customers would send out the work and not be concerned with keeping all the functions of production within their own facilities.” Now, Nagy explained, printers are saving time and money by keeping saddlestitching in-house and inline. “For printers, there’s a cost savings when a book comes off of a digital production line, even if it is produced at a slower speed, because it still is being done inline.”

Conversely, Dan Griffin, president and founder of Binderyonics in Elk Grove Village, IL, explained that the type of customers courted by his business means that digital technology hasn’t affected his saddlestitching volume that much. “We are a large-volume trade bindery, producing items like catalogs,” he said. “Our customers are all large web printers, and they still are sending out work. For the sheet-fed binderies, though, I think (coping with digital) has been a real struggle.”

Texas Bindery has three high-speed saddlestitching machines on its production floor, but they are rarely used, Nagy said. “Last year, they were some of our busiest machines, but now most of the material is being produced in another country or the print publication has converted to a digital-only option,” she said. “We used to do a lot of computer manuals and larger client orders producing millions of books a year from sheet-fed and web printers. This year we will produce one-fifth of what we have in the past. The majority of the web presses in our area have closed their doors. Sheet-fed printers have in-house saddlestitching capabilities; and with the tightening of the market, they will rearrange their schedules to keep production in-house if possible. Every year is a new adventure with all the changes that continue to occur in this industry.”

There are times when saddlestitched items can’t be produced in-house, though. “What we do see is more specialty work – large-format, loop stitching, two-up production runs, pocket folder covers, laminated covers or oblong books that don’t fit in-house production parameters,” Nagy said.

Binderyonics sets itself apart from the traditional trade binderies by getting into the mailing and fulfillment business, allowing it to offer binding and mailing under one roof. The items produced at Binderyonics, Griffin said, need to be folded, stitched, cut and mailed. Saddlestitching “is a very cost-effective,” he said. “For clients, it remains an inexpensive process to make the finished book.”

Some of the industry’s latest developments include saddlestitching machines that are highly automated, operator-friendly units that produce books quickly and efficiently. For large jobs, the Osako Micro saddlestitcher from Best Graphics, Menomonee Falls, WI, boasts high levels of automation, fast speeds and the ability to produce thick books. Other features include speeds up to 9,500 bph; 15-second stitch head, clincher and chain positioning; tilt-back, tool-free signature feeder set-up; pull guide fold system cover feeder design; and continuous oil bath circulation in the stitcher and trimmer. Options on the unit include syncro start and stop, downstream inhibit and 4th- and 5th- knife capability.

The DBMi Saddle System from Duplo USA, Santa Ana, CA.

The DBMi Saddle System from Duplo USA, Santa Ana, CA, is a heavy-duty, high-volume collating and saddlestitching system that is the first in its class to deliver the increasingly popular letter landscape booklet. Designed to handle both offset work and short-run digital jobs with equal ease, the fully automated DBMi combines PC-based programming and intelligent feeding with superior scoring and folding to produce up to 4,500 booklets per hour. In addition, its modular design enables users to add three-knife trimming capabilities with the optional DKT-200 two-knife trimmer and gutter cutter, which also can process 2-up applications, boosting its production up to 9,000 booklets per hour.

The Stitchmaster ST 500 from German manufacturer Heidelberg, with US headquarters in Kennesaw, GA.

German manufacturer Heidelberg, with US headquarters in Kennesaw, GA, developed the Stitchmaster ST 500 with individual drive technology, a centralized control system, wide range of feeder models and high automation level. The all-purpose machine, ideal for industrial saddlestitching, can be put to use for a wide range of tasks in next to no time. It can be fitted with vertical, horizontal and cover folder feeders for maximum production flexibility. Automation options for the feeder, trimmer and stitcher – including a quick-change rig for stitching heads and compensating stacker – cut makeready times and enable efficient, high-output production.

The DeLuxe M19-AST Stitcher from Spiral James Burn, Totowa, NJ.

The DeLuxe M19-AST Stitcher from Spiral James Burn, Totowa, NJ, is a single-head machine designed to accommodate both light- and heavy-duty work and can stitch in both flat and saddle formats. It is ideal for smaller binderies because it has a 3/4″ capacity and a range of crown sizes. The stitcher can accommodate eight different wire sizes without changing parts. It also accommodates both the traditional style 18D stitcher head and the side-feed style G20 head. The M19 is foot-switch operated and belt driven by a 1/2 HP motor, for cycle speeds of up to 200 stitches per minute.

The Standard Horizon StitchLiner 6000 from Standard Finishing Systems, Andover, MA.

As the demand for smaller, high-quality books has increased, so have the saddlestitching solutions for producing these booklets. The Standard Horizon StitchLiner 6000 digital saddlestitcher from Standard Finishing Systems, Andover, MA, is fronted by Standard Hunkeler unwinding and rotary cutting technology and allows customers to process from roll to full-color, finished booklets in one continuous process with no intervention or manual touch points. This solution offers inline cover feeding and non-stop booklet production on a wide range of paper stocks at up to 600 per minute, on pace with the speed of industry-leading continuous-feed printers. Variable sheet-count booklets can be produced using barcode scanning or mark reading. An optional high-speed sheet feeder can be added to run from a roll or cut sheets.

The Stitch-Fold from MBM Corporation, Charleston, SC.

Wire-fed technology from MBM Corporation, Charleston, SC, saves customers time and money. The StitchFold is capable of producing high-quality booklets quickly and efficiently and offers features found in larger, more complicated machines. StitchFold replaces staple sticks with spools of wire, saving money while eliminating the need to stop mid-run to replace staple cartridges. It can produce 2,300 booklets per hour – up to 65,000 without having to replace wire spools – and runs inline with a variety of collators. The optional trimmer completes the finishing system.

The FB500 stitching wire spool from WCJ Pilgrim Wire, Glendale, WI.

Using premium wire with a stitching system also can dramatically increase line productivity and eliminate the waste caused by throwing away half-empty spools of wire. The high-capacity FB500 stitching wire spool from WCJ Pilgrim Wire, Glendale, WI, offers to increase production, bring additional cost savings and add safety to the bindery. The 1,000lb spool increases efficiency with fewer stoppages. Its straight winding technique produces straighter wire that is easier on stitching head parts. The system requires no costly de-spoolers, dollies or lifting devices. It also requires no heavy lifting. The wire stays put while an operator positions the stand and trouble-free pulley system. The stand and spool have a footprint of 24×39″ and measure 72″ tall.