Q&A: Paper Punching

Binding experts believe on demand printing and spiral binding will continue to expand well into the future.

Although technology has changed the manner in which information is received, it has not changed the need to archive important documents and reference materials. Binding experts believe on demand printing and spiral binding will continue to expand well into the future. Industry experts at Punchmaster Tool & Die Ltd. and Update Ltd. offered their insights about paper punching technology in the digital age.

What factors can affect the quality of the paper punch?

Todd Boynton, owner of Update Ltd. in Chaska, Minnesota, recommended investing in high-quality punching equipment and then maintaining that equipment to ensure that it holds up and stays sharp. “You have to stay on top of the maintenance and replacement aspect. The replaceable parts – the parts that do the piercing – are made in different capacities, and some punches are made better than others,” Boynton said.

John Xynos, owner and operator of Punchmaster Tool & Die Ltd. in Sharon, Ontario, Canada, added, “Punching tools are highly misunderstood. For example, I commonly hear people ask for a spare set of punch pins. They figure that if they get a bad cut, then they simply can replace the pins and the hole quality will be as good as new. But, that is not the case.” Xynos said. He explained that when it comes to punching tools, it’s the fit that provides the hole quality. “If you have a bad fit – if the pin is sloppy in the hole – then the punch quality will be terrible. The sharp edge on the punch pins does help, but not as much as the proper fit does,” Xynos said.

How can operators determine the best die to use for the punching job?

Both Boynton and Xynos said die choice is customer-driven. “There are many patterns available – oval, round, square, etc. – and there are six or seven different punch machines on the market that can create the pattern most desirable to the customer for the job at hand,” Boynton said.

Have there been any recent advances or modifications to paper punching equipment?

Xynos said that punching tools have not changed much in the last 10 years and added that if you don’t do it on press, you only can punch through so much thickness at a time – 12 sheets up to 4.5mm thick – regardless of new technology. Boynton added, “You can spend a lot of time and money designing conveyance or auto-feeding capabilities, but in the end, the job still will require a lot of handwork.”

Xynos said that Punchmaster uses the best steel alloy for any application, and if new technology or materials become available, then the company will test it on a few tools. “We will build a tool using new materials and then provide it to a trade bindery for a trial period of time,” he explained.

How has the demand for faster production speeds and smaller run sizes changed paper punching technology?

Xynos said the switch to digital panels has resulted in faster changeovers for smaller runs. Boynton added that coil has sped things up nicely in the smaller-run market, but standard notebook work hasn’t changed much despite increasing demand for faster production speeds and smaller run sizes.

What maintenance steps should be taken to keep the punch working efficiently?

When it comes to lubrication, different tools require different lubrication. “All tools that have a felt strip should be lubricated only with oil,” Xynos said. “We recommend using only oil on all Punchmaster tools because our fit is very precise. The worst thing you could use on our tools is grease, which is too thick to get where it’s needed,” Xynos said.

Boynton added that the cleaning, storage and handling of punching tools is very important. Once the teeth become dull, there’s an entire row of teeth that will need to be either sharpened or replaced.

Punchmaster Tool & Die Ltd. specializes in designing and building paper punching tools and providing equipment manufacturers with tool designs for use in their punching equipment. Update Ltd. is a service company that provides a variety of equipment, parts and supplies for the finishing industry. For more information, visit www.punchmastertools.com and www.updateltd.com.