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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Digital Commercial Printing: Print Books

It has become commonplace to be able to print just one of almost anything. Digital commercial printing has evolved to this level. It no longer surprises us, even if the one-off printed item is intricate and precise, perhaps with special cover coatings or digital ink treatments. Even operations that had relied on diecutting (such as embossing and foil stamping) have digital counterparts, allowing prototyping of even a single item, such as an ornate box for a new product.

That said, most post-press operations are still assumed to take a lot of preparation. For this reason (among others), operations such as perfect binding have been more appropriate for either long runs on large machinery or shorter runs done on tabletop equipment. But even this is changing.

Enter the Muller Martini Vareo

A colleague recently shared promotional literature with me that describes the new Muller Martini Vareo perfect binder. I found the concept of one-off perfect binding to be most intriguing, so I did some more research.

To quote from Muller Martini’s 4/17/15 press release, “The Vareo efficiently processes medium runs down to books of one with the highest quality of any perfect binder in its class.” What this means in practical terms is that with quick make-ready and a running speed of 1350 units per hour, this new perfect binder can be cost effective for even ultra-short runs.

Until just recently, a major characteristic of perfect binding rendering it cost-prohibitive for short runs was the ample make-ready time required to set up a perfect-binding run. In contrast, the Vareo can be ready to go immediately, “with the very first book being sellable.” (Muller Martini).

Technical Specs That Allow for Flexibility

Here are some of the selling points noted in the promotional literature from Muller Martini:

  1. Each of the three clamps in the binder has its own servo motor. What this really means is that you can feed different book blocks requiring different treatment (perhaps because they are composed of different binding materials), and each processing station in the binder can be adjusted appropriately, even for one book.
  2. The equipment can be configured to operate in-line, near-line, or off-line, for maximum flexibility.
  3. The Vareo can process print books with spines ranging from .0625” (1/16”) to 2.36”.
  4. The equipment can be set up with integrated book measuring and barcode scanning technology to ensure that the right book block is paired with the right cover and that the treatment is appropriate for the print book’s size and materials.
  5. The Vareo can be used with either a hot melt EVA glue pot or a PUR glue pot or glue nozzle. In fact, more than one gluing option can be used on the same run. By mounting the applicators on a trolley, the systems can be cycled in and out of position as needed.
  6. The Vareo can be equipped with a crash feeder (the liner attached to the press signatures) to allow for lay-flat paperback binding or traditional case binding. (In this case, the press signatures are glued to the crash, and the crash is glued to the edge of the front and back book covers rather than being glued to the print book spine.)
  7. Muller Martini’s new perfect binder can be used to bind either digitally produced or offset printed products. For instance, a printer might produce 4-page signatures with bleeds on an HP Indigo digital press and then bind the books on the Vareo, or he might produce 16-page signatures on an offset lithographic press and then use the same Vareo equipment to bind the run.
  8. In addition to being flexible (from binding run to binding run, and even within a single run), and in addition to being appropriate for multiple press room configurations (in-line, near-line, and offline, as mentioned before), the Muller Martini Vareo is comparatively easy to operate, using set-up wizards to facilitate preparation.

Ideal Products, and Implications for the Future

Off the top of my head I can think of a number of uses for which this binder would be ideal. These include prototypes of any printed hard-cover or soft-cover book, photo books for individuals or families, personalized catalogs, and high-end print collateral.

What this means on a global scale is that consumer demand for personalized and short run perfect bound print books has brought to market very flexible, and yet still precise, bindery equipment. In an age where publishers opt for multiple short-runs in lieu of longer runs with potential warehousing considerations, original equipment manufacturers are stepping up and filling the demand with outstanding products such as the Muller Martini Valeo. I will be most interested in seeing how this plays out in upcoming years.

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