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Printing Industry Exchange ( 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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Book Printer Resolves Lamination Debacle

When you’re a print buyer, nothing is better than a book printer willing to step up and make things right when a job goes South.

I received an email from a print brokering client recently. I was attending a baby shower when I read the dreaded words: “The lamination on the initial 50 sample copies is coming up off the cover stock, and the job must be reprinted.” I had visions of depleting my retirement savings to make things right as I called my client. The job was a large one, a photo book (professional quality photos of flowers) with a press run of 1,000 copies.

The Cover Film Laminate Did Not Adhere Properly

It seemed that the dull film laminate was not properly adhering to the hinge score (the vertical fold that runs parallel to the spine), causing intermittent air pockets between the lamination film and the cover stock, and peeling up off the edges of the book as well. To make matters worse, the book was a very small format (6” x 6”), and the cover had a heavy coverage black background. So the flaw was more obvious than it might otherwise have been. It was bad enough, in fact, to render the book unsalable. After all, this was an art book. It had to be perfect to justify its sales price.

Potential Solutions to the Lamination Problem

I discussed possible solutions with the printer. Then I discussed them with my client. The first option was to tear off the covers, reprint them, and rebind the book with the new covers. Unfortunately, in most cases this necessitates retrimming the book, which makes the book smaller. For a photo book such as my client’s, the balance of white space and images was crucial to the design. My client refused the option of a cover replacement and requested a complete reprint and rebinding at the expense of the book printer.

My Discussion with the Printer, and the Printer’s Suggestion

Before I asked the book printer to reprint the entire press run at his expense, I drafted a detailed email describing the problem and explaining why the client would not be satisfied with a replacement of the covers and a retrimming of the book, thus making it smaller. I supplemented my written information with a number of photos illustrating the problems.

The book printer took responsibility for the inadequate dull film lamination, and proposed a solution. He would carefully tear off the covers (a hand-work operation that would be done to all 1,000 copies). New covers would be printed, and the book printer would perfect bind these to the coverless book blocks. The book printer would then trim only the covers, and not the text. If the client was not satisfied with an initial 50 samples, the printer would reprint the entire book. I worked out a schedule with the printer. My client accepted the proposal and waited to see the results.

The Details: What The Printer Actually Did

The custom printing vendor reprinted 1,000 covers and sent them out to be dull film laminated. Then he sent the book blocks out to be perfect bound to the covers. To give my client a few options, the printer produced a deep hinge score in a few covers with his folding equipment prior to sending them to be perfect bound to the book blocks. He also had the perfect binder produce a sample with a shallow hinge score, and one with no score at all. Then the book printer sent my client samples of the three binding options for her to review.

To complete the job, the printer trimmed the cover right up to the text pages without trimming into the text pages themselves (as would normally be the case). To the credit of the printer, this reflects very precise trimming. Instead of using his three-knife trimming equipment to simultaneously effect a face trim, head trim, and foot trim (i.e., all but the bind edge), he used a single-knife guillotine cutter. He cut each side individually in three passes for each book.

Of course, compared to the time it would have taken to bind new covers and trim them on a three-knife trimmer, the procedure actually took a huge amount of time. Although it was not hand work, it still had to be done slowly and precisely to avoid damaging (cutting into) the text pages of my client’s book.

Therefore, I went back to my client to devise a mutually acceptable schedule. She needed books fast. She had numerous preliminary book sales and nothing to send her clients. However, she didn’t need all 1,000 books at once. In fact, she agreed to accept an initial shipment of 100 books. This would fulfill the first orders. It would also give the printer a reasonable amount of time to continue binding the balance of books. I didn’t want the book printer to rush or risk making mistakes. I only wanted a steady stream of books coming from the printer to my client, as she needed them.

The Final Books: An Analysis

I noticed a few things when I met with my client to review the sample books:

  1. My client pointed out that the dull film laminate seemed darker than in the original press run. I looked closely and realized that the film appeared darker because it had been bonded to the black paper stock of the cover far more securely than in the first run. This was a high-quality film lamination job. My client was very pleased.
  2. The covers extended a barely perceptible amount over the text pages of the book. To me it actually looked intentional, although I presumed that this had been done to avoid trimming the book block text pages. My client was very happy. So I asked the printer to proceed, and we negotiated a schedule for rebinding the balance of the books.

One Last Request to Protect the Books

I made one final request. I asked the printer to pack the books more carefully than usual since a few copies of the original press run had been damaged in transit.

A Point of Information from the Book Printer

The printer raised an interesting point. Very heavy ink coverage (i.e., rich black builds) will continue to give off gas for a number of days as the ink dries. If the lamination has not been applied with enough heat or pressure, that gas will look for the weakest point to escape, such as a hinge score or trim edge of the book.

What Really Happened, and What Can We Learn from This?

I’m not sure anyone knows exactly why this happened. I’ve yet to work with a printer over a number of years without a major problem occurring. The ones I continue to work with are those who correct the problems that arise. Printing is not a commodity. It is an art and a craft with multiple processes that can and often do go wrong.

In the case of this book, the dull film laminate material may have been faulty. Or perhaps its application. The small size of the book may have contributed to the cover coating bubbling up when scored and perfect bound. And the heavy ink coverage may have given off gas as it dried, forcing the laminate to lift off the paper stock. Unfortunately this was not caught before the books had been sent out to the client. Or maybe it even occurred during the shipping of the books to the client (if the gas escaping from the heavy coverage ink had caused the problem during the drying process).

But the bottom line was that the book printer made the job right, and the client was far more than satisfied. Not only has she already sold books to clients pleased to see her beautiful photographs, but she also has many friends who want to produce books of their own. I’ll bet you already know where I’m taking the custom printing work.

4 Responses to “Book Printer Resolves Lamination Debacle”

  1. Bill says:

    Nice when everyone is a pro.

    Every printer, as you mention, will have a problem sooner or later. Major or minor it will be major to the client. I used to explain to new employees that our business consisted of thousands of tiny details, none of which were a big deal, unless they were wrong. Then they were mission critical. Worse, it was impossible to make a mistake. Instead, we made thousands of them every time we turned the press loose with a mistake in our product.

    The print buyer who takes a printer’s successful make-good, but still fires the printer by not using them again, is short-sighted and naive. A printer who steps up to fix a problem without trying to wiggle out of it is a supplier to be cherished, not punished.

    • admin says:

      I think that every job is top priority to the client, as it should be. After all, they’re paying top dollar. In this light, there’s no such thing as a small problem. That said, as a printing broker I try to move on quickly to a solution that both the client and the printer can accept.

      When a problem occurs, my job involves finding out exactly what a client will need (so many books right now, then so many books at a later date) and what a printer can actually produce. Then I suggest a solution that often involves compromise. I think both a client and a printer can find common ground when each feels respected by the other. As a printing broker I try to convey this respect to both parties.

      I agree with your comment about the naivete and short-sightedness of a print buyer who accepts a make good but then cuts ties with the printer. I’ve had this happen, and it doesn’t feel good. However, such a buyer will eventually wind up with no printers for his or her jobs, since perfection doesn’t exist. A printer that will act as a partner, produce good work consistently, and take responsibility for making things right when they fall short is a gem to be cherished. Some people take longer than others to realize this.

  2. Vicki Garcia says:

    Steven–just wanted to say how much i appreciate and enjoy your blog. I’ve been in commercial printing for 27 years (ack!) and still love it. I know i’m a printing nerd, but once you get ink in your veins, it’s over…Thanks! Keep up the good work.
    Vicki Garcia

    • admin says:

      Thank you so much for your encouragement. I really appreciate it.

      I’ve been involved in some aspect of printing (writing, editing, design, production management, print buying, and print brokering) for 36 years now. There’s always something to learn. Beyond everything else, I like that printing is a craft and an art form as well as a vehicle for mass communication.


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