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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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Custom Printing: Paste Binding Web-Offset Booklets

Have you ever received a financial statement in the mail, perhaps a short (8- to 16-page) prospectus for a mutual fund, and noticed that it was not saddle stitched, perfect bound, or bound in any other usual way? The nested pages just stuck together and didn’t fall apart. This is called paste-binding, and for the right commercial printing jobs it’s a wonderful way to save money and time.

The Usual Binding Methods

Usually, when you’re producing a short publication, you will saddle stitch the printed product. That is, you will bind it with staples through the fold, and all the pages will stay together. This is good for printed products up to about 80 or 96 pages (depending on the weight of the press sheet). In some cases (usually magazines printed on relatively light text stock), you may even see saddle stitching done on much longer printed products, although there’s always the possibility that pages will fall out if you try to saddle stitch too long a print book, magazine, or catalog. (Your printer can provide you with guidelines pertaining to his specific binding equipment.)

Another way you might bind a short publication is to side stitch the printed product. Like saddle stitching, this uses lengths of binding wire (that look like staples), but these are inserted down through the pages rather than sideways through the fold.

When to Request Paste Binding

If your printed product fits the following requirements, consider the alternative of paste binding instead:

  1. Your booklet is very short (say 8, 12, or 16 pages)
  2. It is printed on a thin paper stock (like 50# or 60# text–or an even thinner stock)
  3. Your press run is long enough to require a web press (a roll-fed press instead of a sheetfed press)

What Is Paste Binding?

If you are printing press signatures on a heatset or coldset web press that will later be saddle stitched, this process requires two separate operations. The web press delivers folded signatures, but these must then be transported to the finishing department. Here they can be saddle stitched and trimmed into your final product on equipment separate from the printing press.

In contrast, if your printed product is short enough for paste binding, a pasting unit on the web press itself will apply a bead of glue to the fold of your printed product and then seat the successive pages of the print job on this glue. This can be done for products with 8, 12, or 16 pages. Beyond this number, the glued pages won’t stay together and might fall apart.

So you can visualize this paste-binding process, on a heatset web press there are four or more inking units through which the roll of commercial printing paper travels. These inking units are followed by an oven that flash-dries the solvent and binders in the ink so the pigment of the ink will sit up on the surface of the paper. After this, the paper travels through the chill rollers, which reduce the temperature of the heated paper and complete the ink-setting process. It is at this point (just before the delivery end of the press) that the folding, pasting, and trimming processes occur, delivering stacks of complete printed and bound booklets for the press operators to carton pack.

The bottom line is that the printed products coming off the web press are collated, paste-bound, folded, and trimmed into finished products ready for use. And all of this happens in a single pass through the web offset press.

The substantial cost savings and time savings make this process especially attractive. Obviously, the actual savings will depend on the length of your press run, the number of pages comprising your booklet, and such, but you won’t be paying for a separate finishing operation. This will save you makeready costs on the binding equipment (perhaps $500 or more, plus the run length cost—the price per M—which might be several hundred dollars or more). This could add up to a material savings. And bypassing the finishing department will shorten the production schedule.

The Main Determining Factor

Remember, this is not a panacea. Not all jobs will qualify. Your job has to fit on a heatset or coldset web press (i.e., it has to have a long press run). It has to comprise only a few pages (8, 12, 16). And the paper must be relatively thin.

That said, if you’re producing jobs like a prospectus for a financial instrument (such as a mutual fund), or if you’re printing a multi-page advertising insert for a newspaper, this might just save you some serious cash.

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