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Collators The Options Are Open

October 2003
While the price of collators remains relatively constant, manufacturers recommend considering a few things before buying.

By Erik Cagle

You don't have to tell Aldridge Free about the benefits of having a new collator. For years he ran an old, second-hand model at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Central Printing and put up with a host of difficulties.

"We had a lot of trouble feeding certain kinds of paper," he remarks.

Sometimes he would have to stop the machine after it put together two or three books and adjust it. Other times the collator wouldn't run the paper at all, and the in-plant's four employees had to borrow people from other departments to "walk the tables," as Free puts it—manually collating jobs like campus handbooks and carrying them to the stapler.

All that is a thing of the past now. About a year ago, the in-plant bought a Duplo 4000 two-tower collator, and life hasn't been the same since.

"You have trouble keeping the bins full, it's running so fast," Free says.

The new model not only collates, but has an inline cutter and bookletmaker. It also uses suction feeding instead of friction feeding, eliminating paper runnability problems.

"It's helped us out a whole lot," says Free.

His in-plant is not the only one that has discovered the benefits of adding a modern collator. In-plants everywhere are finding them necessary for handling the productivity demands of customers.

"In today's competitive market, printers must be equipped with collating solutions that will allow them fast turnaround without compromising productivity," says José Alvarez, marketing coordinator for Duplo USA—and it helps, he adds, that modern collators are much easier to use than older models: "Unskilled workers with minimal training are capable of operating the equipment."

Collators with quick, easy and accurate setups are essential, agrees Don Dubuque, marketing manager for Standard Finishing Systems.

"Look for simple, but powerful, intelligent programming, ideally with an icon-based touchscreen that will guide you through setups and make it easy to cross-train operators," he says. "Few [in-plants] today have the luxury of dedicated operators for particular equipment."

Versatility is a key ingredient for serving the evolving needs of clients, according to Tony Cockerham of Buhrs Americas. Feeder varieties merit attention.

"One should pay great attention to the types of feed hoppers available and their ability to run the different types of product," he says. "Is the product to be collated single sheets, multiple pages, stitched books, perfect-bound books? What are the thickness requirements? Do the feed hoppers have quality checks such as miss-feed or double-feed detection?"


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