What's Your Line
What is the best finishing solution for your digital printers, in-line, near-line or off-line? Three printers tout the advantages they have found in each.July 2012 By Erik Cagle
While we're a long way off from saying the offset press belongs in a museum, it is safe to say that digital production presses are capturing more mind share than ever before. This, of course, is the driving force behind how printers situate their finishing equipment with digital presses. The in-line, off-line or near-line debate is anything but a debate, but it is interesting to note the configurations and the rationale behind them, as they vary from printer to printer.
The In-line Route
Take Bookmasters, a full-service provider to the publishing community based in Ashland, Ohio. Ray Sevin, president of manufacturing services, points out that his firm relies on offset and digital printing, with the average digital press run ranging between 200 and 500 copies. All runs under 1,000 are produced digitally, with offset handling quantities in excess.
On the offset end, the average perfect-bound run is 3,000 to 3,500. While Bookmasters' total number of titles produced sees a 50/50 split between the printing methods, about 80 percent of billing is ticketed offset due to run lengths.
About a year ago, Bookmasters installed the scalable Muller Martini SigmaLine, which can produce 1,000 variable length, width and thickness books per hour. Bookmasters prefers to go the in-line route due to schedule and labor savings, but also relishes the flexibility provided by near-line gear.
Bookmasters prides itself on true print-on-demand capabilities and the ability to effectively produce one-off titles. With the SigmaLine, Sevin says the machine brought both variable trim and barcode reader capabilities to the table.
"We can produce product from blank roll paper all the way through to bound book, as well as using it as a stand-alone, near-line binder for other products," Sevin notes.
Sometimes, binding equipment can help bring order and efficiency to scenarios that have the potential to be chaotic. Prestone Printing, based in Long Island City, N.Y., found a unifying influence with its purchase of a Duplo DC-745 slitter/cutter/creaser and a Duplo DSF-3500 full-bleed bookletmaker.
Prestone Printing is an offset, digital and large-format boutique commercial shop that generates $23 million in annual revenues. It digitally produces business cards, brochures, folders, tickets and direct mail pieces, with saddlestitching and perfect binding capabilities. Near-line finishing is the configuration of choice for the Long Island printer.