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What's Your Best Bet In The Bindery?

April 2004
Perfect binding, saddle stitching and mechanical binding each have their places. Find out which ones are best for your in-plant.

By Vincent De Franco

As in-plants bring increasingly more work in-house, they're finding themselves in direct competition with commercial printers. Therefore it's crucial they have up-to-date equipment that enables them to compete. This is especially true of bindery equipment, since the binding and stitching on a booklet is often the first thing a customer notices.

When shopping for bindery equipment there are three major categories from which to choose: perfect binding, saddle stitching and mechanical binding (double loop, etc.). The most common bindery process for in-plants has always been saddle stitching, the simplest and least expensive of the processes. After signatures of printed pieces are collated, a saddle stitching machine mechanically forces stitches through the booklet to produce a bound piece. A true saddle stitch resembles a staple, but is actually a sewn, cut piece of wire that comes off a roll. Many magazines are saddle stitched due to the speeds (up to 20,000 binds per hour) and low per-unit costs.

Lower capacity "stitching" machines, often referred to as bookletmakers, use cartridges of pre-formed staples. These machines produce at much slower speeds (500 to 800 per hour). Although they are technically not "stitchers," in this article we will group them in the saddle stitching category due to the almost identical appearance of the final product.

Because of their high speeds and low per-unit costs, saddle stitchers have always been a logical choice for in-plants producing internal communication documents, where speed and cost are issues, according to Bill Francis, director of Trade Sales for James Burn International (JBI).

"Saddle stitching is affordable and plentiful, and most in-plants have in-line capability to produce saddle stitched documents quickly and inexpensively," he explains. "The downside comes in when producing a presentation item using high-end color, because the staples just don't add the "pop" that the piece needs to get noticed."

This "pop" Francis refers to is more apparent in printed products finished with mechanical bound machines, which JBI also makes.

The Mechanical Method

Mechanical binding refers to the process of finishing a booklet or printed piece by punching holes in the binding edge and inserting wire or plastic spirals or loops to hold it together. There are very different types of mechanical binding (Wire-O, plastic coil, double loop, etc.) each with their own set of benefits and drawbacks, but we will treat them generically for this article.
 

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