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Solving Post-Press Problems with an Attitude Adjustment


Troubleshooting bindery problems can be frustrating, with dozens of variables often leading us in the wrong direction. As we gain experience the process is simplified because we learn to quickly narrow down the field of possible causes to a handful of critical items.

Experience can also work against us as we learn to accept the ‘unsolvable’ problems or we overlook the source of a problem because it’s never happened to us in our experience. For instance, what appears to be a folding register problem due to incorrect fold roller settings might actually be the result of inconsistent feeding. If it’s the first time the feeding issue occurred on that machine, there’s a good chance we’ll initially overlook it as the cause of the register problem.

Spines roundedIf we can learn to listen to experience but keep the mind open, the benefits can be bigger than we expected. Here’s a real-life case which shows how the solution to a perfect binding ‘register’ issue ultimately boosted one company’s position in the marketplace.

Rodrigo Castellanos of Offset Universal SA was not happy with the quality of their perfect bound books. The backbones appeared slightly rounded and register was not up to the company standards for their Muller RB-5 perfect binding lines. (photo left) The problem worsened with lighter cover stocks.

spines squaredIn his experience it initially seemed to be a register problem with the cover feeder. We talked about the issue and decided to try one of our Spine & Hinge Creasers on his Muller. The result: problem solved.

What we both initially perceived to be a ‘register’ issue was actually a problem with scoring. The correct, well-defined score, appropriate for the weight of cover stock, allowed the binder to form the cover neatly around the book block. (photo right)

That’s not the end of the story. Yes, it was great that his production problem was solved. The rest of the story is that their newfound ability allows them to produce higher quality books on a wider range of cover stocks than any of their competitors, even though the competitors are running newer equipment. The net result for Offset Universal is that there is no competition on certain jobs.

There’s a saying I like because it applies particularly to post-press work…”little hinges swing big doors.” A few tiny changes here and there, seemingly insignificant and even unimportant to the casual observer, can add up to profound changes in the life of a business.

In the case study above, the company could easily have ignored the minor ‘register’ issue since all the perfect binding vendors in their marketplace had the same problem. It was a level playing field. By stepping outside their experience and altering one little piece of the puzzle, it changed their position in the marketplace.

The good news for us in post-press is there are hundreds of “little hinge” opportunities to work with. The bad news is, well, there are hundreds of little hinge opportunities! But it’s not hopeless. Use the lens of your experience to focus on a few important hinges, and then brainstorm ideas for improvement.

Then keep doing it because you will never run out of opportunities to improve. Make it a part of your job, even if no one requires it of you. In time your colleagues will wonder how you get so much done while it all runs so smoothly.

As always we welcome your shared experiences and comments below.

Increase Folding Machine Production with this Simple Upgrade


Do you know your bindery equipment can be made substantially more productive with an upgrade that might not immediately come to mind? I’m referring to independent or stand-alone control boxes which allow one segment of a machine to operate independently of the ‘mother’ machine.

A common scenario where this upgrade comes in to play is in shops with floor-model folding machines equipped with roll-away right angle sections. Normal operation requires that you roll the section (or sections) into position and connect to the main section in order to run as one unit. Such right angles typically can’t be run independently of the main section. (There are exceptions to this with some older folding machines.)

When you add an independent control box to a right angle section, you can now wheel that section wherever you need it, to run as a self-contained folding machine. Of course you have to find a way to feed this new folding section but there’s a chance you already have the necessary equipment on your shop floor.

Here are some configurations made possible with the simple addition of the self-control box:

  • Stahl fold unit with scoringRun at right angles to nearly any scoring or perforating machine. (The photo shows a Stahl unit with a scoring machine in which we’re creasing, folding and trimming a 6 panel brochure 2-up on 80# Cover.)
  • Run straight inline with your scoring or perforating machine, using it as a simple feeder
  • Run inline with any number of popular friction or vacuum feeders such as Streamfeeder, Sure-feed, etc.
  • Run at right angles or inline with other folding machines. For instance, roll a 4-plate right angle section up to a Baum 714 and you instantly have 6 parallel folds available or a 2 + 4 right angle fold configuration.
  • Mix and match manufacturer’s machines. For instance if you have an MBO folder with an 8pp right angle section you could combine an independently powered Stahl right angle with the MBO to create a 16pp machine.
  • Run an 8pp and a 16pp right section together with any feeding source just mentioned and you instantly have a ‘new’ 8pp folding machine
  • Run a knife fold or buckle fold unit inline with a saddle stitcher to do a final soft fold of stitched books
  • Run inline with a digital press or copier

As you can see, the potential is big. You don’t lose floor space with the additional capacity because the machines are already on your floor. The investment is low, ranging from $500 up to $3,000 or so for simple control boxes and slightly higher for more complex boxes. Implementation is fairly straightforward since the boxes are readily available from Baumfolder, Stahl and MBO for many of their popular units. If they’re not available, a good technician can fabricate a suitable retrofit.

I spoke with Dave Double of Double Equipment in Ohio, who has done numerous control box installations from the basic to the complex. Says Double, “It’s important to keep in mind the overall process. For instance, how will it start and stop? You don't want to start up a saddle binder without first starting up the knife folder at the end; otherwise you jam up and waste books. Or if the knife folder jams or stops, you'll want the binder to automatically shut down.”

With accurate schematics and machine information, custom controls can be built to interface most machines if an off-the-shelf box is not available or if the box needs a little modification to suit your process.  According to Double you might run into difficulty with older equipment where plug styles are obsolete or hard to find. Also some newer machines use serial communication between units in which case you may run into proprietary software issues.

Check with your local folding machine dealer or the manufacturer to learn what types of boxes are available for your equipment. Or contact Dave Double via his website if you are interested in an installation.

It’s a project worth investigating since the return on investment can be significant, with a rapid payback on your initial investment. Review the bindery equipment on your floor and do a little mixing and matching. If you need a feeding source, there are plenty of new and used feeders, scoring or perforating machines available to suit the jobs you want to run. Add creasing, perforating and cutting tools as needed and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the value of your new production center!

It takes a little planning, a few dollars and perhaps some technical support to help with the integration, but it’s a simple procedure and most of us bindery types like this sort of challenge. The net result is an increase in your bindery department’s production capacity and flexibility at very little cost. In our rapidly changing industry every added bit of flexibility goes a long way toward meeting your customer’s needs.

As always, feel free to share your comments, experiences and suggestions below!

Top 5 OSHA Violations for Commercial Printing Companies


In 2010 OSHA stepped up enforcement actions against printing companies due to “persistent high levels of amputation” in the industry. (Details here in a previous Bindery Success blog post.) Early data from OSHA reports suggest a positive trend.

From 2002 through 2009 there was an annual average of 1.9 fatalities and 11.6 serious injuries investigated by OSHA (with a low of 7 injuries in 2008 and a high of 16 in 2007 and 2003). In 2010 however, there was only 1 injury and 1 fatality.

Lockout Danger200The most frequently cited violation for commercial printers these days is the lockout/tagout standard 1910.147, The Control of Hazardous Energy. (data for Oct. 2010 – Sept. 2011) Circumventing safeties, guards and lockout procedures is of course the quickest path to a higher rate of injury among press and bindery equipment workers. Although equipment these days is well designed and safe when operated correctly, danger lurks when you try to beat the safeties.

The top five violations:

  • 19100147     The control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout).
  • 19101200     Hazard Communication.
  • 19100219     Mechanical power-transmission apparatus.
  • 19100212     General requirements for all machines.
  • 19100178     Powered industrial trucks.

One typical example is the worker who had fingers amputated while working around a stacker. The guard’s safety switch had been deactivated and the worker decided to clear a paper jam, with the guard up and the stacker still running. He lost two fingers when his hand was pulled into the running machine.

I worked with a young pressman who was permanently disabled on a press while washing up using an unsafe procedure. I met a cutter mechanic who lost an arm during a pre-OSHA cutter repair. Another colleague, an experienced guillotine operator, accidentally walked into an exposed knife edge during a knife-change operation. No serious injury there, but it could have been much worse!

Injuries and fatalities are bad enough but there are also fines involved with each violation. The average fine for the lockout/tagout violation was $1726, with an average of 2 citations per inspection location. The second most cited violation for this same period was standard 1910.120 Hazard Communication, the purpose of which is to “is to ensure that the hazards of all chemicals produced or imported are evaluated, and that information concerning their hazards is transmitted to employers and employees.”

An important feature of these and most other standards is the training requirement for employees. If you don’t have a system for training and educating with regard to the standards, then you might be in violation even if all your equipment is in perfect order.
So even though we seem to be on the right path, it’s a good idea to not let your guard down (pun intended)  especially with continuing increased scrutiny.

While it may seem a daunting educational and training task, the good news is that OSHA offers a free interactive training program online, at You don’t have to create a training program from scratch, at least with regard to lockout procedures. They also offer numerous worker training classes, grants and resources at It takes a little research but there is a lot of content and assistance available.

The Printing Industries of America also offers assistance with several resources listed here at and

As always we welcome your comments and suggestions below. Stay safe!

Avoid Folding Problems - Curled Cover Stock and 'Alligator Skin'


Despite their versatility in the bindery, folding machines do have limitations. The bigger the diameter of the fold roller, the heavier the sheet that can be run. Grain direction also matters. But before you take the salesman’s head off for suggesting that you score and fold an 18pt cover stock, consider this technique that might help you finish an impossible job.

wrinkled paper If you're new to running cover stocks on the folder, you'll find you can easily hit those limits, which show up in two ways:

  1. Excessive curl which makes it difficult or impossible to further process the sheet in the folder
  2. The “Alligator Skin” effect in which the paper surface wrinkles or cracks from wrapping around the fold rollers (illustration at right gives you an idea.)

Many years ago I was given a 16pt C1S cover stock to score and fold on a 26” Stahl folder using a Tri-Creaser. The first sheet out of the machine had a severe curl and severe wrinkles. At the time I had just received a tip for improving register when scoring on folding machines. I was looking for the opportunity to try it so in a “let’s see what happens” state of mind, decided to try it on this problem even though it was apparently unrelated.

Lo and behold, the alligator skin disappeared, the curl was drastically reduced to a manageable level and it registered perfectly.

Here’s the simple technique, which comes to us from Graham Harris of Tech-ni-fold Ltd. The job illustrated is a 4-page brochure with the score (crease) applied in the first section and the fold carried out in the right angle.

  • Place one strip of the paper you’re running in fold roller caliper # 1 and one strip in the slitter shaft caliper.
  • Place five strips of the same paper in calipers # 2-5.
  • Check that caliper #1 and the slitter shaft caliper are set evenly and with correct tension.
  • Check alignment of the side lay. The sheet should enter fold roller #1 perfectly square.crooked score slow side
  • Check that all deflectors are closed and pushed all the way into the stops.
  • Run a sheet and check that the score is square to the sheet.
  • If it’s not square, identify which side of the sheet is running slowest (see diagram at right) and remove 1 strip of paper from caliper #2 or 3 on the slow side. Run another test sheet and repeat process as needed until the score is square.

Fold Rollers Min Sheet Length250The idea makes sense with regard to folding machine register; after all you only need to get the sheet to the slitter shafts to apply the score (or perf.) The other fold rollers and deflectors don’t really serve any purpose. Of course you face another limit since the sheet must be long enough to be gripped by the slitter shafts before it leave the grip of fold roller #1 (see diagram at left.) You'll need to figure this dimension for your folder.

Regarding the alligator skin effect and the decrease in curl, I have a hypothesis. When you open up the fold rollers with the 5 sheets, you increase the center-to-center distance of the fold rollers. In effect it’s similar to having larger diameter fold rollers; thus you can run heavier sheets.

When scoring and folding cover stocks you also want to be sure to use the ‘down’ fold plates, preferably #4 for a single fold. Click Here to read more about this technique in a previous blog post. If needed apply the technique above in the right angle section to minimize the chance for wrinkling.

Although there are still limits to what you can run, the above technique should easily increase your folding machine’s capability and turn some impossible jobs into manageable ones. If you are scoring and folding a large volume of very heavy stocks, then it might be time to consider alternate bindery equipment in which the sheet travels a flatter path. These include plow folders, card folding machines, folder gluers as well as accessories for buckle folders. It’s too much to cover here but look for upcoming articles.

As always, feel free to share your experiences and comments below!

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