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Do You Know What's in Your Bindery Equipment Manuals?

[fa icon="calendar"] Fri, Jan 31, 2014 / by Andre Palko

reading instruction manualReading bindery equipment instruction manuals (or any manual for that matter!) can be a chore. It’s work to learn something new. For the writer of the manual, it’s often hard to clearly convey a task in the written word. And sometimes as readers, we find ourselves trying to understand pages that might be poorly translated from another language.

So the temptation is to leave the manual in its envelope and dive right in with whatever information the technician imparted. Or we just fire up the machine with our personal experience and knowledge as the only guide. I’m guilty. But as regular Bindery Success readers know, we’re all about getting the most from your bindery equipment and operations. Failure to ‘read the instructions’ can easily result in little glitches or drains in performance that keep you from optimum output.

Through the years I’ve dispensed with reading the manual enough to know that there’s a price to pay! With that in mind, here are a few instruction manual topics you don’t want to overlook. Confessional examples are included.

Computerized Control Systems

I remember the excitement when computerized back gauge controls started to appear as retrofits for old guillotine cutters. We had a Microcut installed on an old, lumbering Lawson guillotine. I didn’t hesitate to read the entire, rather thin, instruction manual and ask all the questions I could think of.

A few years later we installed a Polar 137 EMC Monitor. This was definitely the next generation. (Now even these machines with their CRT displays look antiquated!)  No longer an after-thought, the computer control was integral to the operation of the system. The instruction manual was thick so I set it aside and began using the new machine with only some brief training from the mechanic. I’d get to that manual later.

I should have studied that manual the first day. My old habits included quite a bit of manual input of cut numbers and commands. Some months later when I finally got around to reading it, I learned to my dismay that most of the calculation I was doing could be done by the machine…in seconds. Those few hours of study saved me countless hours of setup time from that point on. Lesson learned.

These days it seems that folding machines have taken a similar technological leap with computerized controls and automated setup. To paraphrase what one owner of a new computerized folder said, “It used to be that you made the folder do what you wanted it to do with the paper. Now you tell it what to do!” You don’t want to discard experience and knowledge. But if you neglect what’s new in your state-of-the-art folding machine system, you’re probably not getting the most from it.


There are many types of oils and grease, each designed for particular applications and parameters. Generally, machines with high speed capability or complex mechanical operation will require specific lubricants. Once you get the correct lubricant, you also need to apply the right amount in the right location, with the right frequency, as recommended by the manufacturer.

Lubricants do far more than reduce friction. They can transfer heat, protect from corrosion and prevent dirt from contaminating critical moving parts. The wrong lubricant means that one or more of these functions can be missing or impaired. In the end this results in equipment malfunction or breakdown. According to various engineers, improper lubrication accounts for about 35-50% of bearing failures. Our bindery equipment is loaded with bearings. Another example, as we discussed in a recent article, is that stitcher heads frequently malfunction due to use of the wrong lubricant, the wrong amount, or the wrong frequency.

Setup and Operating Procedures

Unless you’ve got a mind like a steel trap and you remember everything from your initial training, you might miss something if you don’t open the manual for a refresher. For some years I struggled to get consistent feeding on a particular pile-fed folding machine. Then one slow day I read the manual and discovered a little 30-second adjustment for that particular pile feeder which made all the difference. (You can read the related article here.)

Vacuum Pump Filters

Many a feeding problem can be fixed by simply cleaning the vacuum pump filters. Folding machine and saddle stitcher pumps provide both vacuum AND blow air for sheet or signature separation. A dirty filter can seriously degrade performance and decrease the life of that very expensive pump. Do you know how often the filters in each of your pumps should be cleaned or replaced? Have you had feeding problems?

Hydraulic Systems

You’ll find assorted hydraulic systems in guillotine cutters and paper drills. It’s usually an out-of-sight, out-of-mind system because they don’t require much maintenance. Yet if you neglect to change the oil when viscosity breaks down, or you replace it with the wrong oil, your cutter or drill performance will suffer.

Troubleshooting Steps

Troubleshooting can put us in a frazzled state of mind if it goes on too long. That’s when we miss something or overlook the obvious. It’s always a good idea to check the manual to see what we might have missed. We might even learn something new.

Today we have online training, videos and graphical user interfaces on the bindery equipment itself. Learning is a little easier. Yet I’d wager however, that no matter how modern your machine, there is an instruction manual lurking somewhere. We all have slow days or occasional down time. That’s the perfect opportunity to give it a little look. After all, who wants to be the guy who’s told, “I’ve forgotten more than you’ve ever learned.”

As always we welcome your stories, comments and suggestions below. And feel free to share with your colleagues using the tool bar above or at the left.

Topics: Staff Training, Bindery Business Tips

Andre Palko

Written by Andre Palko

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