Bindery Blog

Thoughts about the graphic arts industry and the world at large.

He's Coming After Your Paper

Trump and Paper

I was happy to see that there will be no new tariffs on Chinese printing and bindery equipment. The only problem is that man in The White house is coming after your paper, that is, Canadian paper. Apparently our trade deficit with our neighbor to the north needs to be addressed:

Data from both countries say that the U.S. imports more goods from Canada than it exports – the U.S. says the goods trade deficit was $12.1 billion. Canada has complained that the U.S. Trade Representative is falsely inflating that number by counting goods that merely pass through Canada from other countries.

Either way, the trade imbalance with Canada –America’s second-largest trading partner – is nothing like the $55 billion trade deficit with Mexico, or the $385 billion deficit with China – America’s largest trading partner. The trade deficit with European Union nations was $92 million, according to the U.S. Trade Representative.

One American company, The North American Paper Company, or Norpac, which is owned by a hedge fund, petitioned the commerce department for this new tariff. “Among US paper producers, the company is conspicuously alone in its petition for protective tariffs,” according to Steve Forbes in The Wall Street Journal. “ The trade group that represents paper mills, The American Forest and Paper Association, opposes the tariffs. As do scores of newspapers, book publishers, and printers around the country. They are rightly concerned that is the paper they use becomes more expensive, they will be forced to print less.”

Great news isn’t it? It’s not bad enough we have to compete with computers, tablets, and phones, now we have to pay more for paper. Fortunately congress is fighting back (yes you heard that right!) A bipartisan group of senators (yes you heard that right!) have introduced a bill that would delay dumping tariffs countervailing duties currently being applied to imports of Canadian paper. It would suspend the import taxes of up to 32% on Canadian uncoated groundwood paper. Led by Susan Collins (R) and Angus King (I) of Maine, the bill is cosponsored by six Republicans and three Democrats.

Canada imports about as much from The US as it exports. What is the point of punishing a trading partner with a more or less neutral trade deficit? What incentive does this give to other countries to lower our trade deficit with them?

“What’s especially striking now is that even industries Trump claims he wants to help are protesting his policies,” explains Paul Krugman in The New York Times, “General Motors warns that proposed auto tariffs could lead to less investments, fewer jobs, and lower wages for our employees.”

Mr. President, please stop helping us.

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An Old Hand With a New Idea

DB Brochure with Flat Spine 1

A few months ago I received a letter, not and e-mail, from an inventor who had designed a brochure with a flat spine. Enclosed was a brochure stapled to a 7/8 inch wide, 11 inch long piece of cover stock with printing on it. It was very unusual. I called the inventor, a Mr. Rodney Smith of Smith-Midland Corporation to see what it is that he wanted.

Rodney wanted us to invent a machine that would stitch these strips onto the spine of the brochures. He was not a printer but would purchase the machine for a printer who did work for him. I replied that this was a tremendous undertaking. How do you feed a 7/8 inch by 11 inch sheet to align with the spine of an sixteen page stitched booklet? It was also round cornered to boot.

I told Rodney that my father, Norton Spiel, would be calling him. My father, trained as an engineer loves solving bindery problems. In fact, I think he likes it more than selling machines. So here these two elderly gentlemen began talking.

My father came up with the brilliant idea of perfect binding the booklet onto the one inch wide sheet of cover stock. Yes, some small modifications had to be made and no, it would not operate at the speed that Rodney had requested. Still it was a lot faster than having an operator staple, and I do mean staple, each booklet twice. The operator was getting 60 booklets per hour. The purchase of a Sterling Digibinder perfect binding machine would allow him to bind 250 books per hour.

Rodney and Chris Hottle of Winchester Printers in Winchester, VA came up for a demo and was impressed with the machine. We disabled the nipping table and created a stop so that the 7/8 inch strip could be placed uniformly every time. The machine worked like a charm.

The machine was ordered and is now in operation, binding booklets as planned. Sometimes it takes an old hand to come up with new ideas. Thanks Dad.

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Bindery Innovation and Automation

Book New Geo of Jobs

My daughter was reading a book, “The New Geography of Jobs,” by Enrico Moretti in her globalization class in college. She sent me an excerpt which reads as follows:

“Every time a company generates jobs in the innovation sector, it also indirectly creates additional jobs in the non-traded sector in the same city.

To see how this multiplier effect works in practice, let me introduce you to a small-business owner named Tim. Tim is a bookbinder in San Francisco. His clients are mostly local residents and local businesses, so he is clearly part of the non-traded sector. He employs eight workers who bind books and do custom printing. His employees are good with their hands and tend to have low levels of education. If you visit his cavernous, neon-lit shop, the first things you notice are several beautiful old-style cutting and binding machines that dominate the floor. Bookbinding appears to be a very labor-intensive craft. The technology used in Tim’s shop has not changed much in the past thirty years.”

Tim’s company is a hand bindery. Making custom bindings has not changed much in the past 100 years. Perhaps the machines have improved somewhat but all of the work is the same as it always has been, going back to books of The Middle Ages. I would venture to guess that the technology used in Tim’ shop is the very same technology that was used 50 to 75 years ago.

This is quite understandable. But what if we are talking about a trade bindery? Can a trade bindery survive under such a business model? The answer is no. When a printer gets in a sizeable run of books that require a type of binding he does not currently offer, he goes out and buys the equipment. A trade bindery will tend to use what he has, which is often less that up to date equipment.

An owner of trade bindery recently sold his business to one of his customers and his accounts to another bindery. When I had visited his shop in 2000, I saw he was using manual, table top spiral binding equipment. I pointed out to him that the five girls binding the books were chatting and not really getting good production. He already had an automatic paper punching machine so all he needed was the binder. I offered him our Sterling Coilmaster plastic coil binding machine, which could bind up to 700 books per hour and equal or surpass the production. I sent him the video, which he did not look at and followed up with him for a period of five years, trying to convince him to automate. At times he professed that he was cheap and told us that when he was ready, he would call.

After he closed his doors, one of his customers, a publisher, called me explaining that his bindery had gone out of business and needed to bind over 100,000 books per year. He was looking to purchase equipment and was willing to purchase a paper punch an automatic plastic spiral binding machine. This was something the bindery was never willing to do—even though he had much more work. Not only did he bind this particular customer’s books by hand, he bound all of his other customers’ books that way.

When he sold his business, the bindery who bought his accounts was flabbergasted that he was still doing coil by hand. This bindery has up to date paper punching and coil binding equipment which he had purchased from our company.

Is it any wonder why one bindery is thriving and the other is out of business? This is a trend I have been seeing for a decade, and it shows little sign of changing.

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To PUR or not to PUR

DB PUR and PUR Plus

At the next Print show, Spiel Associates will be debuting two new PUR Perfect Binders: The Sterling® Digibinder PUR and PUR Plus. This adds to our line of The Digibinder®, The Digibinder Plus, and The Digibinder Super, which we will also be debuting.

For those of you who do not know the difference between PUR and traditional perfect binding, the short answer is not much. Everything is the same except for the glue: Ordinary perfect binding machines use ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) adhesives, while PUR binders use polyurethane reactive (PUR) adhesive.

In the past, we have had remarkable success in binding any stock on our EVA Digibinders. Our customers have bound oil infused stock, stock with wax based ink, UV coated and aqueous coated stock. What we have had problems with mostly is very thick stock, such as 100 Lb. cover stock, when used as body copy. No perfect binders can bind this stock. So if you are using stock like this or very fancy photo stock, then you have no choice but to use a PUR Perfect Binder.

Yet our customers, more and more, have been requesting PUR machines. Some have said that their customers break the spine and the pages fall out—No kidding? My response is like the old joke: A man walks into a doctor’s office and says; “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” The doctor replies; “Then don’t do that.” Where in the world can people think that they can break the binding of the book without the book falling apart?

While PUR is not indestructible, it is 50% - 70% stronger than ordinary EVA binding. It can bind stock even if the grain is in the wrong direction. It is much kinder to extreme temperatures. On the hot side, PUR has a 350°F peel failure, as compared with 165°F to 200°F for EVA glue. On the cold side, EVA can crack at 30°F PUR begins to crack at -20°F. I do suppose that considering climate change, PUR books will last much longer.

PUR uses a thinner glue application than EVA (10 to 12ml vs. 25 to 35ml per EVA). Less glue makes the binding more flexible, which allows the book to lay flat.

The downside to using PUR is that when the glue is exposed to moisture, it goes bad. PUR sucks moisture out of the air during the curing process. This takes a good 24 hours. You cannot reuse PUR glue and it goes bad after a few hours when sitting in an open glue pot. This spoilage is common and unavoidable. It is best to avoid open glue pots for this reason and for the labor intensive clean up at the shift’s end. Some manufacturers use a system that sprays a blanket of nitrogen over the glue pot area so as to keep the glue away from air. Still, cleaning up the glue pot can take up to 30 minutes. If a nitrogen system is not used, the glue can only be exposed to air for a few hours, then the pot must be cleaned, new glue put in, and melted. Also, the Teflon coating on the glue pots do not last for the life of the machine and must be recoated about every three years.

The Sterling Digibinder PUR and PUR Plus, uses a nozzle system with a closed tank. The glue is not exposed to air. The glue sprays out of the nozzle for each cycle. The machines can be run all day. There is a five minute clean up at the shifts end and at its beginning. But the glue in the tank may be continually used until it’s gone.

We have found that the nozzle system with a sealer glue tank is the most effective, economical, and user friendly system.

Books are still going strong. Let’s rejoice in the fact that despite recent technological advances, the majority of Americans are still reading books in print. According to Pew Research Center, as of 2016, 65% of Americans read a print book in the last year, which was more than double the share that read an e-book (28%) and more than four times the share that consumed content via audio book (14%).

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Book Manufacturer Speeds Up Their Wire Binding Tenfold

JL Darling Testimonial Web

J.L. Darling has manufactured Rite in the Rain® notepads since 1916 in The Great Northwest. The founder, Jerry Darling created a market for notepads that could withstand rain and other poor weather conditions. Even if their notepads get wet, the ink does not run. They invented a proprietary, patented, archival quality substrate that will last a lifetime under normal use. JL Darling prefers wire because double loop wire binding offers a full 360 degree rotation for pages bound into a book.

Prior to the mid-nineties, they bound their Wire-O books on table top equipment. They then purchased, from Spiel Associates, a used Lhermite® automatic paper punch and a used Sickinger wire binding machine. They added a semi-automatic Rilecart® wire binder a few years later to keep up with their capacity, and then purchased a Sterling Punchmaster® automatic paper punch to replace their Lhermite.

Punching their paper is no easy feat. Due to the durability of the paper, they cannot punch as big a lift of sheets as they could with ordinary paper. They also sharpen their dies more frequently than other paper punching machine users.

While they produce different size books, their most popular size is 3” X 5”, perfect for an electrical linesman or an EMT to tuck in their breast pocket. Also, they have a “header” which has a sombrero hole acting as a peg hanger. The header size was 3” x 2”.

With their Rilecart wire binder, they bound, flipped covers, and boxed an average of 250 books per hour with two operators.

Throughout the years, demand for their product grew. Their capacity did not and they were forced to run multiple shifts to bind the books that they needed to ship. During that time I had tried to help them automate their wire binding. Aside from the cost of over $200,000 for an automatic wire binding machine, we had the problem of book size. While The Rilecart B-599 wire binder could be modified to handle the book size, there was no way it could handle the header size of 2” X 3”.

In 2014 Spiel introduced The Sterling® Wiremaster Pro. The selling price was half of what The Rilecart B599 was. This piqued their interest. . Furthermore, the machine needed no modification to handle their book size, but we still had a pesky 2” X 3” header to contend with. Their R & D Director, John Mattingly and I kicked around some ideas and we came up with the following: Make the header 3” X 3.75” and put a score in the middle. After the books were bound, the header was folded in half for easy hanging. We shot a demo video for them, which you could see here.

After purchasing the Sterling Wiremaster Pro, the fun began. At first they were binding, cover flipping, and boxing 2,700 books per hour. After riding the learning curve, they increased their production to 3,000 books per hour, which is the maximum cycling speed of the machine. They use three operators.

J.L. Darling books can be written upon in the rain, and their production now is right as rain.

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