Saturday, October 15, 2016

Finishing in Style: What Happens After Printing?

There is one department in our company that you don’t often hear about… our bindery. This is where we take printed sheets to finish the job. There are often many small operations that need to be completed before the job is ready to be delivered. Even though they are small, together they combine to insure the final product has a professional appearance.
The bindery in our company is where we create the final product from flat printed sheets; products like a folded brochure, a booklet or pad, a spiral bound manual, or a ticket with perforations to make a tear-off stub. The bindery is where we trim business cards to final size and trim the edges of booklets to make them even. It’s where we apply the glue that makes individual sheets of carbonless paper into a set. We also package the order and do the final quality control check. So even though we rarely mention the bindery when talking to you about a project, it is a very important part of the process.

Bindery Equipment

Almost all bindery functions can be performed in one of three ways: by hand (meaning the work is done manually without the aid of machines); with machines after printing is complete (also called offline); and with machines in conjunction with printing (also called inline). Most inline bindery functions are performed by digital printers. Some can collate, fold, staple, and make booklets all at once, in a row, so the product comes out completely finished. When the machines are operating at top speed, it is fascinating to watch – the machine operator loads sheets of paper at one end of the machine, and unloads completed products at the delivery end.

Our standalone bindery equipment offers more than just greater speed. It produces a superior completed product when compared to finishing by hand, such as you might perform in your office. Taken a single sheet at a time, paper is fairly easy to manipulate manually. But create a stack of paper, and the conditions change dramatically.

For example, although it is easy to cut a single sheet of paper with scissors, a stack of paper needs to be cut by a blade. Our precision cutter not only has a blade, it also has a clamp to hold the stack in place while the cut is made. And the knife does not drop straight down; instead, it drops at an angle like a guillotine, smoothly slicing its way through the stack of paper in one sweeping motion.

Our folder is another example of producing a superior product. The folds are made when the sheet of paper is forced against a plate where it buckles, then through rollers to flatten the fold. This process creates the tight fold characteristic of a mechanical fold and is nearly impossible to duplicate by hand. In addition, the feed mechanism on the folder sends each sheet into the machine in precisely the same way, without skew and at evenly spaced intervals. The result is a consistently perfect fold no matter how fast the machine is running.

Allowing for Bindery

You will get the best results for your project if you understand that some bindery functions require an adjustment to the layout of the document file. The three most common are allowances for trimming, folding, and document binding.

  • Trimming: If your document contains an image, line or solid color that extends all the way to the edge of the sheet, this is called a bleed. The layout will need to be adjusted because printers and presses can’t print to the edge of a sheet. What looks like printing to the edge is really a printed image that has been extended past the edge of the sheet, then trimmed to the final size. The standard allowance for a bleed is 1/8 inch beyond the finished size. Take a look at the example above.
  • Booklet-making: Booklets consisting of more than three flat sheets can present a problem known as shingling or page creep. To illustrate page creep, fold ten sheets of paper in half. Gather book. Examine the booklet’s outer right hand edge. Notice that the pages are uneven (shingled). This is the result of page creep. To eliminate the unevenness, the final step in making a booklet is to trim the face (the outer right hand edge). If there has not been an adjustment for page creep, it is possible that text, page numbers, or other images might be trimmed away during face trimming. Making exact adjustments for page creep requires complicated mathematical computations. We use professional software for the computation and layout adjustment to eliminate the possibility of cutting something critical off.
  • Folding: When preparing a document like a tri-fold brochure, remember that the size of panels that fold to the inside must be slightly smaller to produce a completely flat and even fold. Reduce the width of the panel that folds in by at least 1/8 inch. Remember that the position of the inside panel changes from the front to the back. In the example above, the inner panel moves from the left to the right depending on whether you are working on the outside or inside of the finished brochure.
Shift the margin to make sure all information is clearly visible.
No margin shift means important information could be obscured.
  • Drilling/Punching: To put holes in paper for binding or inserting into a 3-ring binder, we may use a spindle drill (similar to a wood drill) or a punch. When you are setting the margins for an item that will be drilled or punched, you must allow extra space from the edge of the sheet to where the image begins to accommodate the holes. We recommend a half inch clear space for an 8.5 x 11 sheet.  
    Shift the margin to the right for one-sided pages. For two-sided pages, shift right for odd-numbered and left for even-numbered pages. When you don’t shift the margin, a hole could be punched through important information. Take a look at this example where the margin was not shifted.  

DIY or Ask Us for Help

The instructions we’ve given to adjust for trimming, folding, and mechanical binding are standards in the printing industry, so they are worth learning. However,  if the software program you are using doesn’t have the tools to make the adjustments easily, then we suggest you let us do it for you. Please call or email us today for an appointment.

Q&A: I was in your office the day my brochure was on press. Why do I have to wait two more days for the job to be complete?

One of the important rules of bindery is not to handle wet press sheets. After your brochure was printed, we put it on a drying rack to allow the ink to dry thoroughly. The next day we were able to cut down the press sheets, fold, and trim without the risk of smearing or cracking. Then your brochures were packaged and considered ready for delivery. Our policy is to have jobs completely finished, packaged, and ready for delivery to you on the agreed-upon due date.

Folding with the Grain

A fold will be smoother and more resilient when the grain of the paper is parallel to the fold. Paper grain is the direction of the wood fibers in the sheet. Paper folds smoothly with the grain and roughens or cracks against the grain. Paper is also stiffer in the grain direction.
As a rule, we print on the sheet so that folds will be with the grain. When this is not possible, we score or crease the paper fibers to stretch them evenly before folding. Scoring is necessary for all heavy weight papers like cardstock, for some text weight papers like glossy, and when an area of heavy ink coverage crosses through a fold.

Stack of booklets folded against the grain produces a rough broken edge.

Start Right, Finish Right

It’s a common mistake to gloss over the finishing touches, but how your document looks and feels is a matter of great importance. The finishing touches on your project will speak volumes about the overall quality and importance of your document, and may very well be the difference between your efforts ending as a customer sale or in the trash. Many times, purchasing decisions are made solely on appearance. To cinch a customer purchase, the document needs to convey a feeling of reliability and trust.

Before you settle for the cheapest printing solution, consider the finishing touches. They say a lot about the overall quality of the document. Adding a product-appropriate finish to a high-quality paper can create an additional element of professionalism, the feel of quality, and a sense of overall value. The easiest way to take the design and print from amateur to professional is to look the part.

We can help you differentiate your company’s product or service to ensure a great impression. Call today to get started.