The jury is out on whether a MkIII version of a car can be a better machine than the MkII. Is the Escort MkIII an improvement over the MkII model? How about the MkIII Golf? Few would claim that the MkIII Cortini was a patch on the far more desirable MkII while the Capri Mk3, as driven by Bodie in The Professionals, leaves the Mk2 for dust.
The later version of a machine is meant to represent improvement, something better than the current version. The designers do not always get it right. However, Horizon looks to have done just this with the MkIII StitchLiner shown to a group of UK printers on a recent trip to Horizon’s European showroom near Hamburg.
It was an eclectic collection, representative of the industry, interested in digital finishing, packaging, book production as well as saddle stitching. It was representative too in mixing managing directors with machine operators.
And it was one of these who wanted to take the StitchLiner home with him. He held up a A6 stitched booklet, cut squarely and dropping into the delivery at 6,000cph. Running this job on the StitchLiner at the factory would mean dropping running speed to below 2,000 sheets an hour to prevent misfeeds and to make sure the job ran smoothly.
For Horizon the big difference is that this is the first StitchLiner able to finish a landscape format A4 product. Until now if IFS has a customer interested in a this style of brochure, he has been directed towards the SPF-200A booklet maker.
In car terms, the new design looks beefier and the new StitchLiner appears a much more robust machine with a large touch screen for an operator to drive the machine.
The line begins with the HOF digital sheet feeder. This works with digitally printed sheets and includes the option of a bar code reader ensure that covers and sheets marry up. Alternatively the line can take preprinted sheets from the VAC collating towers.
Each sheet is fed into the end stops where its front edge is curled slightly. It helps with knocking up, replicating the way a skilled finisher will flex sheets to help in jogging the sheets. Four pushers ensure that the sheets are as square as possible ahead of folding.
There is a new scoring wheel, offering better scoring quality and greater ability to make fine adjustments on the fly. The plow folding section has been extended to reduce stress on the paper. There are two Hohner stitching heads with stitch length that adjusts to the thickness of the brochure or magazine.
The job is turned again through 90o into the cutting section where the three-knife trimmer requires no manual intervention at set up.
These are by way of evolutionary improvements, using customer feedback to bring the StitchLiner into 2017 to handle the changing nature of the jobs printers want to handle: smoother operation for a better quality product, the A4 landscape and ease of handling for non standard sizes and papers.
“We have improved the paper transport to make production more stable running different formats,” says IFS managing director Bryan Godwyn. “And it is much more operator friendly. There is very clear error messaging and pictogram displays to show where a jam has occurred and which stop button has been triggered.”
The revolutionary aspect is the introduction of servo motors at every point where settings need to be changed and automation which can move from format to format in 13 seconds. In operation fine adjustments can be made on the fly and it paves the way to produce variable pagination documents using the digital sheet feeder and barcode readers to control the process.
The StitchLiner can connect to Horizon’s pxNet digital control environment and from there to JDF. It will produce jobs up to 50pp thick (according to the thickness of the substrate and with the speed of changeover enables a single machine to take on production that would previously have needed a separate booklet maker and saddle stitcher.
The roll out has begun with the first six machines sold to printers in Germany and the first of these arriving at the end of this month. A beta machine has been running at a customer in Japan for six months already.
The StitchLiner MkIII is just the tip of the iceberg as Horizon adds other developments which take the business further into larger print businesses. A number were previewed at Drupa and are now becoming available.
The BQ480 is the new four clamp binder that builds on the success of the BQ470. Crucially it is in addition to this machine, not a replacement for it. The BQ480, however, is the machine for book of one and highly automated production lines.
There are incremental improvements over the BQ470: a stronger milling station, improved scoring with a more rounded wheel to avoid damage to laminated covers that can occur with sharper edges.
The big difference comes with a 50% faster make ready. With a sequence of different format books in ultra short batches, the cumulative effective will be large. In book of one mode, it can deliver up to 800 books an hour, dropping as books become thicker.
A set up device measures all the parameters of a book block and loads this into settings for the clamps, gluing and milling units and the cover feed. This adjusts the position of the score wheels from the centre of the spine, though users can cope with custom positions if required, measuring from one side to the first score if needed.
It will work with both hot melt and PUR glues with a lift out tank to enable a swift change from one system to the other.
The user can also opt to place a barcode reader to match block and cover as part of the set up station or above the clamp. The latter is preferred as if there is an interruption, the user will place the book in the clamp rather than back in the stack.
A bar code can also identify the book block to the HT1000V automated three- knife trimmer, using an ink which can only be read under a UV or IR lamp to avoid interference on the cover design.
The cover feeder is a modular unit that points to a future where different modules can be offered. Currently to cope with casebound books, preprepared templates of gauze and end papers are recommended.
The BQ480 is now available, priced around 30% above the BQ470 but with greater automation and 50% faster at makeready will find appeal. Already doing so is the forthcoming RD4055 rotary die cutter. This uses magnetic plates for upper and lower dies, can use a stepping process to employ a smaller die than the length of the sheet.
It is a step into the packaging sector which is considered both recession proof and a market that is moving towards shorter immediate production runs.
The AF406 is a folder that again employs servo motors to handle fast set ups. The servo motors are also used to push shafts into precise position where the operator merely needs to lock these up for the folder to be ready to fold pharmaceutical leaflets.
It is not going to replace the multi-plate H+H or GUK folders, but as an addition to these, provides a way to easily handle smaller format labels with a much, much faster makeready, says Godwyn. “But rather than 30 minutes or more to make ready, the AF406 is ready in 35 seconds.”
The biggest of the new generation machines is the Smart Stacker, a finishing unit that slits and cuts a B2 digitally printed sheet leaving stacks of products that can be wrapped and packed ready for delivery. This can deliver up to 28 products from the B2 sheet. The first is in use inline to the HP Indigo12000 at Route 1.
It is further indication that automation is driving product development for Horizon.
“It is not green button technology,” says Godwyn. “Operators still need some skills. We have concentrated on folding, stitching and binding, now looking to packaging and pharmaceutical fi nishing. We don’t want to stay still.”