30 January 2017 Finishing

The case for quality binding is made

Gomer Printing bought a new Aster sewing machine and Kolbus case maker from Kolbus UK at Drupa last year. It is an investment that is paying off.

In 2005 the South Wales trade binder that Gomer Press had been using to produce hardcover books closed down. Gomer faced a classic dilemma: should it try to establish a relationship with a new provider, almost certainly over the border in England, or should it bring the work inhouse. It chose the latter path.

Now the Llandysul book printer handles an increasing volume of case bound books fitting its 'beautiful books’ description. And the company has been investing to match demand in both case making and in its ability to produce sewn sections. A new Kolbus DA260 casemaker was ordered at Drupa 2016 along with an Aster Pro sewing machine. Both have been supplied by Kolbus UK in Milton Keynes

The sewing machine has replaced a 2000 vintage machine which has been showing its age, says managing director Jonathan Lewis. “The new machine is faster to make ready, has touch screen control and is more reliable than the machine that has been retired,” he says. “While it was still going strong, we felt it was time to change for a better machine.”

Speed was not the key criterion, though it is a faster piece of equipment and it is more consistent. “We were having trouble if the machine was handling 32pp signatures and then an 8pp signature. The roller setting to push the thinner signature up was not ideal. Now the roller adjusts and feeds the thin section just as reliably as the 32pp signatures,” says Lewis.

Essentially, however, the technology of sewing is the same as 20 years ago. That is not the case with the case maker. There has been a substantial difference in how the new machine works, says Lewis. It means too that the company can now offer quarter bound books. “The old machine was able to produce these books but it was not easy,” he says.

There has also been a step up in quality and consistency. ”It is a far better machine than the old machine,” he continues, “from a quality and consistency point of view. The design of the machine seems to be so much better than before. It is much more productive, offering faster makereadies and can deliver the 40 cases a minute it is rated at. The old machine was supposed to produce 30 cases but we could never get near that on most jobs.

“The new machine looks totally different and set up is different and it produces cases in a totally different way, so it took some time to adjust to the new way of working.”

At first the move into case binding took time as staff needed to learn new skills. Lewis says the recruitment of someone with experience, now the company’s bindery manager, helped. The move has certainly paid off for the business.

It has a wide spread of customers from the Isle of Man to Scotland and back through Norfolk and London, from small independent publishers handling three or four books a year to the major publishing houses, where Gomer's strength is runs of 2,000-3,000, suits their need. “The local television described as ‘big enough to handle the work, but small enough to care’,” says Gomer.

Its Kolbus binding line can produce PUR books, but it is a little used facility. “As case binding has taken off, so we are getting more requests for section sewn work. And we decided to stop offering PUR and that hasn’t made a difference.

“People still think that a sewn book is a better quality rather than one that is notched and glued. Now we are winning more and more case bound titles. The volumes are around the same annually but because runs have dropped, the number of titles we handle has increased.”

This has taken Gomer Press into London’s art book publishers where it can print high quality four-colour work, thanks to investing in a Speedmaster XL106 three years ago, as well as the high quality finishing these customers are looking for.

The investment in sewing and case binding will make a further difference. Both machines arrived last summer and have now bedded in. Kolbus UK provided on site training, including flying a specialist over from Meccanotecnica in Italy on the sewer. It has been quick to send engineers when needed. “And they have offered us more training at any time if we need it,” Lewis says. “The support we have had has been excellent.”

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Robert Flather and Jonathan Lewis

Robert Flather and Jonathan Lewis

Gomer Presssigned deals with Kolbus UK for a Kolbus DA260 casemaker and a Meccanotecnica Aster Pro sewing machine during Drupa last year. The updated machines are faster, particularly in make ready and offer new possibilities to the Welsh print business.

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Kolbus DA260

Kolbus DA260

The Kolbus DA260 was engineered to be operator friendly. Input and output zones are at a convenient height and ergonomically efficient. Makeready is achieved with semi-automated settings. The operator always has a clear view of the whole machine.

The machine suits short run or custom products using multi-sections and thin boards.

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