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Prevent Transit Marking

Have you ever shipped a perfectly produced job only to have your customer complain about ink rubbing away?  Has a job arrived at destination with mysterious marks or scratches?  If you said yes, then you know that “transit marking” can be a major problem.

The most discouraging thing about transit marking is that it happens after jobs have been beautifully produced.  Transit marking is just as its name implies; unwanted marking that occurs during shipping.  Unless preventative measures are undertaken, abrasive paper surfaces can rub against each other and cause marking as products are jostled around in trucks.  The presence of microscopic grit, such as press powder or carton debris, can cause unattractive scratching in a paper’s surface.

Product movement within a box during shipping is the major cause of transit marking.  Transit marking happens on many types of printed products, including brochures, saddle stitched projects and books.  Although there is no way to predict with certainty which jobs will experience transit marking, preventative steps can and should be implemented to minimize the likelihood of problems.

Predictive Indicators
First, determine if your job is a candidate for transit marking.  If the outside sheets have moderate or heavy ink coverage and lack any paper coating (i.e., UV coating, varnish, aqueous, or film lamination), extra care should be taken in packing the product.  Before your bindery begins working on a job that may transit mark, check for wet ink by running your hand across sheets, searching for tackiness.  Unfortunately, even if your ink is dry and the job has been flood varnished, there is still no guarantee that transit marking won’t happen – especially if dull varnish was used.  Generally speaking, you’re less likely to have marking problems if gloss varnish is applied “dry trap” (a separate press run) instead of “wet trap” (the same press run as the ink).

For saddle stitched books, consider the physical characteristics of the book itself.  High gloss enamel stock reduces ink penetration and causes ink to rest high on the paper’s surface and can easily be scratched or chipped off.  Heavy books with unvarnished enamel covers are highly susceptible to transit marking.  If products have die cut areas, pockets, half size sheets or any other uneven surface levels, marking may occur along raised edges after pressure is applied – much like a brass rubbing.

Be careful of printed products with heavy dark ink coverage on one side and light coverage on the other.  Anytime heavy ink rests against light ink after packing, the chances of marking increase.  If reflex blue ink is present, then the problem becomes worse because it dries so slowly.  Other inks to be careful of include red, purple and metallics.

General weather conditions are also a significant factor.  High humidity is problematic because it can hinder the drying process of both ink and varnish.  Also, high heat may moisten ink, increasing its tendency to scratch.  Even if weather conditions are good in your area at the time of shipment, consider where the job is to be shipped.  In the Midwest, our weather can change within hours.  In general, as the distance of the final destination increases, so does the likelihood of transit marking.

Testing
Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way to guarantee the prevention of transit marking.  A simple test is to rub sheets together with moderate pressure by hand and look for ink either flaking off or transferring to the opposing sheet.  If this happens, the odds are that you’ll experience shipping problems, unless counteracted.  For a better test, bind and pack enough books to completely fill a box and place it in a jogger for a while.  Afterwards, if there isn’t any sign of transit marking, your job will probably be OK.

Prevention
Tightly packed, properly coated finished products that don’t slip when jostled should successfully ship without transit marking.  The first step in avoiding unwanted marks is to choose the proper carton size and have product within the carton tightly bundled, whether it is via paper bands, shrink wrapping, poly-tying or rubber banding.  Printed products should fit snugly without corners being damaged and filled to the top of the box.  Loosely packed products will slide around in cartons and mark easily.  If gaps within boxes are unavoidable, your bindery should add substantial packing or filler materials to remove the voids.  Wadded paper at the top of an under-packed carton is next to useless.  Fortunately, there are a lot of options to fight the war against transit marking including:

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The best way to prevent transit marking is to take the time to predict which jobs are the most likely to mark and then develop a plan to combat the problem once identified.  Choose a binding partner knowledgeable about transit marking and work together to adopt preventative measures on a job-to-job basis.  With a good game plan, your customers won’t be rubbed the wrong way.

Kevin Rickard is Operations Manager for Rickard Bindery and a Director of the Binding Industries of America.  Rickard Bindery specializes in discovering solutions to challenging folding, saddle stitching, gluing and other bindery jobs.  Kevin can be reached at (800) 747-1389.