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Sold On The Fold

Bindery work impacts a product’s appearance and performance as much as press or pre-press work, yet it often is treated as an afterthought.  Plan for success by coordinating with your bindery expert early in the job preparation stage.  Potential problems in the bindery can be prevented … if they are caught early.

Plan for Success
Once a job has been designed, and the product’s “look” has been agreed upon, call in your bindery professional.  Usually there are several ways to run any job.  Simple layout changes can produce remarkable time and dollar savings.  Panel size alterations and other minor design adjustments can make a piece look great, function better and be more compatible with available folding machinery.

Many folding jobs should have small variations in panel sizes, but don’t.  While the shape of individual panels may look similar, often they need to be sized differently to allow for shingling, wraparound, washout (creep), and push-out.  Paper is three dimensional so don’t ignore its thickness.  Correctly designed panels will allow your bindery to fold the piece on the color breaks rather than along side of them.  What looks like sloppy bindery work really can be poor design.  Physical laws apply to folding.  For example, don’t expect your bindery to produce an attractive multi-panel barrel folded piece with equal sized panels.

Always provide blue-lines, rule-up sheets, bulking dummies and a marked and sequenced folding sample (1st fold A to A, 2nd fold B to B, etc.).  Leave 1/8” between copy and intended trim position and another 1/8” for take-off trim.  This allows for natural variation in both the printing and binding processes without risking product damage.  Smaller margins are possible, but check first.  Allow for washout when folding right angle pieces or when one sheet of paper is slit to nest.  Your paper thickness will determine how much washout peeks out.  Contrasting colors will make washout more noticeable, but careful pre-planning can enhance a product’s appearance.  For roll folds, the outer two panels should be final finished size with each succeeding interior panel decreasing by 3/32”.  And, the last panel should be 1/16” smaller than the preceding one.  Failure to perform these steps can lead to bend-overs, bad color breaks, jams, waste, and increased spoilage.

Take Stock Of Your Paper
In any product, there is some variation during the manufacturing process.  Paper is no exception.  Irregularities do occur and will affect folding performance.  Inconsistent surfaces will contribute to decreased bindery performance.  Even if a paper lot is uniform,  there still may be great variation in paper bulk.  For example, 80# uncoated cover stock can caliper anywhere from 8 to 13 points, depending on the manufacturer.  This is significant because 10 point stock usually folds well while paper 12 points or thicker requires different folding techniques and machines.  Be careful of running odd lots.  Changing paper in the middle of a job will affect downstream folding so be sure to mark the change spot and advise your bindery.

Generally, the thicker your stock, the more variables you will face.  Pre-score your stock if it is 100# text weight or heavier.  Sometimes, thicker stocks without critical color breaks can be in-line wet scored or folder scored, but always ask for an opinion before by-passing die-cut scoring.  When folding stock thicker than 10 points, watch for ripple cracking on buckle folders.  A knife folder generally will not ripple crack unless the stock is extremely thick, causing the sheet to fracture as it bends around the rollers.

Also, know your grain direction.  Reduce cracking and the need for pre-scoring or in-line wet scoring by folding your first fold with the grain.  If this isn’t possible, consider choosing a stock with short fibers and “off machine” coating for better moisture control.

Paper fibers can break during folding and result in cracking.  However, often jobs can be saved by choosing proper fold-plates, machines and production techniques.  The shock load on paper fibers increases geometrically with machine speed.  So, when fibers are breaking, slowing down your folder greatly reduces fiber stress and many times eliminates the problem.

Ink Can Sink Your Job
If ink is too brittle, it can crack.  Correcting this problem is difficult because ink doesn’t have the strength or flexibility of paper.  Choose your fold plates and folding machines to minimize paper stress, add moisture to the surface (wet score), and slow down your folder.  Wet ink is another common bindery problem.  If there is a good chance of having wet ink at bindery conversion time, use varnish or aqueous coating.  Protecting jobs with reflex blue, metallics, or heavy black coverage resting against white paper (after folding) usually reduces smudging, scratching and marking.

Varnish – Hero or Villain?
First the good news.  Varnish seals ink under it and prevents marking and smudging.

Now the bad news.  A varnished sheet’s surface is slippery and fold rollers have difficulty getting a good grip.  Varnish dries to an uneven surface of peaks and valleys.  When sheets run through folder rollers, the peaks are knocked off and ground into powder which gets on the rollers and alters their gripping ability.  The position of a fold is determined by the exact point at which the rollers get a solid grip on the buckling sheet.  If there is any change in the gripping characteristics of the rollers, the fold moves.  When a folding operator begins running a job, the rollers are clean and the job runs well.  However, after a few thousand pieces, varnish powder is deposited on the rollers and begins to change the fold position.  A knowledgeable operator will stop, clean the rollers and watch the fold return to its proper position for another few thousand sheets.  Or, a different operator may stop, change the fold stop position in the plate and watch the piece quickly go out of folding register again.  Either way, productivity and quality are very difficult on long run jobs with full (flood) varnish.  For example, a non-varnished job which runs at 10,000 pieces per hour, might yield only 6,000 or 7,000 if varnished.

Specialty Folds
Binderies should be thought of as extensions of your company.  Knowing where to get something done effectively and efficiently is much more important than your ability to do it infrequently.  If a buyer sends a quote to his usual printers, and only one knows where to go for specialty folding, guess who gets the job?  Iron cross folds, swinger folds, pop-up folds, miniature gatefolds, 18 accordions, gatefold & right angle gatefolds, and folding without side guides are all possible and practical.  When you have a few minutes, call your binderies and find out their specialty capabilities so this information will be at your fingertips when you need it.

Folding Potpourri

Differentiate yourself with good folding.  Bindery affects product appearance and function as much as presses do.  Be sold on the fold.  Your customers will.

Jack Rickard is a former President of the Binding Industries of America and President of Rickard Bindery (which has over 60 folders).  His company specializes in finding solutions to extremely challenging bindery jobs.  He can be reached at (800) 747-1389.