Inline, offline or nearline?
Most prestigious equipment can be integrated with press lines, but are printers taking advantage of this?
The advent of digital printing ushered in all sorts of phrases like print on demand, fast turnaround, end to end workflow, 'lights out' production and so on. To some extent, this is exactly what we have with jobs being submitted online, and sent through a prepress workflow then directly to the printer, guided by JDF instructions and the whole thing from request for quote to final invoicing overseen by an MIS.
But of course a job isn't done until it's been through the bindery for whatever folding, perforating or stitching is needed to turn paper with printed marks into a finished product. Automated finishing is the last piece of the puzzle and it's taken time for the vendors to develop the kit, and for printers to upgrade their postpress equipment. But nowadays it is possible, if not quite common, to have fully automated finishing, which could be configured inline with the press for a complete end to end workflow with paper in one end and finished jobs out the other.
But is this the best option? Many vendors recommend nearline finishing because of its greater flexibility but they also sell a lot of inline solutions. The obvious advantage to an inline configuration where the run lengths will be extremely low so that the maximum automation is necessary to maintain any sort of profit margin. Also, most web-to-print offerings tend to be limited to certain products such as business cards or flyers so it's relatively easy to set up one production line with all the finishing needed.
True inline solutions integrate with the printer, so that the finishing can be programmed from the printer control panel. The printer should also control the speed of the whole line and be able to stop if there is a jam anywhere in the finishing line. The most popular units tend to be slitters and booklet makers, as well as punches, folders and perforators.
Neopost, for example, sells a number of inline punches, with different vendors offering different units.
Sourced: Print21 Magazine, September/October 2016