"Beyond Typical Foil Stamping: Holograms, Magnetic Stripes, and Scratch-Offs"
[Column #65, 5/00]

Folding Tips and Pointers

Determining the best way to fold a given job may not be at the top of your customer’s priority list, but it is critical to the planning process and can mean the difference between a beautifully finished or a flawed, cracked, shoddy-looking piece.

There are many issues to consider when planning a folding job including paper and ink choice, end-use, and type of fold. This article will provide tips and pointers for your next folding job.

Using the appropriate communication tools to provide your trade binder with clear, precise instructions is the first step in a successful folding job. Folding samples, blue-lines, rule-up sheets, and bulking dummies should be marked and sequenced. (For example, folding samples might say: first, fold A-to-A; second, fold B-to-B…) Provide as much product and end-use information as possible. This allows us to examine your job prior to running it and determine the best way to handle it. If the work is a magazine insert, specify how the magazine is bound—perfect bound or stitched; if it is a dust cover, provide a book sample to ensure exact sizing; if it is a die-cut piece, send us a sample or thumbnail so we can advise on tick mark placement. There is usually more than one way to run a job. We can determine in advance which projects can be folded and slit multiple-up.

Ink and paper considerations are also critical in a folding job. If you are working with a dark, metallic, or otherwise troublesome ink (particularly on white paper), apply a varnish or coating to the piece prior to folding to avoid the inevitable smudging and marking that occurs almost immediately after touching the paper. When selecting paper, keep in mind that the first fold should be with the grain whenever possible. Folds that are right angle from the first fold can either be scored or wet-scored on the machine. If you must fold against the grain, consider a stock with short fibers and “off-machine” coating for better moisture control.

Inks tend to be brittle and crack when they are bent. Therefore, plan your layout carefully. To allow for natural variation that occurs in printing and binding, provide 1/8" between copy and intended trim position and another 1/8" for take-off trim. Smaller margins are possible, but you should discuss your options with the binder. For barrel folds (also called over-and-over or roll folds), the outer two panels should be final-finished size; each succeeding interior panel should decrease at least 1/32". This helps prevent bendovers, bad color breaks, jams, waste, and increased spoilage.

Another potential folding problem is often referred to washout or “creep,” which occurs when printed matter is actually trimmed off in places on the inside leaves of a signature. The thicker the stock and the more pages that are nested into each other, the bigger the problem with creep. In general, thicker stocks require more planning and preparation, primarily to avoid rippling and cracking in the folders. In these cases, we need to decide what kind of scoring to carry out before folding and the best type of folder to use.

We all know how much variation can exist in the paper used for even a small job. Thickness inconsistencies and frequent waves and ripples have a significant effect on fold quality and should be monitored carefully. If only we worked with a more dependable product! For example, an 80 lb., uncoated cover stock can caliper anywhere from 8 to 13 points. Since 10-point stock usually folds easily but anything thicker than 12 points requires more specialized folding techniques and machines, things can quickly go awry. During the printing process, avoid running odd lots to help prevent this problem and mark any places in the job where changes occur.

Miniature folding is big business these days. Production information sheets, (or inserts and outserts as we call them) covered with microscopic data and folded down into tiny pieces are commonplace in industries ranging from pharmaceuticals to electronics. (Every time I open a bottle of aspirin, I’m amazed by the volume of information the FDA requires on pharmaceutical labels! Even more remarkable is that industry experts predict the type will continue to shrink and the paper will continue to get larger as more and more regulations are implemented.) Before producing a miniature-folded piece, check downstream requirements. Some automatic inserters require that the pieces lie flat, and stock variation becomes a bigger problem with miniature folders. In general, the thinner the stock, the better it will fold.

Wouldn’t we all love to have a machine available to fold our maps once we’ve used them and want to put them away? They rarely look nice and neat once we’ve handled them a couple of times. But, to ensure the best possible fold initially, measure the folded piece carefully and account for the product’s bulk when designing the cover and back panel. Some maps can fold to a thickness of ¼" or more and failure to account for that thickness can cause unattractive and improperly aligned color breaks in the folds.

Folding has become quite specialized and there are many types of folds available today. Don’t be afraid go after jobs that require unusual folding techniques—just be sure to find out which post-press houses can provide you with these services. Familiarizing your company with the resources around you can mean the difference between winning and losing a job.


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