[Column #25, 1/97]
As 1996 comes to a close, many of us will begin the process of measuring our fiscal performance over the past year. While it's a time our accounting departments kick into high gear, it's also an opportunity for us to recall, painful as it may be, those jobs on which our performance could have been better. To welcome in the new year, I'd like to review some old bugaboos and suggest a few new tips, which I'll discuss in more detail in next year's columns.
Inky-dinky don'ts. I know I sound like a broken record about this, but we need to steer clients away from selecting Reflex blue, Rhodamine red and Pantone purples. These inks have a unique molecular makeup which when combined with their high alkaline content, makes drying nearly impossible. The inks basically sit on top of the paper, never really penetrating the stock fibers, even after heatset drying units have done their work on the printed sheets. This leads to a propensity toward scuffing and rub-off in shipment. It also leads to serious problems in finishing.
Aside from the drying problems associated with these inks, they also tend to bleach out when a U.V. coating is applied. However, several ink manufacturers have developed substitute inks that have the same pigment qualities, but don't fade with U.V. coating. The next time you run into these colors, ask your ink manufacturer to supply his U.V.-compatible version.
Additionally, foil-stamping and embossing, both of which involve the application of heat, melts the ink so that it invades undesired areas of a sheet, even if the designer has tried to allow for appropriate trapping. In short, avoid these inks if at all possible, particularly in work destined for finishing.
Envelope embossing. Contrary to misperceptions, stamping on already-converted envelopes is not only possible, it's one of our most frequent requests. However, there are some guidelines that will ensure the result is successful. A converted envelope has many overlapping parts. Just remember: where the thickness varies, the imprint of the stamp will vary. To ensure a consistent imprint, try to design the envelope so stamping takes place over an area where the thickness doesn't change. If this is impossible, and quality is an issue, you may want to consider stamping before the envelope is converted.
To prepare for stamping a converted envelope, adjust your guide and gripper to be at the bottom right corner, right reading, of the envelope. Sometimes the bottom left corner is acceptable. If the top of the envelope is used for the guide and gripper, we're not able to open the envelope, which means we have to stamp through another layer of paper, which varies the imprint.
It's also important to make sure that all the envelopes come from a single source, using the same die throughout the run. There've been several occasions where we've set up our equipment to stamp converted envelopes only to discover midway in the run that other envelopes were converted using a different die.
Paper, water and binding. Moisture content of paper is one of those complexities of which we're all aware. However, publications printers have particular reason for concern when it comes to binding their books. Perfect bound books, in particular, are especially susceptible to the vagaries of moisture content in paper. Here's why.
Heat-set webs typically take all the moisture out of signatures as they run through the press. If the sigs go immediately into bindery for trimming and then are bound, they often will grow beyond their covers. That's because the dry sigs weren't allowed to adjust to the surrounding relative humidity (R.H) in natural conditions. If other sigs, or the cover, were sheetfed produced, the problem can be exascerbated.
Here are some solutions: Schedule extra time for trimming and binding to allow the sigs to condition. We can double-trim the book, although that, too, means an extra two to three days after original trimming. If turnaround is an issue, adjust web oven temperatures to the lowest possible to minimize the amount of moisture taken out of the paper.
Power packing. Preparation of materials for finishing is one of the most important issues when fast turnaround is called for. Of utmost importance is having material ready for delivery. The exact definition of "ready" can vary, depending on the finishing requirement. For example, if your job consists of folded sigs to be saddlestitched or sewn, send us the signatures low page up on the skids. If the job is to be perfect bound, we prefer them high page up. Most important, be consistent. Schedules are thrown off and mistakes are made when loaders are forced to continually flip material.
Strapping flat printed sheets onto skids, rather than shrinkwrapping, is usually sufficient for most jobs: one band for small, uncoated jobs and short distances, four straps for larger jobs. If, however, the job is to be delivered in folded signatures, shrinkwrapping and four straps are recommended.
Cartons are the preferred packaging for material that's shipped to the end-user. They are a big headache for finishers and mail houses, since precious time and money is wasted ripping open the boxes to get at material. We prefer skids or Power Paks. Power Paks are a relatively recent invention that we've been using with good success. Also known as Gaylords, Tellys or telescopic cartons, Power Paks are a sturdy, economical alternative to the traditional box. They are corrugated cubes, slightly bigger on the bottom than the top, with two open facing sides. You place the bottom cube on the pallet, fill it, then slide on the top cube, fill it, turn in the flaps and add a wooden top. Depending on the weight of material, you band the cubes with two to four straps.
Cooperation. 1997 promises even greater challenges to our ability to meet clients' demands for better, faster and cheaper. Only by working together and helping each other make the transition between print production, finishing and delivery will we be successful in meeting the challenge.
I hope this past year's columns have helped you understand the issues we, as finishers, face. I also hope they have been useful to your sales staff in their efforts to sell our mutual services.