Finish In Stitches
Improving productivity is not a new concept especially in pre-press
and the pressroom, but the end of the process, the finishing
department, often gets forgotten resulting in costly bottlenecks.
"Speed and efficiency are just as crucial in finishing as
they are with the printing process, if not more so," says Brian
Evans Post Press Product Manager, Heidelberg Australia & New
Zealand (HAN). "Bottlenecks at the end of the process have a way of
impacting on the entire workflow. In the current market where speed
of delivery is crucial to ongoing success it is worthwhile looking
at existing finishing equipment and assessing its capacity in
relation to the rest of the workflow."
Two customers who have benefited from the installation of
more efficient finishing equipment are Sydney's Focus Press, and
Vega Colour Group in Melbourne. Both companies operate the
Stitchmaster ST350, which sits in the mid range of the Stitchmaster
"Quality, performance and longevity" are the key features of
the Stitchmaster range, says Brian. "The Stitchmaster range - the
ST100, ST350 and the newly released ST450 - are extremely sturdy.
As such we find customers tend to stick with the brand and to
either upgrade or add a duplicate model as demand dictates."
He continues. "Most of our customers, like Focus and Vega,
tend to buy in the configuration of six feeders, and one cover
feeder, but we can accommodate various configurations with less
than six or up to 16 feeders".
Heidelberg has enjoyed considerable success with the
Stitchmaster range and as of March this year held 57 per cent of
In 1994 Focus Press opened for business with a staff of
four. Today the company is one of the largest independent print
companies in Australia employing more than 100 people over two
sites in Sydney - head office is at South Strathfield 14kms west of
the CBD and there is a production site at Matraville, near Sydney
Focus Press prints for a broad base of clients on a national
basis. The company installed its first ST350 in 2005 at its
Strathfield site. This stitcher has turned over more than 100
Iain Ramsay, Operations Manager said, "It's a very sturdy
machine and we've experienced very little downtime with it over the
past six years. Make readies are fast and it is easy to operate so
training staff isn't an issue. As a consequence when it came to
putting in a second stitcher it was a very easy decision to stay
with the ST350".
The machine at Strathfield has six hoppers plus a cover
feeder and scorer. The newer ST350, which is housed at the
company's site in Matraville has eight stations plus cover feeder
and scorer and has been in place for 12 months. Both machines can
handle up to A4. The older ST350 has a maximum capacity up to 96pp
plus cover and the new version up to 128pp plus cover. Both plants
are 24/7 operations.
Iain said the versatility of the ST350 means they can run
anything from 300 through to half a million books efficiently. "We
consistently get good production figures off both machines".
Asked what they produce on the ST350, Iain replied, "All
types of stitching jobs go through these machines. We do a large
volume of two-up work A5 or DL formats. With the ST350 we can
successfully run jobs such as a 12pp DL two-up book at full speed
and push through 24,000 books an hour which shows how fast and
productive these machines can be". Focus Press also shrink-wraps
The ST350 is just one of a number of finishing machines that
Focus Press has bought from Heidelberg in recent years. "We chose
the ST350 because of the quality and reliability of the brand and
because it is backed by Heidelberg which gives us added confidence
in the machine," he concluded.
Vega Colour Group
Vega Colour Group in the Melbourne suburb of Notting
Hill, operates two Stitchmasters - the ST400, a reconditioned
machine and a new ST350, which was installed last year. Managing
Director, Peter Gude, said the motivation for the purchase of the
ST350 was to replace what had been a back-up machine to the ST400.
Having benchmarked against the ST400, which is the model up
from the ST350, Peter didn't expect the new machine to keep pace
with their existing Stitchmaster. "The ST350 doesn't have the level
of automation the ST400 does, but it comes very close to keeping up
in relation to speed and changeover flexibility".
"With the innovation and new technology driving in the ST350
this machine has quickly become our primary workhorse, our main
firepower. And the ST400 is now the back-up".
Peter said the company's view on having back-up machines was
simple. "We don't subscribe to the excuse that a job has to
wait because a machine is busy. The faster and more efficiently we
can push through jobs the smoother the overall workflow, and that
means investing in equipment that enables us to meet these
Vega's ST400 is configured to handle the company's two-up
work, while the ST350 processes all manner of jobs from DL size
through to A4 on a variety on stock and in ranging quantities from
as low as 500 right through to a million books.
Bookwork sizes span anything from 8-12pp up to 60-80pp. The
ST350 has six stations, and a cover feeder. Vega's model also
features two-up trimming and "the small book feature, which we do
use," said Peter. The ST350 is also fitted with extraction units to
capture waste materials, which are then recycled, ensuring the
machine falls into line with Vega's environmental policy.
Vega's commitment to the environment saw the company rewarded
this year with the Innovative Solution Award in the Heidelberg Eco
Printing Award 2011, the first Australian company to win such an
In conclusion Peter said, "When this machine was installed we
just plugged it in and away it went. It operates constantly
throughout the day, over two shifts, seven days a week, and there's
been almost no downtime other than regular maintenance. It's a very
easy machine to operate and we work it hard".
Trimming station - clamps the
book and trims it. There are no belts running while the product
is being trimmed. This is a unique feature to the Stitchmaster
as belts that are continually running can cause scuffing.
Two-up kit - with 4th and 5th
knife to trim two-up doubling capacity per hour.
Synchronisation - between chain
and feeders means operators can program feeders via the control
screen, eliminating make ready times and improving throughput
Feeders - can be tilted back to
allow the insertion and application of plastic cards such as
loyalty program cards, onto signatures. The flow of the
feeders also reduces potential for marking. Feeders can be run
at half or full speed.
High capacity - vertical feeders
deliver higher capacity enabling the loading of a greater
volume of signatures.
Inkjetting - enabling the
insertion of personalised pages so each magazine can be
Downstream inhibit - if a section
of a book misses in a feeder the machine picks up the error
enabling the operator to continue the run without having to
ST100 - maximum speed 9000,
minimum 1500 per hour. Up to four double vertical feeders in
banks of two and a cover feeder. Features up to 4 stitching
heads and up to 4 loop stitching heads.
ST350 - maximum speed 12000
minimum 1500 per hour. Up to 16 feeders, 6 heads and 4 loop
ST450 - maximum speed 14000,
minimum 600 per hour. Up to 24 feeders, up to 6 heads, and up
to 6 loop heads. The ST450 can be configured for three-up work