The digital journey.

Muller Martini joins a distinguished industry panel to discuss what’s happening in digital book manufacturing…and what’s ahead.

Held during the recent Hunkeler Innovation Days in Lucerne, Switzerland, the Interquest Digital Book Printing Forum presented a Q&A session whereby a panel of print and finishing executives fielded questions from a global audience of publishers, printers, and other industry influencers. The panel included Andy Fetherman, Division Manager of Digital Solutions for Muller Martini North America. He was joined by representatives from Kodak Graphic Communications Group, Ricoh Europe, and Hunkeler AG.

One area of discussion were the challenges faced when utilizing more difficult substrates, including glossy and coated stocks. The audience welcomed news from print manufacturers that hundreds of stocks are now verifiable when using digital print technology. From a finishing perspective, Muller Martini has engineered solutions that are signature-based, and, therefore, independent of substrate type. This allows for better handling of lighter weight stocks and higher speeds, and adds more efficiencies with heavier stock weights.

A more dominant exchange centered around workflow. Facilitating workflow is always a top priority. However, when it comes to digital manufacturing, workflow issues are even more critical. That’s because printers who were once handling hundreds of files a day, could now be facing thousands.

Mr. Fetherman offered this recommendation. “Before even considering a press or finishing solution, you should first and foremost analyze workflow and the requirements necessary to handle all of the data you need to push through. And that means making sure you have the digital file workflow infrastructure to handle many, many more files. Only then should you can decide on your print engine and your finishing solution.”

Muller Martini’s scalable SigmaLine technology greatly alleviates “decision anxiety” and delivers a fast, efficient, and a fully automated workflow. With its SigmaControl, powered by Connex, all that’s required is a preflighted PDF. The system imposes it, sends it to the Digital Front End (DFE), and does all the production planning and file tracking.

Gilles Biscos, President of Interquest, had this to say about the future of digital book production, “We estimate that currently less than 5% of books produced worldwide are printed on digital equipment, but this will increase to 20% or more over the next five years.” And exactly where is this all leading? Faster machines. An even wider array of substrates. Better print quality at a lower cost. Greater finishing options. These factors are creating opportunities that will greatly expand the digital print manufacturing playing field. Next up? Commercial applications like magazines, catalogs, and direct mail.

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