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We have gathered some of the better articles related to our niche for your viewing. These articles will give you a better understanding of some of the processes and operations we perform.


 
 

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Mechanical Binding Techniques

By: Marty Anson
Reprinted from Print & Graphics
Issue: February 1999

When it comes to binding, the options can be mind boggling. Determining which bind to use for a given job is often best left to the bindery experts who know the advantages and disadvantages of each type, Mechanical binding can be a great option, depending on many factors. Mechanically bound books have wonderful lay-flat qualities and a rich look, attractive qualities for a product that must survive in today’s competitive marketplace. Four basic types of mechanical binding can be used, depending on the circumstances: Wire-O, plastic coil, spiral wire and plastic comb (also know as GBC). Following is a overview of each type.

Wire-O
Often considered the premium choice in mechanical binding, the Wire-O binding element is made using a double coil with interlocking "fingers" that run through holes punched on the edge of the book. The result is an attractive, sturdy bind that works well for products that will endure heavy use, such as calendars and cookbooks (it works especially well for calendars because special wire hangers can be inserted for hanging purposes.)

Although there is no printable spine on Wire-O books, they are an excellent choice when crossovers (such as photos, illustrations and maps) are used, because the pages do not step up when they are turned. In addition, Wire-O can be cost-effective for larger runs because the process is highly automated.

Plastic coil
Another option that provides an attractive bind and opens flat, plastic coil comes in a huge variety of colors ( that can be custom-made to match a PMS color) and it is very durable under pressure. Unlike Wire-O, the plastic coil elements spring right back into shape when crusted. This makes plastic coil an appealing option for children’s books, instruction manuals and other products that endure heavy use.

Plastic coil binding, however, is not favorable to books with cross-overs because the pages step up when they are turned. Also, this process can be more costly than other methods, however, because it is semi-automated.

Spiral wiring binding
Made up of a single coil wound in a continuous spiral through holes in the edge of the sheets, this type of binding is less appealing because it lacks the strength and elegance of Wire-O, is not durable under pressure and does not have the aesthetic appeal of plastic coil. As a result, demand for spiral wire is on a down swing. In addition, crossovers are not possible because step-up does occur when the pages are turned. On the other hand, this binding process is highly automated and probably the most economical of the four options available.

Plastic comb
The biggest difference between plastic comb (or GBC binding) and the aforementioned products is that, because of the spine, it does not open up 360 degrees. In addition, many designers feel it has an outdated look. The good news is that combs are available in many colors, have printable spines, present no problems with set-up and can accommodate more text than other alternatives. In addition, pages can be added and removed if necessary, making GBC useful for reports and other materials in progress. Still, because of its look and high cost due to limited automation, use of plastic comb is also declining.

Following are a few tips for planning your next mechanical binding job:

  • If you are not sure what type of binding is best suited for your job, consult your binder. Any trade binders worth their salt will be more than happy to offer advice on the best solution for your job. 
  • Do not punch type. The trickiest part of mechanical binding is ensuring that the spine margins have enough clearance to avoid hitting type when punching holes. Punching into copy accounts for half of all problems that occur in mechanical binding, so consult your binder when it comes to determining how much space to leave in the margins. Many binders can provide you with a punching depth guide to use during the planning process.
  • Ask your bindery for a sample of the job before it is run. Many binderies have some type of preflight system in place and are more than happy to create a dummy for your inspection.
  • Consult with your binder about the particulars of the holes and the wire. The exact style of punched hole (meaning the shape of the holes) the customer desires many not be available. For example, Wire-O can have square or round holes, plastic coil can have oval or round holes, and spiral wire generally has round holes. In addition, talk with them about the binding elements and color options available. Tin wire, for example, though inexpensive, can leave marks on some coated stocks and custom colors are often available but require long lead times and large-quantity purchases.
  • Keep in mind that the lead time for printing on plastic comb jobs is usually about three weeks and that the combs can be either stamped or silk-screened. Wrap-around covers can be used in Wire-O projects but this requires extra planning and a sample should always be produced prior to running the job.
  • Carefully consider how the job will be packed. Shrink-wrapping (in multiples or singles) can help provide protection from movement (transit marking).
  • When mailing individual copies, plastic spiral provides the least concern – my shop has even sent out plastic spiral books as self-mailers. Wire-O and spiral wire, however, must be packaged with greater care to avoid smashing the elements.

Perhaps the best advise I can offer is to utilize the knowledge and expertise of your trade binder. Many of the problems we encounter could have easily been avoided had we been consulted during the planning stages of the job. Developing a relationship with your trade binder can go a long way in saving time, money, and headaches—and ultimately satisfying the end customer.

Article Index

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