Hunkeler used its eponymous Innovationdays event to launch its Starbook Plowfolder system, a high performance book block production system that takes roll-fed signatures and outputs book blocks into sorted bins for covering.

The system is largely automated via bar- or 2D codes, though set-up changeovers take around three minutes, Digital Printer was told. Once running, it handles web printed input at 250m/min and can output 2000 stacks or single books per hour, supporting fully variable page count and spine lengths. Tight web alignment is used throughout the system, with production data along the roll edge scanned to automate folding parameters. The system was demonstrated producing 6-up and 4-up signatures and uses a plough folder to make the necessary folds, which can include gatefolds.

The folded web is then fed into a cutter and thence to a new stacker where a light glue application is added to hold the block together. A star wheel then combines the folded and cut signatures to assemble the book blocks via three independent sections, which allows a first in first-out mode and does not require de-stacking of blocks for further processing. A further read of the production data then prepares the block for its eventual binding type and the blocks are compressed ready for exit.

A new optional book sorting module allows books then to be diverted into a number of separate bins for further processing/binding.

There is also a Starbook Webfolder configuration suitable for producing soft- or hardcover books based on four-page signatures. It too supports variable page counts and spine lengths at web speeds of up to 180m/min. It is fed by the RX8 Media Changer that allows changing of supported media rolls with automatic on-the-fly splicing.

Hunkeler also demonstrated a direct mail solution which features two-axis scoring or perforation plus buckle folding for a variety of mail types including self-mailers, and a multi-format finishing line that can handle everything from postcards to direct mailers to books.

The Starbook system is available immediately with first installations – of which there were four at the time of writing – having taken place at the end of 2022 or in early 2023. UK and Ireland distribution is handled by Friedheim International.

Hunkeler has also reported that the 2023 Innovationdays event attracted some 6700 visitors, an increase on the 2019 figure; the next iteration of the event has been confirmed for 24 – 27 February 2025, again in Lucerne.

A report from the 2023 Hunkeler Innovationdays will appear in the March/April issue of Digital Printer. If you have not already registered for the magazine in printed or digital versions, you may do so free of charge here.