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Question and Answer

What should a buyer look for when considering the purchase of folding/gluing equipment?

by Staff

August-September, 1996
For many graphic finishing operations, folding and gluing capabilities have become an important element of their finishing business. And due to growing popularity in recent years, more and more brands and styles of folder-gluers are available in the marketplace. Sorting through all the choices and deciding on the right equipment for your operation can be both tedious and difficult. InsideFinishing has attempted to sort through several of the important areas to help you make the right decisions when purchasing folding-gluing equipment.

Start with the Basics
The reputation and stability of the company you are purchasing the folder-gluer (or other machinery) from is of utmost importance. Here are a few guidelines to follow when evaluating your choices:

  • Field Service Support - Check that the seller of the equipment has knowledgeable and well-trained personnel to assist with the assembly, start-up, training and long-term support of the equipment.
  • Application Support - In addition to the technical support of your folder-gluer, the seller should provide support relative to specific jobs. Many times the supplier can save a finisher hours of makeready time with one or two simple suggestions.
  • Documentation - The seller of your new folder-gluer should provide complete documentation relative to the correct floor space/foundation plans needed, as well as provide a comprehensive operator/parts/maintenance manual on the machine you have ordered.
  • Replacement Parts - The seller should have a complete line of replacement parts available that can ship in one or two days - not weeks.
  • Visit an Installation or Demonstration - Insist that you have an opportunity to visit or at least speak personally with a company who is working with a similar folder-gluer for a similar application. Have specific questions ready that will reveal the true characteristics of the machine. In addition, consider sending samples to the manufacturer to run in the company's showroom or demo room. If you cannot be there personally to watch the folder-gluer run, have the seller video tape the machine running the specific job you sent.

There are three basic types of folder-gluers to consider:

  • Cardboard/packaging folder-gluers, converting corrugated material into boxes and/or packaging cartons.
  • In-line gluers designed for the production of boxes (usually up to 24 point material). Some newer models are capable of producing a limited variety of pocket folders as well.
  • Folder-gluers designed for boxes up to 22 point material as well as presentation folders, capacity folders, video jackets, CD jackets, sleeves, etc.

To assist with the decision on the exact type of folder-gluer you will need, more specific questions must be answered. First, analyze the blank size and styles you will be running. A thorough evaluation of the jobs you have run in the past that you folded and glued yourself or sent elsewhere is a good starting point. Determine the percentage of different types of applications under various categories such as pocket folders, straightline boxes, 4-corner boxes, double-walled or inner partition (multiple-celled) cartons, etc. For instance, if you determine that 80% of your folding-gluing will be pocket folders, you probably will want to look at a machine that is manufactured for quick makereadies and easy set-up.

It is also recommended to discuss the purchase of your new folder-gluer with your major accounts to see if they are forecasting changes in the type of work they currently send you to make sure it will be compatible with the machine you are considering. In addition, most folder-gluer suppliers provide minimum and maximum caliber specifications. If you foresee your jobs reaching these extremes and/or the blank styles are outside the norm, discuss this with your supplier first to head off any potential problems down the road. Lastly, insist that a test is ran on the specific folder-gluer in question. All claims made by the seller should be backed up with a test run. This is the only true way to determine the realistic operating speeds and set-up times from one blank to another.

The following is a listing of other folder-gluer features, many of which are optional, that must be analyzed during the purchasing process:

  • Is automatic feeding/packing necessary?
  • What type of glue application system is required (cold glue, hot melt, glue wheels?)
  • What will be the complexity of the folds?
  • Will changeovers from one blank style to another be necessary? If so, a machine with quick makeready capabilities will be desired.
  • Is minimizing the marking of blanks important?
  • Are backfold capabilities necessary? (This feature can save an entire pass through the folder-gluer for certain applications.)
  • How flexible is the delivery section? The machine may feed, fold, and glue perfectly, but speeds may be restricted because the blanks may not stack easily.
  • Is the machine properly guarded and safe?
  • Are operating controls conveniently located? (Some machines now include remote controls that move along the length of the folder-gluer.)
  • Are a minimum number of tools required for changeover? (This is important to keep makeready time down.)

Of course, the type of folder-gluer and the different features you choose is dependent upon the type of products you are currently working with or are considering for future production. The key is to analyze your market and closely examine the points expressed in this article. As the saying goes, "You can never be too careful." Study the facts first. Do not purchase something that will satisfy your needs only in the present. Choose a folder-gluer you feel confident will be an important part of your production facility 5 to 10 years from now.

InsideFinishing would like to thank Doug Herr, National Sales Manager, Folding Carton Equipment of Bobst Group, Inc. (201) 226-8000 and Luis Campos, Sales and Marketing Manager of Dick Moll & Sons (215) 443-7517 for their contribution to this article.