Monday, October 13, 2008

Dueling Bindery Breakthroughs

A patent battle may be brewing between printing giants R.R. Donnelley and Quad/Graphics, but it's their competitors who should be looking for cover.

Four days after Donnelley announced that "Variable Trim Binding (VTB) allows for multiple sized products from multiple customers to be bound in-line in a single, efficient operation," Quad revealed that it was already using its patent-pending "IntelliTrim" technology on more than one saddle stitcher. A Quad insider confirmed that Donnelley's announcement prompted Quad to go public with IntelliTrim. And perhaps Quad's patent application prompted Donnelley's announcement.

One apparent difference between the technologies is that Donnelley's allows variation of up to one inch in either direction among publications being bound together, while Quad's allows such variation only in the side-to-side dimension. Also, the Donnelley announcement does not mention the type of bindery lines using Variable Trim Binding, while Quad specifies saddle stitchers for IntelliTrim.

In any case, the two printers seem to have gained a significant technological advantage over other competitors in the production of mailed magazines and catalogs. Co-binding is a faster, more efficient method than co-mailing of bundling multiple publications together to achieve postal savings. But the need to match up publications with exactly the same trim size has hindered widespread adoption of co-binding. Co-mailing, meanwhile, has exploded for both Periodicals (magazine) and Standard flats (catalog) since postal rates for both classes were overhauled in 2007.

Future posts will provide examples of how to estimate the potential savings from commingling mailings. But suffice it to say that finding the right co-bind situation could save some magazines more in postage than they pay to print the magazines.

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