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A high-speed system for digitally printed layflat book blocks.

What does it do?
The fastBook Professional is a complete layflat book block production line for larger-format books. It is manufactured by Imaging Solutions (ISAG), the Swiss developer of high-end binding and printing equipment for the photo and luxury book market. It is supplied in the UK and Ireland by Perfect Bindery Solutions (PBS).

Specifications
Max block format:
450x450mm (18x18in)
Min block format:
203x208mm
Max block thickness:
50mm
Max sheet length:
914mm
Glue technology:
Hotmelt
Max speed:
Pro 600: 600sph; Pro 1000: 1,000sph
Contact:
Perfect Bindery Solutions www.binderysolutions.co.uk

How does it work?
The machine converts sheets printed on one side – either digitally printed or photographic – into layflat book blocks that are ready for cover binding. There are two versions: the Pro 600, which runs at 600sph, and the 1,000sph Pro 1000. Sheets are fed from a stacker, creased and folded and then attached back-to-back with their neighbours to form the book block. Creasing, folding, pressing and gluing take place in one pass. Instead of being perfect bound or sewn, a thin layer of glue is applied between the sheets, thus forming “true layflat” binding. Different substrates can be added into the ‘sandwich’ to create multi-layered pages (popular in children’s books) or duplex card for display boards or high-end business cards.
It can produce super-sized book blocks, up to 450x450mm and 50mm thick and is capable of adding a soft cover. The system can process cardboard sheets up to 1mm thick for wedding albums or other luxury photobooks to give a thicker page and higher value feel.
For a complete hard-cover line, two modules can be added: the fastCase, a case-maker and casing-in system, and fastForm, which provides hinge creasing.

When was it launched and what market is it aimed at?
The first prototype was shown in September 2016 and the first installations took place September 2017. It’s aimed at producers of high-end photobooks, swanky catalogues and presentation brochures, but PBS managing director Steve Giddins explains that the machine can be used for a range of other functions. “It can be used for laminating boards to boards, or duplexing, which we’re seeing more of for things like business cards,” he says.

How does it differ from previous products?
The key advance, according to PBS, is the speed, being four times faster than the previous fastBook Basic model.

What is the USP of the product?
PBS says it’s a true all-in-one solution: “It produces true layflat books with seamless single images over double spreads, for an unrivalled fully visible look and feel.” Giddins adds that it has significant advantages over cold gluing systems as it is more stable and avoids the possibility of warping. The size range caters for sheets coming from big photo printers and large-format printers, as well as the biggest HP Indigo, Konica Minolta, Xerox iGen, Kodak NexPress and Nexfinity machines. The hotmelt glue system requires no drying time, meaning books can be finished immediately. Most jobs are likely to be runs of one or just a few and so users will need significant volumes of work to make it a sensible investment.
The large book formats mean they stand out from conventional books and “re-define the possibilities for high-value catalogues and upmarket brochures”.

How easy is it to use?
Products are selected via barcode reading. Basically, all the operator needs to do is load the paper and select the paper width.

What training and support is on offer?
Customers’ technical staff receive engineer training at Imaging Solutions in Switzerland and the operator is trained after the installation of the machine. Service support is offered by PBS.

How much does it cost?
The fastBook Professional 600 is €159,000 (around £140,000) and Professional 1000 €209,000. Prices include delivery, installation, training and a 12-month warranty. Optional extras include an automated book press at €15,000, barcode reader at €2,850 and a pre-melter at €16,000.

Alternative
Photobook Technology
Photobook Technology is another Swiss firm that manufactures hotmelt book block systems for digital and photographic print in this sort of format. The Mitablock 450 is the closest comparable setup, but is significantly slower. The Mitablock Pro, meanwhile, is a modular rather than integrated system that takes pre-folded sheets (sections) and glues them together into a book block. Photobook Technology is currently in talks with a potential UK distributor, but the deal has yet to be finalised.
Mitablock: 450, Max format size: 460x460mm
Min format size: 152x152mm
Glue technology: hotmelt
Max speed paper: 600sph; cardboard: 400sph
Mitablock Pro, Max format size: 400x450mm
Min format size: 135x135mm
Max block thickness: 40mm
Max speed: 1,700sph