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The heat is on

Tayla Ansell finds out why today’s buyers are so hot for thermal binding

Duplo FB20
Duplo FB20

Despite the popular adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover, there’s no getting away from the fact that appearances matter. Business documents are no exception, especially those seen by customers and prospects. Binding not only protects contents from damage, but also offers the opportunity to make a good impression with professional looking proposals and presentations.

This is one reason why thermal binders are currently so popular. Thermal binding, as the term suggests, uses heat to bind paper together. Adhesive in the spines of covers softens when heat is applied and hardens as it cools, securing pages in place and providing a crisp, professional finish.

Thermal binding is a more expensive option than wire and comb binding, but prices for desktop systems have been falling, which has also contributed to its popularity.

Duplo, a provider of print finishing technology, has seen sales of thermal binding machines double over the past six years.

“In our opinion, in the UK thermal binding has completely overtaken wire, comb and coil,” explained eCommerce Duplo manager Leyla Lewis. “Coil is still very big in the States, but it has died off totally in the UK over the past 10 to 15 years.”

Lewis adds that most of Duplo’s sales of desktop thermal binding solutions are to customers in the education sector, thanks to its fast yet professional results.

“Thermal binding is best for high quality presentations with a very quick turnaround, such as booklets, reports, proposals and theses. It has a much more professional finish; it’s clean and the pages stay securely in place,” she said.

Paul Simon, sales manager Renz UK
Paul Simon, sales manager Renz UK

Paul Simpson, sales manager at Renz UK, has also seen a steady rise in demand for thermal binding machines over the last few years. He puts this down to growing demand for machines that can save users time.

“Thermal binding machines fit this bill, as all the customer has to do is insert the document into the machine ready to be heat bound,” he said.

Simpson points out that BINDOMATIC machines supplied by Renz UK require minimal effort and labour. “The user doesn’t have to spend hours standing over a machine punching and binding and can spend their time on other tasks instead,” he said.

Bucking the trend

Not all suppliers have noticed rising demand for thermal binding. Darryl Brunt, Fellowes UK & Ireland country head, says that while sales of thermal binding machines have been consistent from year to year, comb binding is the company’s most popular category.

He acknowledges the benefits of thermal binding, pointing out that it lets you create a professional finish without punching holes in documents and is “neat and flat, making documents easy to store, carry around and post”, but says that for occasional use and for smaller documents, comb binding may be more appealing to some customers as entry level models cost significantly less than other binding types.

He also suggests that it is more difficult to add and remove pages with thermal binding, though Lewis disputes this, arguing that “the process of editing documents becomes easier with thermal binding, since it is very easy to re-heat a document to add or remove pages (versus trying to remove a wire, coil or comb)”.

Lewis does concede that with thermal binding documents need time to cool off. She also points out that users can run into trouble when binding very glossy pages, adding that a Powis FB20 unit has specialised strips with double the amount of glue for this very reason. Simpson highlights the fact that you can’t open a glued document 360 degrees.

What to ask

Fellowes Helios 60
Fellowes Helios 60

What questions, then, should buyers ask to make sure they select the right machine for their needs?

The first thing, says Lewis, is to establish the number of booklets that will need to be bound and whether or not they will require soft or hard covers.

In this context, Simpson says it’s important not to over or underestimate how often you will be using the machine. “There’s no point spending thousands of pounds on a high speed electric machine if the customer only needs to bind one or two documents per month. On the other hand, we see customers purchasing cheap binding machines from office catalogues that are not robust enough for their needs,” he said.

Brunt advises buyers to prepare for all eventualities. “Make sure you are able to cater for a variety of binding requirements across the office. This means machine(s) that are able to bind documents from just a few pages to several hundred pages. Also, have a good selection of supplies available, with a variety of colours and sizes to choose from,” he said.

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2018