Print Business Glossary: Finishing Equipment for Offset Presses

Commercial offset printing firms use different types of finishing devices than those used by wide-format graphics producers or sign shops. This glossary highlights some of the finishing devices used to make different types and volumes of books, brochures, business cards, catalogs, manuals, magazines, and direct mail pieces.

Coating and Laminating

Printed sheets that are designed to be written upon or bound into a book don’t require a protective clear coat or laminating film. But coatings or laminating films are used to improve the durability of printed pages that will be handled by humans or machines, such as mail-processing equipment or label-application devices. Coatings and films can also change the look and feel of the printed sheet.

Coating equipment can apply protective and visually appealing finishes to business cards, postcards, brochures, and other printed items.

Water-based coatings protect prints from scuffs and fingerprints during handling. These coatings can add gloss or matte finishes and are compatible with many offset printing inks.
UV-clearcoats harden instantly when exposed to controlled amounts of ultraviolet (UV) light and provide a high-gloss, durable finish. These coatings may crack on folded materials and must be used with inks formulated for UV-curing processes.

Varnish is a clear, gloss, or matte ink that can be applied to the full page (i.e., a flood coating)  or parts of the page (i.e. a spot varnish). Varnishing is typically the final step in the on-press printing process.  A separate plate must be created to apply a spot varnish on a printing press.

Laminating equipment for offset print shops apply thin, protective adhesive films to smaller-format pages and documents such as menus, presentation folders, showroom display cards, and training manual covers. Some automated laminators can laminate and cut 12-in wide rolls of prints into hundreds of 8.5 x 11 in. laminated sheets per hour.

Paper Handling and Folding

Collating equipment collects individual pages of printed documents and assembles them in the specified sequence. This may include combining a heavier cover page with lighter weight interior pages to create a document “set” that is ready for binding. Industrial equipment can collate thousands of sets per hour.

Paper Joggers eliminate static from documents and align pages for punching, binding, cutting, mailing or shipping. Paper joggers make sure all pages are perfectly aligned before being cut. They also can align bills, mailers and invoices for folding and insertion in an envelope.

Perforating devices create lines of fine holes in paper or cardstock so that a portion of the printed piece can be neatly torn off. Coupons, response cards, and spiral-bound notebooks are often perforated.

Scoring makes a crease in the printed page so it can be more easily folded. Thicker materials, such as the printed cover for a perfect-bound book are often scored.

Folding machines reduce the size of a printed sheet so it can fit into an envelope, package, or display rack. Different types of folds can be produced, depending on how the designer wants the reader to unfold and view the piece.

Booklet Makers fold stacks of printed sheets in half and staple them in the center.

Cutting Equipment

Guillotine Cutters use large, sharp used to cut stacks of paper down to the desired size. These devices can cut up to 400 to 700 sheets at a time.

Rotary Trimmers use enclosed round cutting blades that slide along a metal guide bar to make straight cuts on low volumes of paper (e.g. 5- 20 sheets).

Die-Cutters use an ultra-sharp metal blade to cut paper, cardstock, or labels into shapes. Die-cutting can be used to add functionality to a printed piece (e.g. a door-hanger) or visual interest (such as a circular “window” on the cover of a printed piece).

Slitting devices convert a wide roll of printed labels into narrower rolls or large press sheets into smaller pages. Whereas most cutters on a printing device run parallel to the print roll, the slitter makes perpendicular cuts to graphics on the print roll. For example, a slitter can be used to cut a standard-sized print on card-stock into business cards. Slitting devices can be purchased for web-fed and sheet-feed presses.

Drilling equipment uses a rotating bit to drill holes into printed sheets that will be spiral-bound with wires or plastic or inserted into binders.

Special Effects

Specialty finishing processes were created to add a luxurious appearance to labels, packages, invitations, business cards, and promotional materials. Some of these traditional processes are being replicated by the more efficient “digital enhancement presses” discussed in our last post.

Embossing/Debossing processes change how a printed piece feels by either created raised letters or designs (embossing) or a depressed surface (debossing). A custom-created die is pressed against the printed surface to create the dimensional effect.

Hot Foil Stamping Machines use heated dies etched with the design to be rendered in foil. When the metallic foil is placed between the heated die and the paper surface, the foil bonds to the paper.

Binding Equipment

Bindery equipment converts stacks of printed pages into books, booklets, manuals, and calendars. The type of equipment used depends on how the printed product will be used and how many pages must be bound.

The binding method that chosen during the job-planning stage, because the binding method affects how the pages and covers will be laid out. imposed, and printed.
If the content of the printed manual or presentation will be updated frequently, loose-leaf binders are used to hold hole-punched printed sheets. that only require the printed pages to be hole-punched.

Perfect Binding is used to make soft-cover books and manuals that are too thick to staple. The cover is hot-glued to the left-hand edges of the stack of collated and aligned printed pages to form a spine. The cover sheet is then folded over the first and last pages of the stack so that only the right-hand edges of the printed book pages remain uncovered. Perfect binding machines are priced based on the number, size, and thickness of pages they can handle and how many finished books they can produce per hour.

Saddle Stitching is a bookbinding method in which a stack of printed pages and a cover sheet are folded in half and stapled along the fold line. Many magazines are saddle-stitched.

Spiral/Coil Binding is used to create lay-flat books, such as cookbooks, promotional notebooks, and calendars. The stack of pages for the book (including the covers) is “drilled” to create the holes through which a spiral coil of plastic or metal is inserted.

Wire-O/Twin Loop Binding machines use pre-formed C-shaped pairs of wire loops along a spine. After the wire-loops are inserted through the holes punched in the book pages and cover, the loops are machine-crimped to form a perfect circle and bind the pages and cover.

Padding Machines are used to convert a collection of same-sized printed sheets into notepad, memo pad, or order pad. The machines apply a flexible adhesive to a stack of sheets combined with a rigid backing board.

Manufacturers and Dealers

To see examples of the different types of finishing equipment defined above, visit the websites of dealers such as Or visit the Printing United show in Dallas Oct. 23-25. Here, you’ll see some of the latest advances in finishing and binding equipment for shops that use a mix of offset and digital presses. For example, Cobblestone Graphic Equipment will be exhibiting: Standard Horizon rotary die cutters, slitters, cutter creasers, creaser folders, and automated folders; the KOMPAC UV/aqueous coating system, and the MK Laser LC340S sheet-fed laser die-cutting system. Formax will display guillotine cutters, folders, creaser/folders, joggers, and more. Duplo will be demonstrating the DDC-810 Raised Spot UV Coater for embellishment and DC-646 integrated folding system for precision finishing.

Follow Us on Social MediaFollow Ordant on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter to learn when the next post in this glossary series is published.

Related Posts:

Print Business Glossary: Emerging and Niche Print Processes

Print Business Glossary: Automated Wide-Format Graphics Cutters

Print Business Glossary: Post-Press Coatings and Coating Equipment

You also may like
Subscribe to our newsletter
Get the latest software updates, company news, and insights delivered right to your inbox.
First and Last Name*
Digital Printing
Read More
Large Format
Read More
Read More
Screen Printing
Read More
Read More
Vehicle Wrap
Read More
Read More
Read More
& Workflow
Read More
& Purchasing
Read More
Sales, Marketing
& Service
Read More
& Reporting
Read More