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Publication numberUS20050000842 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/860,605
Publication dateJan 6, 2005
Filing dateJun 3, 2004
Priority dateJun 3, 2003
Also published asCA2527817A1, WO2004108428A2, WO2004108428A3
Publication number10860605, 860605, US 2005/0000842 A1, US 2005/000842 A1, US 20050000842 A1, US 20050000842A1, US 2005000842 A1, US 2005000842A1, US-A1-20050000842, US-A1-2005000842, US2005/0000842A1, US2005/000842A1, US20050000842 A1, US20050000842A1, US2005000842 A1, US2005000842A1
InventorsLee Timmerman, Doug Flitter, Lane Gravely, Corey Klein
Original AssigneeLee Timmerman, Doug Flitter, Lane Gravely, Corey Klein
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Bundled printed sheets
US 20050000842 A1
Abstract
The present disclosure provides bundled printed sheet articles, an apparatus for the manufacture of bundled printed sheet articles, and methods of making and using the bundled printed sheet articles.
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Claims(175)
1. A bundle of printed sheets, comprising:
a plurality of printed sheets in a stack;
a band around the stack; and
an overwrapper on the banded stack,
each printed sheet having a cut-to-print registration variance of from less than or equal to about 0.03 inches, and
each printed sheet having the same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the stack to within a variance of less than or equal to about 0.005 inches.
2. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 1 wherein the cut-to-print registration variance is from about 0.03 to about 0.015 inches.
3. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 1 wherein each printed sheet having the same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the stack is to within a variance of from about 0.001 to about 0.005 inches.
4. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 1 wherein the band around the stack encompasses a portion of two opposite sides including the full height of the stack, and a portion of the outer facing top and bottom sheets including the full width of the stack.
5. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 4 wherein the two opposite sides are parallel.
6. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 4 wherein the two opposite sides are other than parallel.
7. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 1 wherein the ends of a band around the stack overlap each other and the overlap portion includes a point of attachment.
8. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 7 wherein the point of attachment is accomplished with an adhesive, a weld, a crimp, or combinations thereof.
9. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 1 wherein the band is plastic, paper, metal, rubber, string, or combinations thereof.
10. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 1 having 1 to 5 bands.
11. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 1 having 2 bands.
12. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 1 having 1 band.
13. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 1 wherein the overwrapper on the banded stack includes a pull-tab to facilitate removal of the overwrapper from the bundle.
14. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 1 wherein the overwrapper on the banded stack completely encloses the bundle.
15. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 1 wherein the overwrapper on the banded stack incompletely encloses the bundle.
16. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 1 wherein the bundle has from about 10 to about 10,000 printed sheets.
17. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 1 wherein the bundle has from about 50 to about 5,000 printed sheets.
18. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 1 wherein the bundle has from about 50 to about 1,500 printed sheets.
19. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 1 wherein the bundle is free of a chipboard support or stiffener panel.
20. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 1 further comprising a chipboard, a stiffener panel, or combinations thereof.
21. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 1 wherein the bundle is from about 1 to about 2 inches wide, about 2 to about 4 inches high, and about 3 to about 10 inches long.
22. A bundle of printed sheets, comprising:
a plurality of printed sheets in a stack;
a band around the stack; and
each printed sheet having a cut-to-print registration variance of from less than or equal to about 0.03 inches, and
each printed sheet having the same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the stack to within a variance of less than or equal to about 0.005 inches.
23. An apparatus for making bundled printed sheets, comprising:
a printable web;
a print module to print on the printable web;
a cutter module to cut the printed web into a stream of printed sheets;
a collator module to collate each stream of printed sheets into a registered stack;
a conveyor module to convey each registered stack into a stack stream; and
a packaging module to package each registered stack in the stack stream into a package comprised of a bundle of printed sheets.
24. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the registered stack has a plurality of printed sheets.
25. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein each registered stack is vertical.
26. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein each registered stack is unsupported.
27. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the printable web and the print module, in combination, comprise a high-speed offset printing press.
28. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the cutter module comprises a rotary die-cutter, a flat-bed die-cutter, a slit-and-gap cutter, a slit-and-but cutter, a guillotine cutter, or combinations thereof.
29. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the cutter module comprises a rotary die-cutter to angle-cut the printed web into at least one sheet stream and a waste matrix.
30. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the printable web has a width of from about 16 to about 40 inches and a speed of from about 300 to about 1,200 feet per minute.
31. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the printable web has a speed of from about 300 to about 900 feet per minute.
32. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the printable web has a width of less than about 16 inches and a speed of from about 10 feet per minute to less than about 300 feet per minute.
33. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the printable web has a speed of from about 10 feet per minute to less than about 300 feet per minute.
34. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the conveyor module comprises an endless belt.
35. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the conveyor module comprises a conveying elevator, the elevator being operable to receive a batch of stacks from two or more batch stackers and to convey the received batch of stacks to a first conveyor.
36. The apparatus of claim 35 wherein first conveyor conveys the batch of stacks as a stack stream uni-directionally to the packaging module.
37. The apparatus of claim 36 wherein first conveyor conveys the batch of stacks as a stack stream bi-directionally to two or more packaging modules.
38. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the packaging module comprises a first banding station, a second over-wrapping station, and an optional third shrink-wrapping station.
39. The apparatus of claim 38 wherein the packaging module further comprises a boxing station and box sealing station.
40. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the packaging module comprises a first banding station for making bundled printed sheets, and a boxing station.
41. The apparatus of claim 40 wherein the boxing station manually or automatically places the bundled printed sheets in a box having a sealable liner.
42. The apparatus of claim 23 further comprising a debris collector near the cutter module.
43. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the printable web comprises paper, film, synthetic materials, metalized papers, foils, and combinations thereof.
44. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein each stream of printed sheets is transported from the cutter to the collator with at least one transport belt and at least one backing roller opposing the transport belt.
45. The apparatus of claim 23 further comprising an ambient humidity control system.
46. The apparatus of claim 23 further comprising a web coating module.
47. The apparatus of claim 46 wherein the web coating module applies to the web, after the print module, a varnish coating, a gloss coating, a protective coating, an anti-static coating, or combinations thereof.
48. The apparatus of claim 47 further comprising a web chiller module between the web coating module and the cutter module.
49. The apparatus of claim 48 further comprising a web nip between a nip roller and a backing roller just before the chiller in the chiller module.
50. The apparatus of claim 23 further comprising a web nip between a nip roller and an anvil roller just before the cutter in the cutter module.
51. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the cutter module provides from 2 to 80 streams of printed sheets.
52. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the collator provides from 2 to 80 registered stacks.
53. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the conveyor module conveys from 2 to 80 registered stack streams into a single stack stream.
54. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the conveyor module conveys from 2 to 80 registered stack streams into two stack streams.
55. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein packaging module comprises an optional stack jogger, a stack bander, an optional stack overwrapper, and an optional containerizer.
56. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the containerizer comprises a person or device for placing the bundled printed sheets into a container, for sealing the container, and optionally placing a plurality of sealed containers on a carrier.
57. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the package comprises:
a bundle of printed sheets comprising:
a plurality of printed sheets in a stack;
a band around the stack; and
an optional overwrapper on the banded stack, each printed sheet having a cut-to-print registration variance of from less than or equal to about {fraction (1/16)}th inch, and each printed sheet having the same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the stack to within a variance of less than or equal to about {fraction (1/100)}th inch; and
a container for the bundle of printed sheets.
58. The apparatus of claim 57 the package further comprising:
a plurality of the containers on a pallet optionally partially overwrapped with an overwrapper.
59. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the cutter module includes a static eliminator.
60. An apparatus for making bundled printed sheets, comprising:
a sheet feeder;
a print module to print on the fed sheets;
a cutter module to cut the printed fed sheets into a stream of cut printed sheets;
a collator to collate each stream of cut printed sheets into a registered stack;
a conveyor module to convey each registered stack into a stack stream; and
a packaging module which packages each registered stack in the stack stream into a package having a bundled printed sheets.
61. The apparatus of claim 60 wherein the sheet feeder and the print module in combination comprise a high speed sheet-fed print engine.
62. The apparatus of claim 60 wherein the cutter module comprises a die-cutter to angle-cut the printed sheets into at least one sheet stream and a waste matrix.
63. The apparatus of claim 60 wherein packaging module comprises an optional stack jogger, a stack bander, an optional stack overwrapper, and an optional containerizer.
64. The apparatus of claim 60 wherein the package further comprises a plurality of containerized bundled printed sheets.
65. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the print module comprises a first print engine to print constant image information, and a second print engine to print variable image information.
66. A method of making bundled printed sheets, comprising:
printing on a printable web;
cutting the printed web into a stream of printed sheets and a waste matrix;
collating each stream of printed sheets into a registered stack;
conveying each registered stack into a stack stream; and
packaging each registered stack in the stack stream to form a bundle of printed sheets.
67. The method of claim 66 wherein cutting is accomplished with rotary die-cutter, a flat-bed die-cutter, a slit-and-gap cutter, a slit-and-butt cutter, a guillotine cutter, or combinations thereof.
68. The method of claim 66 wherein cutting is accomplished with a rotary die-cutter.
69. The method of claim 68 wherein the die-cutter angle-cuts the printed web into a stream of printed sheets.
70. The method of claim 68 wherein the die-cutter angle-cuts the printed web into from 2 to 80 streams of printed sheets.
71. The method of claim 66 wherein the printable web has a width of from about 16 to about 40 inches and a speed of from about 300 to about 900 feet per minute.
72. The method of claim 66 wherein the printable web has a speed of from about 300 to about 1,200 feet per minute.
73. The method of claim 66 wherein the printable web has a width of less than about 16 inches and a speed of from about 10 to less than about 300 feet per minute.
74. The method of claim 66 wherein the printable web has a speed of from about 10 to less than about 300 feet per minute.
75. The method of claim 66 wherein conveying conveys from 2 to 80 stack streams into a merged single stream.
76. The method of claim 75 further comprising conveying the merged single stream in different directions into two separate stack streams.
77. The method of claim 66 wherein the printing, cutting, collating, conveying, and packaging, are accomplished continuously.
78. The method of claim 66 wherein the printing comprises offset, lithography, flexography, gravure, non-impact printing methods, electrophotography, and combinations thereof.
79. The method of claim 66 wherein the printable web comprises paper, film, a synthetic material, a metalized synthetic material, a metalized paper, a foil, and combinations thereof.
80. The method of claim 66 wherein each cutting event of the printed web is perpendicular to the web process direction.
81. The method of claim 66 wherein cutting is accomplished with a die-cutter.
82. The method of claim 66 wherein cutting is accomplished non-simultaneously and non-perpendicular to the web process-direction with a die-cutter.
83. The method of claim 81 wherein the die-cutter cuts from the web printed sheets which are, prior to cutting, aligned adjacent sheets, staggered adjacent sheets, angle-cut adjacent sheets, and combinations thereof.
84. The method of claim 83 wherein die-cutting cuts aligned adjacent printed sheets widthwise across the web process-direction.
85. The method of claim 83 wherein die-cutting cuts staggered adjacent printed sheets widthwise across the web process-direction.
86. The method of claim 83 wherein die-cutting cuts angle-cut adjacent sheets widthwise across the web process-direction.
87. The method of claim 66 wherein each cutting event produces from 2 to 50 of individually cut and printed sheets widthwise across the web process-direction.
88. The method of claim 66 wherein die-cutting the printed web continuously produces a stream of printed sheets.
89. The method of claim 66 wherein collating is accomplished by a collator having a receiver for receiving and registering each stream of printed sheets into an incipient registered stack.
90. The method of claim 66 wherein collating a number of streams of printed sheets produces an equal number of registered stacks of printed sheets.
91. The method of claim 66 wherein a registered stack or a bundle of printed sheets has from about 10 to about 5,000 printed sheets.
92. The method of claim 66 wherein a registered stack or a bundle of printed sheets has from about 10 to about 1,500 printed sheets.
93. The method of claim 66 wherein each registered stack has cut printed sheets stacked vertically and unsupported.
94. The method of claim 66 wherein each registered stack has cut printed sheets stacked vertically and supported.
95. The method of claim 66 wherein each registered stack has cut printed sheets stacked horizontally and supported.
96. The method of claim 66 wherein each registered stack is edge-to-edge registered, side-to-side registered, height-registered, edge-registered, width-registered, weight registered, or combinations thereof.
97. The method of claim 66 wherein each registered stack is height registered and edge-to-edge registered.
98. The method of claim 66 wherein each registered stack is edge-to-edge registered.
99. The method of claim 66 wherein conveying conveys on a first conveyor the registered stacks away from the collator in the web process-direction for a distance and thereafter the registered stacks are displaced laterally, with respect to web process-direction, on a second conveyor to form a stack stream.
100. The method of claim 66 wherein packaging each registered stack in the stack stream to form a bundle of printed sheets comprises banding, overwrapping, shrink-wrapping, or combinations thereof.
101. The method of claim 66 wherein packaging is accomplished by banding each registered stack.
102. The method of claim 66 wherein packaging is accomplished by placing two or more bands around each registered stack.
103. The method of claim 66 wherein packaging is accomplished by placing one band around each registered stack.
104. The method of claim 66 wherein packaging is accomplished by over-wrapping each registered stack, banded or un-banded, to form a wrapped stack.
105. The method of claim 104 wherein the over-wrapping of each registered stack forms a sealed enclosure about the stack.
106. The method of claim 66 wherein packaging comprises a first banding, a second over-wrapping, and optionally shrinking the over-wrapping.
107. The method of claim 66 wherein packaging comprises applying a band to each stack, placing one or more banded stacks in a container, and sealing the container.
108. The method of claim 107 wherein the container is a box.
109. The method of claim 108 wherein the container has a sealable liner.
110. The method of claim 66 wherein the printed sheets are labels, business cards, credit cards, phone cards, greeting cards, trading cards, tickets, game cards, note pad sheets, currency, checks, negotiable instruments, interlaced images, coupons, chits, ballots, forms, time sheets, or combinations thereof.
111. The method of claim 66 wherein the waste matrix is removed by vacuum and discarded.
112. The method of claim 66 further comprising applying a coating to the first face, the second face, or both faces of the printed web.
113. The method of claim 112 wherein the coating is applied to the printed side of the web, the unprinted side of the web, or both the unprinted side of the web and the printed side of the web.
114. The method of claim 112 wherein the coating is a varnish, a gloss coat, a clear coat, a seal coat, an antistatic treatment, or combinations thereof.
115. The method of claim 112 further comprising chilling the coated web.
116. The method of claim 66 further comprising a web guiding system for web substrate regulation.
117. The method of claim 66 further comprising monitoring the print quality of the printing.
118. The method of claim 117 wherein monitoring the print quality is accomplished with a video inspection system.
119. The method of claim 66 further comprising monitoring the registration of the printing to the cutting.
120. The method of claim 119 wherein monitoring the registration of the printing to the cutting is accomplished by continuously detecting a reference mark on the matrix prior to cutting, and continuously adjusting, as needed, the web position relative to the cutter to achieve a predetermined alignment of the cutter relative to the printed items on the printed web.
121. The method of claim 120 wherein continuously adjusting the web position relative to the cutter comprises controllably varying the speed of the web, controllably varying the position of the web, or combinations thereof.
122. The method of claim 120 wherein monitoring the print registration is accomplished with a video print registration inspection system.
123. The method of claim 66 further comprising monitoring the color quality of the printing.
124. The method of claim 123 wherein monitoring the color quality is accomplished with a closed-loop color control and adjustment system.
125. The method of claim 124 further comprising adjusting print density to maintain the color quality of the printing.
126. The method of claim 66 further comprising monitoring the cut precision of the cutting.
127. The method of claim 126 wherein monitoring the cut precision is accomplished with a video inspection system.
128. The method of claim 66 wherein the bundled printed sheets are produced in from about 1 to about 4 minutes.
130. The method of claim 66 further comprising placing a plurality of bundled printed sheets in a container.
131. The method of claim 130 further comprising sealing the container containing the plurality of bundled printed sheets.
132. The method of claim 131 further comprising placing the sealed container on a carrier.
133. The method of claim 66 further comprising removing debris after cutting the printed web into printed sheets.
134. The method of claim 133 wherein removing debris after cutting is accomplished with a vacuum, a brush disturber, a tacky-surface member, or combinations thereof, situated in an area near the cutter.
135. The method of claim 66 wherein the bundled printed sheets are free of a chipboard support or a stiffener panel.
136. The method of claim 66 wherein the print registration to cut edges of the printed sheets is within less than or equal to about plus or minus 0.03 inches.
137. The method of claim 66 wherein the method is accomplished in ambient humidity of from about 65 to about 75 percent.
138. The method of claim 66 wherein the cutting, collating, conveying, or packaging is accomplished at an ambient temperature of from about 50 to about 90 degrees ° C.
139. The method of claim 66 further comprising controlling or eliminating static during substrate transport, printing, cutting, collating, conveying, or combinations thereof.
140. A method of making bundled printed sheets, comprising:
printing on a printable web;
die-cutting the printed web into a stream of printed sheets and a waste matrix;
collating each stream of printed sheets into a vertical registered stack;
conveying each registered stack into a single stack stream;
banding each registered stack in the conveyed single stack stream to form a banded stack of bundled printed sheets wherein a band circumscribes a portion of two opposite sides and the entire height of the vertical stack, and a portion of the width of the first sheet and a portion of the width of the last sheet in the stack;
overwrapping each banded stack; and
optionally placing each overwrapped banded stack in a container.
141. A method of making bundled printed sheets, comprising:
providing single-sheets;
optionally printing on the single-sheets with a print engine;
cutting each single-sheet into a stream of cut-printed sheets and a waste matrix;
collating each stream of cut-printed sheets into a registered stack;
conveying each registered stack into a stack stream; and
packaging each registered stack in the stack stream into a bundle of printed sheets.
142. The method of claim 141 wherein providing single-sheets provides single-sheets free of printed images.
143. The method of claim 141 wherein providing single-sheets provides single-sheets having printed images on one or both sides of the sheet.
144. The method of claim 141 wherein cutting is accomplished by an angle-cut rotary die-cutter.
145. The method of claim 141 wherein cutting comprises slit-and-gap cutting.
146. The method of claim 141 wherein collating is accomplished with a batch stacker machine modified to transport and receive a plurality of printed sheet streams.
147. The method of claim 141 wherein collating is accomplished with a vacuum assist transfer device to transport the printed sheet streams to the collator.
148. The method of claim 141 further comprising controlling or eliminating static during cutting, collating, conveying, or combinations thereof.
149. A method of affixing printed sheets to articles, comprising:
optionally slitting the over-wrapper on an over-wrapped bundle of printed sheets;
removing the over-wrapper from the over-wrapped bundle of printed sheets comprising:
a plurality of printed sheets in a stack;
a band around the stack; and
an overwrapper on the banded stack, each printed sheet having a cut-to-print registration variance of from less than or equal to about {fraction (1/16)}th inch, and each printed sheet having the same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the stack to within a variance of less than or equal to about {fraction (1/100)}th inch;
optionally fanning the unwrapped bundle of printed sheets;
removing the banding from the unwrapped bundle of printed sheets;
inserting the stacked printed sheets into a sheet applicator machine;
optionally activating an adhesive on, or applying an adhesive to, a portion of the individual printed sheets; and
contacting the individual printed sheets having adhesive with an article.
150. The method of claim 149 wherein the printed sheets are labels.
151. The method of claim 149 wherein the article is a container or package.
152. A stack of printed sheets, comprising:
a plurality of printed sheets in a unitary form, each printed sheet having a cut-to-print registration variance of from less than or equal to about {fraction (1/16)}th inch, and each printed sheet having substantially the same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the stack to within a variance of less than or equal to about {fraction (1/100)}th inch, and the stack being in a label applicator machine.
153. The stack of printed sheets of claim 152 wherein the unitary form is a stack of substantially identically shaped sheets.
154. The stack of printed sheets of claim 152 wherein the unitary form is a cube or parallelepiped.
155. The stack of printed sheets of claim 152 wherein the unitary form is a stack of substantially identically irregularly shaped sheets.
156. The stack of printed sheets of claim 152 wherein the printed sheets are labels.
157. An article having a printed sheet attached thereto, the printed sheet being obtained from unpackaging a bundle of substantially identically shaped printed sheets, the bundle of printed sheets comprising:
a plurality of printed sheets in a stack;
a band around the stack; and
an overwrapper on the banded stack, each printed sheet having a narrow cut-to-print registration variance of from less than or equal to about {fraction (1/16)}th inch, and
each printed sheet having the same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the stack to within a narrow variance of less than or equal to about {fraction (1/100)}th inch.
158. An apparatus for making bundled printed sheets comprising:
a printable web;
a print module to print on the printable web;
a cutter module to cut the printed web into a stream of printed sheets and a waste matrix;
a collator module to collate each stream of printed sheets into a registered stack;
a conveyor module to convey each registered stack into a stack stream; and
a packaging module to package each registered stack in the stack stream into a package containing bundled printed sheets,
wherein:
the printable web and the print module is a high speed lithographic press adapted to:
print and cure multiple color UV curable inks on a paper substrate;
apply a protective coating;
chill the protectively coated web; and
apply an antistatic coating;
the cutter module is a rotary die-cutter adapted to angle-cut the printed web, the cutter further including a static eliminator to facilitate separation of cut sheets and matrix from one another and the cutter;
the collator module is a sheet stream transporter and batch-stacker to transport and collate each stream of printed sheets from the cutter module into a registered stack;
the conveyor module is a conveyor for the output of each batch-stacker and adapted to directly receive the stack batch and transport the stack batch as a single stack stream to the packaging module;
each bundle of printed sheets having from about 10 to about 1,500 cut printed sheets, each printed sheet having a cut-to-print registration variance of from less than or equal to about {fraction (1/16)}th inch, and each printed sheet having the same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the bundle to within a variance of less than or equal to about {fraction (1/100)}th inch;
the packaging module having a banding machine, an overwrapping machine, a heat-shrink machine, a containerizer machine, a stretch banding machine, a palletizer, or combinations thereof; and
the apparatus having a humidity controller, a web-nip just before the chiller module, and a web-nip just before the cutter module.
159. A bundle of printed sheets, comprising:
a plurality of printed sheets in a stack;
a band around the stack; and
an optional overwrapper on the banded stack,
each printed sheet having a cut-to-print registration variance of from less than or equal to about {fraction (1/16)}th inch, and
each printed sheet having the same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the stack to within a variance of less than or equal to about {fraction (1/100)}th inch.
160. A bundle of printed sheets, comprising:
a plurality of printed sheets in a stack;
a band around the stack; and
an optional overwrapper on the banded stack,
each printed sheet having a cut-to-print registration variance of from less than or equal to about {fraction (3/64)}th inch, and
each printed sheet having the same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the stack to within a variance of less than or equal to about {fraction (1/133)}rd inch.
161. The bundle of printed sheets of claim 159 wherein the printed sheets are labels, business cards, credit cards, phone cards, gift cards, greeting cards, trading cards, tickets, game cards, note pad sheets, currency, checks, negotiable instruments, interlaced images, coupons, chits, ballots, forms, time sheets, or combinations thereof.
162. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein a module comprises an inspection station.
163. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the print module comprises a print quality inspection system.
164. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the print module comprises a print quality and print registration inspection system and the cutter module comprises a print-to-cut inspection system.
166. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the conveyor module comprises a first conveyor having two over-under parallel endless belts and an elevator, wherein the two over-under parallel endless belts each carry a stack stream from the collator to the second conveyor, the elevator being operable to alternate the position of the two over-under parallel endless belts relative to the collator and a second conveyor.
165. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the cutter module comprises: a rotary die-cutter; an edge slitter for bursting; an air knife debris disturber; an abrader; and a debris removal device.
166. The apparatus of claim 57 wherein the cut-to-print registration variance is from less than or equal to about {fraction (3/64)}th inch, and length and width dimensional variance is less than or equal to about {fraction (1/133)}rd inch.
167. The apparatus of claim 57 wherein the cut-to-print registration variance is from less than or equal to about 0.03 inches, and length and width dimensional variance is less than or equal to about 0.005 inches.
168. The apparatus of claim 149 wherein the cut-to-print registration variance is from less than or equal to about {fraction (3/64)}th inch, and length and width dimensional variance is less than or equal to about {fraction (1/133)}rd inch.
169. The apparatus of claim 149 wherein the cut-to-print registration variance is from less than or equal to about 0.03 inches, and length and width dimensional variance is less than or equal to about 0.005 inches.
170. The apparatus of claim 152 wherein the cut-to-print registration variance is from less than or equal to about {fraction (3/64)}th inch, and length and width dimensional variance is less than or equal to about {fraction (1/133)}rd inch.
171. The apparatus of claim 152 wherein the cut-to-print registration variance is from less than or equal to about 0.03 inches, and length and width dimensional variance is less than or equal to about 0.005 inches.
172. The apparatus of claim 157 wherein the cut-to-print registration variance is from less than or equal to about {fraction (3/64)}th inch, and length and width dimensional variance is less than or equal to about {fraction (1/133)}rd inch.
173. The apparatus of claim 157 wherein the cut-to-print registration variance is from less than or equal to about 0.03 inches, and length and width dimensional variance is less than or equal to about 0.005 inches.
174. The apparatus of claim 158 wherein the cut-to-print registration variance is from less than or equal to about {fraction (3/64)}th inch, and length and width dimensional variance is less than or equal to about {fraction (1/133)}rd inch.
175. The apparatus of claim 158 wherein the cut-to-print registration variance is from less than or equal to about 0.03 inches, and length and width dimensional variance is less than or equal to about 0.005 inches.
Description
RELATED APPLICATIONS

This patent application relates to copending provisional application U.S. Ser. No. 60/475,935, filed Jun. 3, 2003, entitled “CUT-AND-STACK LABEL PRODUCTION SYSTEM AND METHOD,” the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

There exists a need for improved bundled printed sheet articles. There also exists a need for an effective apparatus for the manufacture of bundled printed sheet articles. There also exists a need for improved methods of making and methods of use of bundled printed sheet articles.

SUMMARY

The present disclosure is directed to bundled printed sheet articles, to an apparatus for their manufacture, and to methods of making and using the articles.

The present disclosure, in embodiments, provides a bundle of printed sheets, comprising:

    • a plurality of printed sheets in a stack;
    • a band around the stack; and
    • an optional overwrapper on the banded stack,
    • each printed sheet having a narrow cut-to-print registration variance, and
    • each printed sheet having the same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the stack to within a narrow variance.

The present disclosure, in embodiments, also provides an apparatus for making bundled printed sheets, the apparatus comprising:

    • a printable web;
    • a print module to print on the printable web;
    • a cutter module to cut the printed web into a stream of printed sheets;
    • a collator to collate each stream of printed sheets into a registered stack;
    • a conveyor module to convey each registered stack into a stack stream; and
    • a packaging module to package each registered stack in the stack stream into a package of bundled printed sheets.

The present disclosure, in embodiments, also provides a method of making bundled printed sheets, comprising:

    • printing on a printable web;
    • cutting the printed web into a stream of printed sheets and a waste matrix;
    • collating each stream of printed sheets into a registered stack;
    • conveying each registered stack into a stack stream; and
    • packaging each registered stack in the stack stream to form a bundle of printed sheets.

The present disclosure, in embodiments, also provides a method of making bundled printed sheets, comprising:

    • providing single-sheets;
    • optionally printing on the single-sheets with a print engine;
    • cutting each single-sheet into a stream of cut printed sheets and a waste matrix;
    • collating each stream of cut-printed sheets into a registered stack;
    • conveying each registered stack into a stack stream; and
    • packaging each registered stack in the stack stream into a bundle of printed sheets.

The present disclosure, in embodiments, also provides a method of affixing printed sheets to articles.

In embodiments of the present disclosure, there is also provided a stack or bundle of printed sheets in a label applicator machine.

The present disclosure, in embodiments, also provides an article having a printed sheet attached thereto, the printed sheet being obtained from unpackaging a bundle of printed sheets of the disclosure.

The present disclosure, in embodiments, also provides a printing system for making and packaging bundles of precision printed and cut sheets.

These and other embodiments of the present disclosure will become apparent after a review of the following detailed description of the disclosed embodiments and the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic of a web-based apparatus for making the bundled printed sheet articles, in embodiments of the present disclosure.

FIG. 2 is a schematic of a sheet-fed based apparatus for making the bundled printed sheet articles, in embodiments of the present disclosure.

FIG. 3 illustrates a block diagram overview of a web-based process of FIG. 1 for preparing bundle printed sheets, in embodiments of the present disclosure.

FIG. 4A illustrates a perspective of a portion of a web-based apparatus for preparing bundle printed sheets, in embodiments of the present disclosure.

FIG. 4B illustrates a section view of a cutter module in a web-based apparatus for preparing bundle printed sheets, in embodiments of the present disclosure.

FIG. 5 illustrates a block diagram overview of a sheet-fed based process of FIG. 2 for preparing bundle printed sheets, in embodiments of the present disclosure.

FIGS. 6A and 6B illustrate alternative configurations of a collator module and a conveyor module of an apparatus for preparing bundled printed sheets, in embodiments of the present disclosure.

FIGS. 7A and 7B illustrate alternative conveyor modules of an apparatus for preparing bundled printed sheets, in embodiments of the present disclosure.

FIGS. 8A-8D illustrate examples of cut patterns for forming cut printed sheets, in embodiments of the present disclosure.

FIGS. 9A and 9B illustrate bundled printed sheets, in embodiments of the present disclosure.

FIGS. 9C and 9D illustrate other examples of bundled of printed sheets having alternative stack or bundle geometries, in embodiments of the present disclosure.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

To promote an understanding of the principles of the present disclosure, descriptions of specific embodiments of the disclosure follow and specific language is used to describe the specific embodiments. It will nevertheless be understood that no limitation of the scope of the disclosure is intended by the use of specific language. Alterations, further modifications, and such further applications of the principles of the present disclosure are contemplated as would normally occur to one ordinarily skilled in the art to which the disclosure pertains.

In embodiments, the present disclosure is directed to bundled printed sheet articles. The bundled printed sheet articles can have, in embodiments, for example high print quality, high length and width dimensional attributes, and high print-to-cut registration attributes. The present disclosure, in embodiments, is also directed to an apparatus for making the bundled printed sheet articles. The present disclosure, in embodiments, is also directed to methods of making and to methods of using the bundled printed sheet articles.

Definitions

“Substrate” refers to a web-fed or a sheet-fed material from which cut printed sheets are prepared by the process of the present disclosure.

“Module” refers to a component or subassembly of the apparatus of the disclosure which can accomplish a defined function or operation, such as a print module for printing, a coater module for coating, a cutter module for cutting, a collator module for collating, a conveyor module for conveying, and a packaging module for packaging. The modules of the disclosure can be adapted to be serially (i.e., modules linked in series) or multiply (e.g., one or more coating modules) integrated with other modules of the apparatus. The modules of the disclosure preferably can be readily modified or serviced in place, or additionally or alternatively, preferably readily replaced or interchanged with a similar or different module (e.g., a web-based four color print module interchanged with a sheet-fed xerographic color print module).

“Cut-to-print registration,” “cut-edges to print registration,” “print registration to cut edges,” “print-to-cut registration” or like phases refer the position of a printed image with respect to its exact, ideal, or desired cut-out pattern of the printed image compared to the actual or achieved cut-out pattern of the printed image in web-feed or sheet-feed embodiments of the present disclosure.

“Print-to-print registration” refers the position of a printed image with respect to adjacent printed images on a moving web.

“Angle-cut,” “angle cutting,” and like terms refer to cutting of printed sheets from the web or from fed-sheets at an angle other than square to the process direction, for example, where at least the edges of the printed sheets approximately parallel to the process direction are cut at a slight angle to parallel. Alternatively, “angle cutting” printed sheets from the web- or from fed-sheets can be accomplished where at least the lead and trail edges of the printed sheet are normal (perpendicular) to the process direction are cut at a slight angle to normal. In preferred embodiments the printed sheets preferably are angle-cut on both parallel edges and the lead and trail edges.

“Sheet stream” refers to a continuous or semi-continuous intermediate transport or flow of cut printed sheets from the cutter to further processing. A sheet stream originates upon cutting the web or sheet-fed substrate and ceases when the individual cut sheets of a stream are received by a collator and collated into a stack. Additionally, a sheet stream is formed from successive cutting events in a specific reference location on the web or the same region of successively fed-sheets, which produce a series of cut printed sheets.

“Collate,” “collated,” “collation,” “collating,” and like terms refer to collecting a portion of the cut printed sheets from each sheet stream to form an individual stack of cut printed sheets having uniform geometry or having unitary three-dimensional ordering.

“Stack” refers to a plurality of unsupported cut printed sheets piled atop one another and having substantially the same orientation. “Stack” also refers to a loose but ordered ream of cut printed sheets of the disclosure.

“Stack stream” refers to a continuous or semi-continuous transport or flow of registered stacks from the collator to further processing.

“Bundle” refers to a stack of cut printed sheets having a securing band, a protective overwrapper, a partial overwrapper, or combinations thereof.

“Banding,” “banded,” and like terms, refer to surrounding at least a portion of a registered stack with a band.

“High bundle-to-bundle uniformity” refers to such aspects as appearance uniformity, dimensional uniformity, performance or use uniformity, and like uniformity aspects, between or among bundles produced in the same print job. Additionally or alternatively, high bundle-to-bundle uniformity refers to low bundle-to-bundle variability.

“Print engine” refers generally to any print system or marking technology that is compatible with image or print formation aspects of the present disclosure, for example, as illustrated herein; “print engine” is not limited to, for example, digital print technologies.

As used herein the singular forms “a,” “an,” and “the” include plural referents unless the content clearly dictates otherwise. Thus, for example, reference to a product or article containing “a sheet” can include one or more sheets, or reference to a sheet printed with “an ink” can include one or more inks.

“About” modifying, for example, the quantity, dimension, duration, or like metrics of an article, apparatus, process, and like values, and ranges thereof, employed in the disclosure, refers to expected variations in the numerical quantity that can occur, for example, through typical measuring and handling procedures used to describe or quantitate aspects of the disclosure; through inadvertent error in these procedures; and through differences in the manufacture, source, environmental sensitivity, or purity of the materials used in the articles, apparatus, or processes of the disclosure.

“Consisting essentially of” refers to the recited items in the claim and includes unrecited items or aspects that do not materially affect the basic and novel properties of the articles, apparatus, or processes of the disclosure. Aspects or items that can materially affect the basic properties of the articles, apparatus, or processes of the present disclosure are those which impart undesirable characteristics or impose undesirable results thereon, for example, slow drying or non-curable ink or coating formulations, web- or sheet-stock which is dimensionally unstable or environmentally highly variable, cutting or collating which is highly imprecise or highly variable, or packaging materials which are not robust to the rigors of transport, handling, storage, or industrial use.

Referring to the figures, FIG. 1 illustrates a schematic overview of an apparatus for making the bundled printed sheet articles, in embodiments of the present disclosure. The apparatus or production system 10 is an automated continuous web-based system for high volume production of individual printed sheets from the web, free standing or supported stacks of the printed sheets, and packaged stacks of the printed sheets, that is a plurality of bundles of printed sheets.

The web can be printed or imaged to form a plurality of substantially identical printed regions on the web, which printed web can be, for example, subsequently precision cut into individual printed sheets. The individual printed sheets can be stacked. The stacks can be bundled, and the bundles can be boxed for shipping or storage. The foregoing illustrative steps can be accomplished continuously and without interruption. Other steps, such as a finish coating, anti-static treatment, and like steps, can optionally be incorporated into the apparatus and process of the present disclosure and illustrated herein. The apparatus and process of the present disclosure provide for the continuous high volume and high quality manufacture of bundled printed sheets. FIG. 1 shows various individually numbered modules, stations, or components only by way of example and to illustrate various preferred embodiments.

Substrate Staging (Web- or Sheet-Fed)

Substrate feed module or station 11 preferably can be a web-stock loading area where, for example, unprinted paper, plastic film, or other suitable sheet stock is fed into the system using supply rolls and unroll festoons to control tension and other relevant parameters, and to permit adding additional web rolls so as to enable continuous operation over extended periods and without interruption or shut-down. Such web loading and change-over equipment is commercially available from, for example, Keene Technology, Inc., Beloit, Ill.; and Martin Automatic, Inc., Rockford, Ill. A preferred component for this station is the model ZG 2650-10 shaftless butt splicer from Keene Technology, Inc.

Substrate Marking and Inspection

Printing module 12 or station can be, for example, a web offset print engine or like printing equipment, which module images or prints desired patterns or marks on one or both sides of the web.

In embodiments printing on the web or on fed-sheets (discussed in FIG. 2 below) can comprise any suitable print method, including for example, offset, lithography, flexography, gravure, non-impact printing methods, electrophotography, or combinations thereof. Offset printing typically includes an intermediate image receiver such as a printing plate. Lithography typically includes a printing member having ink receptive regions and ink rejecting regions, which opposite regions result in image and non-image regions on the printing member. Gravure printing methods typically include a printing member having a metal cylinder etched with numerous tiny wells that hold and release ink. Non-impact printing methods can use, for example, lasers as in laserography, ions as in ionography, ink jet as in thermal ink jet or bubble ink jet, thermal transfer imaging, and like methods and devices to form or transfer images on or to a receiver, such as a continuous web or a single sheet receiver. Electrophotographic printing methods include, but are not limited to, for example, xerography (e.g., from Xerox Corp), liquid immersion development (LID, e.g., from Indigo), ionography (e.g., from Delphax), and like methods.

In embodiments, the print module can comprise a single print engine, or two or more print engines, and which print engines can have the same or different marking technology or capabilities. Thus, for example, a first print engine, such as an offset print engine, can print constant image information, such as CMYK four-color image and text, and a second print engine, such as an ink jet or xerographic print engine, can print variable image information, such as custom color, specialty graphics, production information, customer information, lot or serial numbers, expiration dates, or like image or indicia information. It is understood that two or more different print engines can be configured to print on the same side of the substrate, opposites sides of the substrate, or both.

The printing and subsequent processing of the printed images, such as cutting and stacking, is preferably monitored and performed with at least one, and preferably four or more, different inspection systems, such as inspection station 25. One system, a video print inspection system, can aid a system operator or automated controller in the inspection of print quality. Another system, a print registration control, can check and automatically correct the print register. Yet another system, a closed-loop color control, can analyze and adjust ink density according to the pre-defined desired print specifications. Still another system, for example, a video die-cut inspection system, can aid the operator in the inspection of web- or fed-sheet cut-quality. The order of the inspection stations may be rearranged. The use of each of these specific inspections is not required, but the use of all of them can be preferred in embodiments.

The apparatus and method can further include monitoring the registration of the printing to the cutting. In embodiments, monitoring the registration of the printing to the cutting enables, for example, the elimination of a characteristic telltale white strip or unprinted area artifacts from the printed sheets.

An ability to accurately measure or monitor basic aspects, such as the above mentioned product, process, and operational aspects of the apparatus, is frequently facilitated by a pre-defined product or process target specification for quality control or quality assurance. Such target specifications and achievement of the target specifications can provide useful documented “proofs” of the process leading to the product.

Measuring or monitoring aspects of the printing and packaging system, such as mentioned above, can be accomplished, for example, on-line, off-line, or combinations thereof. The measurements are preferably accomplished on-line using process automation tools, for example, positional sensors, video microscopy or magnification, in conjunction with analytic or diagnostic software, for observing and maintaining print, image, color fidelity, cut-to-print registration, print-to-print registration, reproducibility, and like quality parameters.

In embodiments, monitoring the registration of the print-to-cut can be accomplished by continuously detecting a reference mark on the web matrix region prior to cutting, and continuously adjusting, as needed, the web relative to the cutter, the cutter relative to the web or both, (e.g., using web guides, web compensator rollers, and like adjustable components), to achieve a predetermined alignment of the cutter relative to printed items on the printed web. The aforementioned adjustment of the cutter can include, for example, controllably varying the speed of the web, controllably varying the position of the web, continuously adjusting the die-cutter (e.g., circumferentially, laterally, or both) or combinations thereof. Here “predetermined alignment” refers to proper alignment needed to achieve target print-to-print and cut-to-print registration specifications. Continuous registration and like adjustments can provide a number of advantages including avoiding problems associated with cutters, such as a guillotine cutter, for example, unreliable or unpredictable dimensional consistency and uniformity, alignment, registration, and like issues. Thus, the present process and apparatus can cut each printed sheet individually. The present process and apparatus can also cut a plurality of sheets individually and at the same time.

The following documents disclose or illustrate suitable command and control equipment, monitoring or measurement equipment, or related components or features which, in embodiments, can be adapted for use in-part in the present disclosure without departing from inventive aspects of the present disclosure: U.S. Pat. No. 5,460,359, discloses a binding apparatus for binding sheets of cut paper printed by a printing machine including a control system; U.S. Pat. No. 4,891,681, discloses a hard copy apparatus for producing center fastened sheet sets including trapezoidal stacks for folded binding, and a control system; U.S. Pat. No. 4,785,731, discloses a bundle count verifier (e.g., for newspaper bundles); U.S. Pat. No. 4,727,803, discloses a conveyor device with an article lifting unit; U.S. Pat. No. 4,566,244, discloses a paper sheet grip and transfer apparatus for a counting and half-wrapping device, see also disclosed therein Japanese Laid-Open Patent Specification No. 57-8616 (transport of paper sheets) and Japanese Laid-Open Utility Model Specification No. 50-98791 (transfer a pile of paper sheets on a belt without holding the sheets on the belt); and U.S. Pat. No. 4,424,660, discloses an apparatus for binding paper sheets stacked within a hopper into bundles each consisting of a predetermined number of paper sheets including a method of sheet transport, for example, sheets sandwiched between belts.

Substrate Coating, Conditioning, or Treatment

The method of making can further comprise optionally applying a coating to the first face, the second face, or both faces of the printed web. The coating can be applied to the printed side of the web, the unprinted side of the web, or both the unprinted side of the web and the printed side of the web, depending for example, on the properties desired for the printed sheets and the bundled printed sheets. The coating can be, for example, a varnish coat, a gloss coat, a clear coat, a seal coat, an antistatic treatment, and like coatings, or combinations thereof.

Optional coating, conditioning, or treatment modules 13 or stations can include, for example, optional in-line coaters 13 a-c, which can apply, for example, a functional coating to one or both sides of the web, such as gloss coat or varnish coat. In embodiments, the web after leaving the coater 13 a can, if desired, be diverted by re-routing to extend the web's path and to permit satisfactory leveling or drying of the applied functional coating before further processing steps are accomplished. One or more additional in-line coating units 13 b-c (not shown) can apply a second or a third functional coating to one or both sides of the web, such as an antistatic or static-preventing coat, a silicone based antistatic coating, and like coatings, or combinations thereof, or other performance or appearance enhancing chemical coats. Antistatic compounds, such as quaternary ammonium salts, and antistatic formulations are known and are commercially available. Coating the web, for example, with varnish or similar materials, can be used to protect or to enhance the appearance of the printed product, such as labels, in some printing embodiments. If foil or laminate print technologies are used, coating with varnish may not be necessary. The coating module may be integrated into the print module, and therefore may be provided by a commercial manufacturer. Preferred equipment for use in modules 12 and 13, in embodiments, can be, for example, the model QUANTUM 1250CM press commercially available from Sanden Machine Ltd., of Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. Equipment, processes, and control systems for coating web materials are generally disclosed, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 4,886,680. In embodiments, optional interstation web chilling modules (not shown) can be employed, for example, after or between each print tower or print station to, for example, remove excess heat, facilitate cure or drying of the printed or coated web, promote proper finishing or surface textures, and like enhancements, such as in a multi-color (e.g., 4 to 15 print towers) web offset press using UV curable inks.

The method of making can further include chilling the printed web. An optional web chiller 13 d or chilling mechanism, such as one or more refrigerated rollers, coolant chilled rollers, cool conditioned air, or like chilling mechanism, which can be non-contact with the web or preferably in-contact with the web, can be employed to cool and thereby stabilize the post-print or post-coat web product and can provide improved registration prior to cutting the web into individual printed sheets.

The apparatus and method can also further include a web guide system for web substrate regulation. An optional web guide system 13 e can be employed in embodiments for substrate regulation and to provide improved registration of the printed web presented to the cutting module, such as a die-cutter.

In embodiments, an optional corona charger or like charging devices, such as charger 23, or discharging devices, such as antistatic bar or static eliminator 26, can be use to electrostatically condition or treat the web before or after the print module. Charging the web can, for example, make the web, such as a plastic film, composite, or laminate-based web, more receptive than otherwise to inks, coatings, or like treatments. Discharging or removing static from the web or from the resulting cut printed sheets can, for example, facilitate sheet transport and stacking by reducing or eliminating sheet charging, like-charge repulsion, and like problems.

Substrate Cutting

After the web has been printed and optionally conditioned or surface treated, the web is guided to a cutter module 14. The cutter module can include, for example, a rotary die-cutter, a flat-bed die-cutter, a slit-and-gap cutter, a slit-and-but cutter, a guillotine cutter, and like cutters, or combinations thereof A preferred cutter module can include, for example, an in-line rotary die-cutting system, which die-cutter can cut individual printed sheets from the printed web to create a corresponding continuous sheet stream and a continuous cut-out waste stream or waste matrix.

In embodiments where two or more die cutters are employed, a first die cutter can be adapted to cut customized details or features from the incipient (not-yet-cut) printed sheets, such as notches, holes, hang tag apertures, concave curves, convex curves, or both, and like geometric or design details, and without severing or separating the printed sheet from the web or fed-sheet. A second die cutter can be adapted to further cut the printed sheets, or completely cut-out individual printed sheets from the substrate. In embodiments the cutter module can optionally be adapted so that a die cutter cuts the substrate to the desired and defined dimensions for each printed sheet except for a small fiber region or umbilical thread, for example, of about 10 to about 1,000 microns, and preferably about 100 to about 200 microns, between the substrate and the sheet, preferably at the lead and trailing edges of the sheet and the substrate, which can momentarily retain the material connection and force continuity between the nearly completely cut printed sheet, in-line nearest neighbor printed sheets, the moving substrate, or combinations thereof. An optional edger or slicer can subsequently “burst” the umbilical thread at a more favorable location down stream. An optional debris collector, such as a vacuum line or vacuum manifold, can be situated in close proximity, such as from about 1 centimeter to about 100 centimeters to remove potentially objectionable dust and like debris generated from the bursting operation.

In embodiments, a continuous sheet stream is preferred for productivity and economy. However, occasionally the bundled printed sheet production process of the disclosure may need to be briefly suspended to make, for example, change-overs, adjustments, repairs, and like maintenance or production optimization. The process and apparatus of the present disclosure can be adapted with, for example, controls and quality specifications, to permit as-needed temporary suspension or interruption of production without jeopardizing an entire print job. In this sense a sheet stream can have a semi-continuous character when, for example, its flow is temporarily interrupted.

In embodiments, the cutter module can include a static eliminator. The static eliminator can facilitate separation of cut sheets and waste matrix, and prevent the cut sheets from following or adhering to the matrix, the cutter, other sheets, or to the sheet transporter. Methods of static charge or frictional charge suppression or elimination, for use in place of or in conjunction with humidity control, can include, for example, a conductive or non-conductive disturber brush, an air ionizer such as a charge corotron, a de-ionizer, and like articles or devices. Other methods of static charge or frictional charge suppression or elimination, for use in place of or in conjunction with humidity control, can include, for example, applying an anti-static coating or like surface treatment, where for example one or both side of the web or fed-sheets are treated before or after printing.

In-line die-cutting of a printed web to produce individual cut printed sheets, such as printed labels, as in the present disclosure saves time and lowers cost compared to processing the cut printed sheets or labels individually at various stages. In-line die-cutting can also produce an exact or substantially exact duplication of the cut features in each and every printed sheet produced. In contrast, cutting labels with, for example, a guillotine cutter, can often be prone to operator error or mechanical error (e.g., attributable to cumulative machine wear) which can lead to greater variation and lower quality in the finished product. An in-line die-cutting system can provide ideal duplication of specified product dimensions as well as accurate print-to-cut registration. If desired, a cutting module having a die-cutter can be preferably integrated into a print module similar to the abovementioned integrated coating module. Rotary die-cutting equipment, such as rotary dies and flexible dies, print cylinders, and other rotary tooling for precision die-cutting, is commercially available from, for example, Rotometrics of Eureka, Mo.; and Bemal Inc., of Rochester Hills, Mich. Various other wide format cutters and related in-line finishing equipment is commercially available from, for example, Advance Graphic Equipment (www.advancegraphicsequip.com).

In embodiments, the apparatus and method of the disclosure which employs, for example, a die-cutter, can provide cut printed sheets having a print-to-cut registration, that is print registration to cut edges variance, for example, from less than or equal to about plus or minus 0.0625 inches ({fraction (1/16)}th inch), more preferably from less than or equal to about plus or minus 0.046875 inches ({fraction (3/64)}th inch), even more preferably from less than or equal to about plus or minus 0.03125 inches ({fraction (1/32)}nd inch), and even still more preferably less than or equal to about plus or minus 0.015625 inches ({fraction (1/64)}th inch). In embodiments, the apparatus and method of the disclosure which employ, for example, a rotary die-cutter, can routinely provide cut printed sheets having a print registration to cut edges variance, for example, less than or equal to about plus or minus 0.03 inches.

In embodiments, the apparatus and method of the disclosure which employ, for example, a rotary die-cutter, can provide cut printed sheets such that each sheet has substantially the same length and width dimensions as substantially all the other cut printed sheets produced in the job, for example, to within a variance of less than or equal to about 0.010 inches ({fraction (1/100)}th inch), more preferably less than or equal to about 0.0075 inches ({fraction (1/133)}rd inch), even more preferably less than or equal to about 0.00666 inches ({fraction (1/150)}th inch), and even still more preferably less than or equal to about 0.005 inches ({fraction (1/200)}th inch).

Preferences for the above mentioned narrower print-to-cut registration variance and narrower length and width dimensional variance, will be readily appreciated by one of ordinary skill in the art, and can include, for example, higher quality printed sheets, higher stack and bundle uniformity and quality, greater latitude for print layout, artwork, sheet design, and sheet geometry, greater intermediate-user and end-user customer acceptance, greater reliability in methods of application of the printed sheets to articles, greater ease-of-handling and ease-of-use, and like intrinsic and extrinsic benefits.

In embodiments, the apparatus and method of the disclosure which employ, for example, a rotary die-cutter can provide cut printed sheets and in their corresponding bundled printed sheets where each cut printed sheet produced can have a cut-to-print registration variance of, for example, from less than or equal to about 0.0625 inches, and the same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the stack to within a variance of less than or equal to about 0.010 inches. In embodiments, the apparatus and method of the disclosure which employ, for example, a rotary die-cutter can provide cut printed sheets and corresponding bundled printed sheets where each cut printed sheet produced can have both a cut-to-print registration variance of, for example, from less than or equal to about 0.046875 inches, and the same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the stack to within a variance of less than or equal to about 0.0075 inches. In embodiments, the apparatus and method of the disclosure which employ, for example, a rotary die-cutter can provide cut printed sheets where each cut printed sheet produced has both a cut-to-print registration variance of, for example, from less than or equal to about 0.03 inches, and substantially the same length and width dimensions, for example, to within a variance of less than or equal to about 0.005 inches, as substantially all the other cut printed sheets in a job, for example, over a 24 to 48 hour period, or more, of continuous production or apparatus operation. In other like recitations of cut-to-print registration variance, length dimensional variance, and width dimensional variance, it will be understood to include “less than or equal to” if not explicitly indicated. It will also be understood that variances can be determined by any suitable measurement methods, for example, video microscopy, microscopy with a calibrated vernier or reference standard, a micrometer, and like measurement methods.

In embodiments each cutting event of the printed web can be accomplished, for example, widthwise across the web process direction or in a variety of alternative schemes, for example, as disclosed herein. Alternatively or additionally, the cutting can be accomplished simultaneously or semi-simultaneously with a die-cutter. The die-cutter can cut printed sheets from the web in a variety of ways, such as web printed items which are, for example, aligned adjacent sheets, staggered adjacent sheets, angle-cut adjacent sheets, or combinations thereof. In embodiments, die-cutting of printed sheets can be accomplished simultaneously, having stagger between or among adjacent latent or incipient streams of printed sheets. In preferred embodiments, die-cutting can be accomplished with angle-cut of one or more of the edges of the printed sheets. Angle-cutting the web- or fed-sheets produces sheets which can be, for example, square shaped or rectangular shaped and can optionally have square corners of about 90 degrees. These sheets are cut by a die that has a minor skew angle or orientational off-set of the cut edges from parallel, perpendicular, or both, relative to the web's process direction edges, so as to allow the rotary die cutter to achieve cuts which provide more shear-type cut forces and minimizes or eliminates “bounce” or recoil associated with simultaneous cutting of like pieces from the moving web at high speeds. Thus, in angle-cut die-cutting the die-cut blade is preferably slightly skewed by, for example, about one half of a degree so that the lead edge of each die-cutting blade provides web cross-cut action from a point and proceeds in a line rather than a perpendicular “all-at-once” cut normal to the edges of the web or the fed-sheet.

In embodiments, die-cutting the printed web can be configured to continuously produce a stream of printed sheets from a corresponding width of the printed web. Die-cutting is preferably accomplished in a continuous fashion, for example, without hesitation or interruption in the speed or movement of the printed web or printed fed-sheets. The preference for continuously die-cutting is evident from, for example, measured economic efficiencies, product throughput, and minimized or minimal operator intervention. In embodiments, each die-cutting or die-cut event can be accomplished in one of several alternative schemes or variations on the schemes and combinations thereof, for example, “simultaneous” die-cutting wherein the lead edge of each sheet of an array of printed pieces on an advancing web or a fed-sheet substrate is first cut by a suitably adjusted and configured die-cutter. The die-cutting continues to cut out the printed pieces from the web or the fed-sheets arriving from an upstream process direction to generate individual printed sheets or an array of individual printed sheets across the process direction. In embodiments of the presently disclosed methods of making bundled printed sheets, each cutting event can produce, for example, from 1 to about 80 of individually cut and printed sheets width-wise across the web process direction, depending on for example, the desired (x- and y-) dimensions of the resulting cut printed sheets and their bundles.

In embodiments, the cutter module can be configured to have one or more cutters, such as two or more rotary die-cutters in series, for cutting the printed web or printed fed-sheets, for example, where it is necessary or convenient to accomplish multiple cuts or special-effect cuts on or within a single sheet, such as “doughnut hole” or “window” cut-outs within a sheet, notches on the edge of a sheet, and like cuts, or combinations thereof. Alternatively, a single cutter, such as a rotary die-cutter having an appropriately configured die, can often accomplish many, if not most, examples of multiple cuts or special-effect cuts on each sheet with a single die-cut pass or impression.

Matrix Removal, Sheet Conveyance, and Sheet Collation

The abovementioned waste matrix or residual web skeleton can be optionally continuously removed and discarded with a waste matrix management module 15, for example, with a vacuum take-off or a windable take-up reel. A vacuum take-off is generally preferred since it can provide higher capacity waste matrix removal, continuous operation, and enhanced safety and handling convenience by directing the waste to an area away from production. After the web is cut the transport integrity of the original web no longer exists thus the resulting cut printed sheets preferably need to be individually, continuously, and orderly transported to a sheet stacker in the collator module 16 in one or more cut printed sheet product streams. Each cut sheet product stream can be transported to the sheet stacker or “batch stacker” with a sheet delivery system employing, for example, opposing belts, rollers, vacuum transporters, and like apparatus, or combinations thereof. Examples of preferred suppliers of commercially available equipment for the waste matrix removal module include Quickdraft of Canton, Ohio; and individual sheet delivery or transport systems and sheet stackers include, Gannicott, Ltd. of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, see also U.S. Pat. No. 4,102,253.

In embodiments, the collating can be accomplished with a sheet transport and stacking machine which has been suitably modified to receive and collate multiple individual cut printed sheets of one or more sheet streams at the same time. In embodiments, each stream of printed sheets can be transported from the cutter to the collator with a sheet transport system comprised of at least one transport belt and at least one backing roller opposing the transport belt. In embodiments, individual sheet transport, alternatively or additionally, can be accomplished with a vacuum assist transfer machine as disclosed, for example, in U.S. patent application 20030164587 (Gronbjerg).

The sheet delivery system preferably is adapted to simultaneously transport a plurality of the cut sheets in adjacent parallel sheet streams. At the sheet stacker the individual sheet delivery system feeds the respective sheet streams, containing the cut printed sheets, into bins to form respective stacks. The stacks can be collectively or individually customized with respect to, for example: stack dimensions and the number of stacks formed based, for example, on cutting criteria, and the number of printed sheets in each stack. Stack dimensions can depend on, for example, sheet thickness, sheet-count, stack-height, stack-weight, or like criteria. In embodiments, sheet-count is a preferred stack customization criterion, which is typically driven or determined, for example, by customer use requirements and ergonomic handling factors. Stack customization criteria can be readily translated and programmed into the apparatus and production process of the disclosure by appropriate manual or automated, adjustment or modification, of the process equipment, controls, or both, such as replacing the die-cutter plate to provide customized cut sheet dimensions, reprogramming the sheet counters or stack height sensors to customize the stack height, adjusting sheet alignment tolerance within each stack, and like changes. When stack customization criteria and related quality criteria, such as print quality, are fulfilled in production, the resulting stack can be deemed to be “registered” and those stacks are acceptable for further processing within the apparatus. “Unregistered” or out-of-register stacks can optionally be identified, marked, rejected, such as removed from the product stream, or like remediation, at this or later points in the apparatus or production process and analogously to the abovementioned removal of individually rejected cut sheets from the sheet stream transport.

In embodiments, the cut printed sheet transport system can be adapted, in conjunction with known or the abovementioned command and control equipment, to reject cut printed sheets which do not have substantially the same cut-to-print registration, sheet dimensions, or both attributes, as all other sheets in the job. The cut-to-print registration, sheet dimensions, or both specifications, can preferably be established manually or programmably during job set-up or can be called-up from a computer or controller's memory. Rejected or out-of-spec cut printed sheets can be readily diverted and removed from a sheet stream at a point between the cutter and the collator, for example, by a sheet grabber or a sheet diverter.

In embodiments of the present disclosure, the collator module for the cut sheet stream can alternatively be a rotary sorter as disclosed, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 4,582,421 (copying machine with rotary sorter and adhesive binding apparatus), appropriately modified to receive multiple sheet streams into multiple stacks. In embodiments such a rotary sorter can be further optionally adapted to receive and further transport the stacks to the conveyor module, with inversion of orientation or optional retention of stack orientation upon delivery to the conveyor module.

Stack Conveyance

In embodiments, a conveyor module 17 can be adapted to receive, for example in continuous batches, one or more registered stacks from the collator module and to convey each registered stack, in batches, into a stack stream. In embodiments, a conveyor module conveys (e.g., in the web process-direction) on a first conveyor the registered stacks away from the collator for a distance to further processing, such as packaging. In embodiments, a conveyor module conveys (e.g., in the web process-direction) on a first conveyor the registered stacks away from the collator for a distance and thereafter the registered stacks can be displaced laterally or perpendicularly (i.e., with respect to web-process direction), onto a second conveyor to form a merged stack stream. In embodiments, a stack stream as used herein can arise from, for example, a plurality of registered stacks being merged into a single stream of stacks. In embodiments, a stack stream can also arise from, for example, bifurcating or splitting the abovementioned merged single stream of stacks into two or more stack streams. In embodiments a plurality of stack streams can also arise from, for example, bifurcating or splitting the registered stacks soon after being formed, into a plurality of stack streams.

In embodiments, a single conveyor, for example, oriented perpendicular to the sheet stream flow and the incipient batch stack formation, and situated in close proximity to each batch stacker can be adapted to directly receive the cut printed sheets and incipient stacks. Thus, the conveyor surface, when stationary, can serve as the base of the batch stacker where the sheet streams are compiled into stacks. Thereafter, the completed registered stacks are intermittently conveyed from the batch stacker to subsequent packaging modules in a single stack stream. This single conveyor configuration eliminates the need for two conveyors to get to the first packaging module, such as the first conveyor as illustrated and discussed for in FIG. 7 below, since a preferred stack stream merger into a single stream can be accomplished as the stacks are formed and there is no need to extend or “turn-the-corner” with a hand-off to a second conveyor.

Conveyor module 17 transports the stack stream or streams to and through the remainder of the apparatus and process modules. In embodiments, the stacks can be transported unsupported to subsequent stages of production without damaging or disturbing the integrity of the unsupported stacks. “Unsupported” means that accessory support or supplemental structural materials, such as sheets of cardboard, chipboard, stiffener sheets, or the like, are not necessary to maintain side-to-side registration or shape, such as “squareness” or verticality of the stacks for square, rectangular, or irregularly shaped sheets. Various conventional belt-driven conveyor systems are known, available commercially, and suitable for this purpose and as illustrated herein. Alternatively or additionally, the conveyor module can have a belt or equivalent conveyor means equipped with stack or bundle supports which are external to the bundle, for example, one or more tractor blades, fins, cleats, ribs, sidewalls, “one-way grass,” mole skin, and like rigid or resilient structures or textures, or combinations thereof, and which supports can be integral with (e.g., molded) or affixed to the conveyor, and optionally can have a hinge. Conveyors having external supports are widely commercially available.

Bundle Formation and Packaging

In embodiments, packaging each registered stack in the stack stream to form a bundle of printed sheets can include banding, overwrapping, optionally shrink-wrapping the applied overwrapper, stretch-banding, or combinations thereof. If desired, the packaging can be accomplished by simply banding the stacked printed sheets. A function of the band is to maintain the integrity and order of the stack to, for example, facilitate subsequent packaging steps if any, improve ease and quality of the dispensed printed sheets at the point of use, such as a label application operation or facility. Surrounding a registered stack with a band can be accomplished in many ways, for example, wrapping an end of a continuous band around the stack to size the band, cutting the sized band, and fixing the ends of the band to form a continuous or semi-continuous band, such as by gluing, welding, thermal fusing, dimpling, crimping, and like methods for forming a band or flexible holder about at least a portion of the stack. Alternative banding approaches can include, for example, inserting the registered stack into a pre-formed banding sleeve and optionally shrinking the sleeve, wrapping a pre-cut band around the stack and fixing the ends of the band, and like banding methods. Bands can be made of any suitable material, for example, rubber, plastic, paper, string, adhesive tape, non-adhesive tape, overwrap film, and like materials, or combinations thereof.

If desired and for reasons disclosed herein, the packaging can be accomplished by placing two or more bands around a registered stack. The packaging can also be accomplished by placing one or a single band around a registered stack.

In embodiments, the packaging can be accomplished by over-wrapping each registered stack, banded or un-banded, to form a wrapped stack or bundle of printed sheets. Over-wrapping of each registered stack can form a sealed enclosure about the entire stack. Over-wrapping can provide an important environmental barrier which protects the printed sheets from, for example, moisture, spills, humidity changes, dust, pollutants, and like contaminants, which can damage or detract from the aesthetics or performance properties of the printed sheets in downstream commerce applications, such as labeling operations, label appearance, label performance, and consumer acceptance. Over-wrapping can be accomplished with any suitable wrapping material such as plastic, synthetic or natural films, such as cellophane, acetate, polyvinyl acetate, and like materials.

In embodiments, the method can further include, for example, placing the resulting bundled printed sheets in suitable container, such as a box and sealing the box with tape. In embodiments, the method can further include placing a number of the sealed containers on a skid for convenient handling and shipping, and optionally stretch-banding the collected sealed containers into secure monolith for transport or storage.

In embodiments, the method can further include, for example, further collating the bundled printed sheets into larger or secondary bundles (bundles of bundles), having for example from about 2 to about 20 primary bundles, and which secondary bundles can also be optionally overwrapped, shrink-wrapped, stretch-banded (with e.g. polyethylene or like materials), and like packaging, or combinations thereof to complete the packaging or optionally further containerized.

In embodiments, packaging can include, in the order recited, a first banding, a second over-wrapping, and an optional third shrink-wrapping. Alternatively, packaging can include, applying a band to each stack, placing one or more banded stacks in a container, and sealing the container. Containers can be, for example, cartons, boxes, bags, cans, drums, supersacks, cargo-tainers, and like articles. The container can be made from, for example, cardboard, wood, plastic, metal, or like materials of construction. The container can include, if desired, a sealable liner, such as a plastic bag or like membrane, which protects the bundled printed sheets packed in the container. Thus, the banded stacks without an overwrapper but contained and sealed in the container with a sealable liner can resist changes in humidity and like potential environmental or external effects.

In preferred embodiments, the conveyor module transports and feeds unsupported stacks through an optional bander module 18, which bander applies at least one band around each stack to form a banded stack. Banding is often a requirement for proper and convenient handling of stacks by an end-user of the printed sheets, such as a label applicator concern. Banded stacks may also be conveyed in the packing portion of the apparatus at higher speeds than without banding. Banding is not, in general, a requirement of the process or apparatus of the disclosure, but is a preferred embodiment where higher productivity and economy are desired. A commercial supplier of equipment for a bander module is, for example, Sollas Holland BV of Wormer, The Netherlands. The Sollas model AB50 banding machine is a preferred example.

The conveyor module next optionally conveys the stacks, banded or unbanded, through an overwrapping module 19, which wraps each registered stack of printed sheets in an easy-to-peel overwrap film. In embodiments, the overwrapper can be adapted to overwrap two or more banded or unbanded stacks if desired. Suitable films include those supplied by RTG Films of Chalfont, Pa. A commercial supplier of preferred equipment for an overwrap module is, for example, Sollas Holland BV. The Sollas model 20 wrapping machine is a preferred example. Other commercial suppliers of overwrap equipment includes Marten Edwards and Petri, see Linfo Systems Ltd., mentioned below, which machines can be adapted to overwrap from between 100 to 265 pieces (bundles) per minutes.

Overwrapping can prevent problems associated with handling or manipulating exposed printed sheets in subsequent processing. Overwrapping can also protect the bundled printed sheet product from moisture and humidity, especially after it leaves the label manufacturer. Although preferably produced in a stable environment, the bundled printed sheets, such as for label application, may be shipped into substantially different climates, for example, a dry canning factory in New Mexico where ambient humidity at the application site may less than about 10-30%, or a water bottling plant in Oregon where ambient humidity at the application site may exceed 60%. The overwrap preferably is not removed from the wrapped bundle until just prior to application, so that exposure of the labels to the ambient environment is minimized to, for example, as little as 15 minutes or less.

The conveyor module can next deliver the resulting stacks, overwrapped or unwrapped, to an optional containerizer module 20 where, for example, a robot or an operator places the stacks or bundles of printed sheet product, banded or unbanded, overwrapped or unwrapped, in a suitable container, such as cardboard boxes or like suitable containers. An optional seal module 21 can be used to, for example, apply a tape seal to the containers containing the bundled printed sheets. The sealed boxes can then be optionally placed, manually or robotically onto, for example, pallets or skids at an optional carrier module 22 for staging, shipping, or delivery to a customer or warehouse. Commercially available equipment from manufacturers of various conveyer systems, parcel handling systems, or robotic systems can be readily adapted for the boxing, sealing, skidding, or like packing operations. For examples of commercial suppliers and details of fully automatic and customizable sheet feeders, overwrap equipment, shrink-wrap equipment, shrink tunnels, bag sealers, and like secure packaging equipment, see Linfo Systems Limited, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, (www.linfo.ca).

In embodiments, advantages of the apparatus and process of making bundled printed sheets of the disclosure includes overall accelerated production speed and increased volume throughput compared to known production processes for bundled printed sheets. The total time required between, for example, printed sheet formation (at 11 to 14) and application of packaging materials (at 18 to 22) is greatly decreased to less than about 1 to 4 minutes. For example, in current high volume printed label production systems, considerable time passes, such as from about 6 to about 48 hours or more, from the time the labels are printed and until the time the labels are packaged, such as boxed, because of the need for inks or coatings to properly dry or cure. Such time lapses can increase the likelihood that moisture will evaporate from, or penetrate into a printed sheet and potentially cause print quality or handling issues for individual sheets in use.

FIG. 2 illustrates in embodiments, an alternative sheet-fed based apparatus for making the bundled printed sheet articles of the present disclosure. The apparatus or production system of FIG. 2, is an automated sheet-fed based system for high volume production of individual printed sheets cut from the fed-sheets in accordance with the present disclosure. Sheet feeding module 210 can be, for example, a sheet-feeder capable of loading pre-cut sheets and which pre-cut sheets are further cut to size. Sheet-feeder devices are known and commercially available and can be readily adapted for use in the apparatus and process of the present disclosure.

The feed-sheets can be either unprinted or pre-printed. In either instance, the feed-sheets can be further processed including, for example, charging, printing, coating, treating, drying, chilling, and like processes, or combinations thereof, analogously to the web-based system of FIG. 1 described above, such as embodied by the aforementioned apparatus and processing associated with modules or components of 12 to 22, 23, 25, and 26. Thus, for example, prior to cutter module 240 there can be incorporated an optional print module (not shown) having a print engine suitable for printing on the fed-sheets, simplex or duplex, or like printing equipment. Similarly and optionally available for incorporation into the system of FIG. 2, but not shown, are modules or stations corresponding to those shown or mentioned for optional modules 13(a-e) in FIG. 1. Other modules schematically shown in FIG. 2, include a matrix removal module 250, a discharging device 255, such as antistatic bar or static eliminator which can be use to electrostatically condition or treat the web before or after the print module, collating module 260, conveyor module 270, banding module 280, overwrapping module 290, containerizing module 291, labeling module 292, optional sealing module 293, and carrier module 294. It will be readily understood that conveyor modules 17 and 270 in FIGS. 1 and 2 and as described herein, are not limited to a single linear conveyor as schematically illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2. A sheet-fed or discontinuous printing and finishing system employing, for example, a xerographic imager and a vertical collating bin array for sheet stacking or sorting, is disclosed for example, in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,444,491, and 4,368,972. Commercial suppliers of automatic and customizable sheet feeders, and like paper handling equipment or accessories include, for example, Xerox Corp., Hewlett-Packard Corp., and Canon, Inc.

The present disclosure, in embodiments, is directed to an apparatus and method for preparing substantially identical bundled printed sheets where, for example, the dimensions of each sheet are substantially the same as every other sheet in the bundle and where the dimensions of each bundle are substantially the same as every other bundle. Thus, the present disclosure in embodiments is distinguished from known document printing, reproduction, or reprographic systems having, for example, printing, collating, finishing, and like capabilities, but where, for example, the resulting printed sheets are not precisely cut into a two or more smaller identical printed sheets from fed-sheets or a continuous web. However, in embodiments, the present disclosure can include aspects of known web-based or sheet-fed document printing, reproduction, or reprographic systems without departing from inventive aspects of the present disclosure. Thus, in embodiments of the present disclosure, the bundled printed sheets can have for example, sheet-to-sheet print or image content which is constant, variable, or both. Additionally, embodiments of the present disclosure can provide substantially identically dimensioned printed sheets and substantially identically dimensioned bundled printed sheets which can be fashioned into, for example, multi-page documents, such as bound booklets, manuals, brochures, coupons booklets, check bundles, or like printed publications or collateral materials, see for example, U.S. Pat. No.4,368,972, or used to modify multiple page documents, such as with correction labels, advertising labels, bookmarks, promotional inserts, and like applications.

FIG. 3 illustrates in embodiments, a block diagram overview of a web-based process for preparing bundle printed sheets of the present disclosure, with for example the apparatus illustrated and described in FIG. 1. For example, printing 310 can be on, for example, a liner-less printable web, followed by optional application of a web coating 320, for example an adhesive or other suitable coating material 322 to one side (e.g., back-side) of the web, and a varnish or antistatic coating material 324 to the other side (e.g., front-side) of the web. The printed and optionally coated web can be preferably die-cut 330 into one or more printed sheet streams with any accompanying waste matrix being discarded 335. The printed sheet streams are collated 340 into registered stacks, the stacks are conveyed 350 into one or more stack streams, and each stack is packaged 360 with one or more packing materials or steps into a bundle of printed sheets. The packaged bundle of printed sheets can optionally be further containerized 370 or packaged, for example, with a banding machine, an overwrapping machine, a heat-shrink machine, a containerizer machine (e.g., a box maker or box loader), a stretch banding machine, a palletizer, and like operations and devices, or combinations thereof.

FIG. 4A illustrates in embodiments, a perspective of a portion of a web-based apparatus for preparing bundle printed sheets including, for example, a web-based substrate feeding 405, a printing module 410 which can include, for example, one or more or a plurality of print engines or print towers having the same or different print technology (e.g., offset and inkjet), one or more coating or treatment stations such as UV light cure of printed inks or coatings, or combinations thereof, a drum mounted die-cutting module 430, waste matrix generation and removal 435, resulting individual cut printed sheets 432 the linear flow of which comprises a printed sheet stream 440. Collation (not shown) of a portion of the printed sheet stream provides a registered stack 442. “W” represents the width dimension of the web, “w′” represents the width dimension of one or more cut printed sheet, “l′” represents the length dimension of the cut printed sheets, and “h” represents the height dimension of a registered stack. It is readily apparent that W is greater than w′ even when only a single w′ sheet is cut from across the web using a die-cutter which also generates a waste matrix. It is also readily apparent that w′ can be greater than, less than or equal to l′.

FIG. 4B illustrates in embodiments, a section view of a cutter module in a web-based apparatus for preparing bundle printed sheets of the present disclosure including a web substrate feed 410, a rotary die-cutter including a drum 430 having readily interchangeable die-cutting elements 431, juxtaposed die anvil 433, optional juxtaposed nip roller 450, nip roller pair 455, and optional non-contact separator device 460. In operation the cutter module configuration of FIG. 4B provides enhanced performance and process reliability having, for example, reduced jams, complete separation of cut sheets 432 from the waste matrix 435, reduced cut sheet “fly-away,” and like enhancements. Juxtaposed nip roller 450 ensures reliable substrate feed to the cutter. Nip roller pair 455, having for example cutter synchronized and regulated speed, provides a controlled constant tension and pull force to facilitate removal of the waste matrix from the separation area and delivery to a matrix take-off (not shown). Separator device 460 can be, for example, a static charger, a static eliminator, an air knife, a fan, and like devices, or combinations thereof. A preferred combination for use in the separator device 460 is a static charger and an air jet, which combination disperses electrostatic charge to the separation region between the cut sheet and the matrix. Although not desired to be limited by theory, the combined action of the mechanical forces of the air jet, nip roller pair 455, and the electrostatic repulsion of like-charged surfaces or charge neutralized surfaces of the waste matrix and the incipient cut sheet appear to facilitate smooth and reliable separation between the cut sheets and the waste matrix. In embodiments, the cutter module of FIG. 4B can optionally include a bottom-side vacuum transport belt 475 to transport or assist in the transport of cut printed sheets to down stream processing, such as stacking. The cutter module of FIG. 4B can also optionally include a debris disturber 465, such as an air knife or like non-contact device to assist in the removal of debris from the cut printed sheet products prior to stacking. The cutter module of FIG. 4B can also optionally include an abrader or sander article 470, such as a metal plate or sheet coated with a high durability abrasive material affixed to the surface of the article, for example, carbide particles, carborundum particles, diamond grit, sand, and like abrasive materials, or combinations thereof, to further assist in the removal of debris from the cut printed sheet products, and optionally buffing the printed sheet, prior to stacking. In embodiments, the cutter module of FIG. 4B can include one or more debris disturber 465, such as an air knife, one or more abrader or sander article 470, and one or more debris removal device, such as a vacuum collector manifold 480. In a preferred embodiment, the cutter module of FIG. 4B can include a debris disturber 465, such as an air knife, an abrader or sander article 470 for each sheet stream, and at least one debris removal device, such as a vacuum collector manifold 480. In embodiments, the cutter module of FIG. 4B can optionally include the abovementioned components for accomplishing bursting, such as an edger or slitter (not shown) and debris removal device such as a vacuum collector manifold 480. The foregoing web-based embodiment of FIG. 4B can adapted for use in a sheet-fed based apparatus and process embodiments of the present disclosure.

FIG. 5 illustrates, in embodiments, a block diagram overview of a sheet-fed based process for preparing the bundle printed sheets of the present disclosure, with for example the apparatus illustrated and described in FIG. 2. For example, feeding cut-sheets 505, followed by printing 510 can be on, for example, a plain or bond cut sheet paper stock, followed by optional coating 520 on either or both sides of the printed cut sheets, for example, an adhesive, varnish, antistat, or like coating materials. The printed and optionally coated sheets can be die-cut 530 into one or more printed sheet streams. The printed sheet streams are collated 540 into registered stacks, the stacks are conveyed 550 into one or more stack streams, and each stack is packaged 560 into a bundle of printed sheets. The packaged bundle of printed sheets 560 can optionally be further containerized 570 or packaged, for example, with a banding machine, an overwrapping machine, a heat-shrink machine, a containerizer machine (e.g., a box maker or box loader), a stretch banding machine, a palletizer, and like operations and devices, or combinations thereof.

FIG. 6A illustrates in embodiments, a perspective view of a portion of a collator module 16 in communication with a portion of a conveyor module 17 of an apparatus for preparing bundled printed sheets. Sheet stream transport 610, such as belts, rollers, vacuum transport belts, and like devices, or combinations thereof, transport and deliver the cut sheet streams to a batch stackers 620, preferably an optional second batch stacker 625, or optional additional batch stackers (not shown), to form, for example, a plurality of neatly stacked and registered sheets in adjacent stacks 630. Side walls 623, tab-stops 650, and like structures, can be included in the stacker to form a bin or chute for receiving the sheets and forming stacks. An optional elevator 660 can be employed when, for example, more than one batch stacker is stacking to shuttle completed batches of stacks 680 (e.g., 5 stacks across in each batch of stacks shown) from their respective stacker unit to a batch stack conveyor 670. The sheets received by the stacker can optionally be registered to achieve a unitary shape or uniform stack dimensions by, for example, jogging. Jogging can be accomplished by, for example, vibrating the side walls 623, tab-stops 650, and like structures, or combinations thereof, while the sheets are being collated into stacks in the stacker.

FIG. 6B illustrates in embodiments a related alternative to the conveyor module shown in FIG. 6A. Here the collator module (16 in FIG. 6A), again collating individual sheets into stacks within bins or chutes with sidewalls 623, is in communication with a reconfigured conveyor 675 situated next to the optional elevator 660 (hidden). This conveyor configuration is adapted to directly receive the stack batches from the elevator conveyor. Conveyor 675 is equipped with multiple rollers 685 (six shown) which facilitate a smooth transfer or “hand-off” of the batch stacks from the elevator conveyor in the multi-stack stream process direction to perpendicularly (in a horizontal plane) situated conveyor 675. It will be readily evident that conveyor 675 can be operated uni- or bi-directionally and as described for conveyor 690 in FIG. 7 a below. Once the stacks reach a proper position on conveyor 675, a system controller, like controls, or an operator can cause a plurality of conveyor belts 677 to raise-up and above the level of the rollers 685 and cause the belts 677 to convey the stacks in a single stack stream to further down stream processing. Additional details of the conveyor configuration of FIG. 6B are shown in FIG. 7B and discussed below.

Collating the cut printed sheets can be accomplished, for example, with a collator having a receiver for receiving and registering each stream of printed sheets into an incipient registered stack. The receiver can be any suitable member for receiving the printed sheets, such as a bin, a tray, a pocket, a chute, and like members or structures. An example of a suitable receiver member or structure is associated with a commercially available Gannicott machine, for example, modified to simultaneously receive multiple cut printed sheets into separated bins or trays. Each bin or tray can have, in embodiments, two side-walls, a front wall, and an optional back wall. The tray or bindexer can have, in embodiments, sidewall fingers which permit mechanical “jogging” of the printed sheets as they are received from the die-cutter or other cutting device by the collator's respective stacker bins. Collating of a number of streams of printed sheets preferably produces a correspondingly equal number of registered stacks. In embodiments, registered stacks or their resulting bundle of printed sheets can have, for example, from about 10 to about 10,000 printed sheets, preferably from about 10 to about 5,000 printed sheets, and more preferably from about 10 to about 1,500 printed sheets, where the preference here reflects, in embodiments, a balance between minimized packaging (larger stacks and economies of scale) and adequate stack or bundle size for convenient manual handling (smaller stacks and human factors) in a particular industrial application, such as label applicators. Other bundled printed sheet sheet-counts may preferred in other applications.

In embodiments, the registered stacks can be, for example: vertical and unsupported, (i.e. sheets laying flat with one face oriented downward and the other face oriented upward, wherein the sheets are stacked upward atop one another); vertical and supported; or horizontal and supported. Stack “support” in this regard refers to, for example, any suitable support structure or a mechanism suitable for maintaining the stack in a localized position while it is being formed, and to maintain the stack's desired properties, such as shape, handling, and appearance, during and after the time the stack is formed. A support structure or a mechanism can be, for example, a portion of the collator, such as a wall or stop. “Jogging” the stack with respect to a mechanical collator and collating the printed sheets refers to mild agitation or a shuffling disturbance which causes the cut sheets to align into more uniform or unitary stacks. “Jogging” of the stack with respect to an operator refers to mild manual agitation or shuffling disturbance, such as tapping the stack or bundle with a wood block, which also causes the cut sheets to align into more uniform or unitary stacks or bundles. In embodiments the stacks can be supported for a time, for example, while being formed, that is, during the stacking of sheets, and unsupported for a time, for example, while being transported on a conveyor.

The registered stacks can be, for example, edge-to-edge registered, side-to-side registered, height-registered, edge-registered, width-registered, weight registered, or combinations thereof. In embodiments, the stack height is predetermined, for example, by customer preferences, limits on the change range in the collator tooling, optimizing space utilization in, for example, containerizing or like packaging or storing considerations. In embodiments, achieving the predetermined stack height can be accomplished by, for example, a sheet counter, or similar mechanism associated with the collator. A Gannicott die-cutting machine having a stack height counter is commercially available. Preferably, each registered stack is at least height registered and edge-to-edge registered. More preferably each registered stack is at least edge-to-edge registered.

FIG. 7A illustrates, in embodiments, a perspective view of a portion of a conveyor module 17 of an apparatus for preparing bundled printed sheets of FIG. 6A including the above mentioned first batch stack conveyor 670 for conveying completed batches of stacks 680 to a second batch stack conveyor 690. As shown, a stack stream comprised of successively produced batches of stacks 680, for example, having five stacks each, is conveyed on conveyor 670 and transferred to conveyor 690 to form a merged single stack stream 710. Optionally, conveyor 690 can be adapted to operate bi-directionally or reciprocate to permit the merged stack stream to provide a second stack stream 720 when the conveyor 690 is operated in the reverse direction 720. The merged stack streams 710 or 720 convey the stacks in “single-file” fashion on conveyor 690 to subsequent packaging stations. Conveyors 670 and 690 can be a single belt, a plurality of belts, rollers, and like conveyor devices, or combinations thereof.

FIG. 7B illustrates in embodiments, a view of a portion of the conveyor module shown in FIG. 6B and discussed above. A first conveyor 660, for example in embodiments, the elevator conveyor of FIG. 6B transfers batch stacks to a second conveyor 760. Optional support 750 having an optional roller can be included to further facilitated the transfer and avoid or minimize, for example, stack tipping or disruption of sheets within the uniform stacks. Second conveyor 760 can include plural rollers 765 for receiving and positioning the batch stacks on conveyor 760. In one example, plural belts 770 on conveyor 760 were situated perpendicular to plural belts of first conveyor 660. Stack batches advanced on conveyor 660 were transferred to conveyor 760 on rollers 765 and thereafter plural belts 770 were engaged to convey a single stack stream to further processing 780

In embodiments, a first conveyor conveys one or more stacks, such as from about 1 to about 80 stacks, more preferably 2 to about 40 stacks, and even more preferably about 5 to about 20 stacks, at the same time from the stacker to a second conveyor. Here the preference reflects a desire to optimize or match sheet handling and stack handling hardware and capacity with total throughput economics. The second conveyor's path or process direction can be situated perpendicular to the first conveyor. In embodiments, to provide greater stack handling and stack through-put, the first conveyor can include an elevator which permits switching stack staging and conveyance between an upper first conveyor and a lower first conveyor. For example, while the upper first conveyor conveys stacks to the second conveyor the lower first conveyor is held stationary to receive stacks. When the upper first conveyor has completed conveyance of its stacks to the second conveyor and the lower first conveyor has received its stacks the elevator changes the positions and the roles of the upper and lower first conveyors to stack staging and stack conveyor, respectively. Thus, in embodiments, the collator forms one or more stacks by continuously collating printed sheets. The completed stacks are placed onto one or more conveyors and conveyed to a second conveyor situated, for example, perpendicular to the first conveyor. The perpendicular orientation of the second conveyor relative to the first conveyor causes the stacks conveyed by the second conveyor to be conveyed in the same direction and in a single stream, that is “single-file.” In embodiments the second conveyor can convey alternating stack batches or loads received from the first conveyor in different directions, such as the opposite (180 degrees) direction, perpendicular (90 degrees) direction, and like acute or obtuse intermediate angle directions, to provide two stack streams (“split-stream”) where each stack stream is separately packaged in one or more packaging operations. In embodiments, where for example, the collator module has two batch stackers operating in and situated in an over-under relation, the conveyor module can include, for example, a conveying elevator, the elevator being operable to alternately receive a batch of stacks from each batch stackers, and to convey the received batch of stacks to a first conveyor for further processing. The first conveyor can convey the received batch of stacks as a stack stream uni-directionally to the packaging module. The first conveyor can also be configured to split the merges single stack stream into two or more stack streams, and to convey the received batch of stacks as a stack stream bi-directionally to two or more packaging modules.

In embodiments, where for example, the collator module has two batch stackers operating in an over-under relation, the conveyor module can include, for example, two conveyors, with each batch stackers having one of the two conveyors dedicated to receiving its batched stacks, and each conveyor being adapted to convey the batched stacks to further packaging as batches of stacks (e.g., five stacks abreast) or as a single stack stream (i.e., one stack abreast or single-file). Thus in embodiments of the disclosure, there are number of conveyor configurations, which can accomplish efficient conveyance of batch stacks or stack streams and without an elevator shuttling between batch stackers or otherwise.

FIG. 8A-8D illustrates, in embodiments, examples of various cut patterns for forming cut printed sheets.

FIG. 8A illustrates an example of an “aligned-cut” pattern where a web 810 traveling in process direction 812 is cut with a cutter module, such as a die-cutter, to produce a cut sheet 815 which sheet is separated from the web to form a sheet stream and its corresponding cut-out void which is part of the waste matrix. Imaginary reference lines 820 show the relative “aligned” orientation of the cut sheet 815 to the normal (perpendicular in-plane) direction across or traversing the web process direction.

FIG. 8B illustrates an example of a “staggered-cut” pattern where a web 810 traveling in process direction 812 is cut with a cutter module, such as a die-cutter, to produce a cut sheet 815 which sheet is separated from the web to form a sheet stream and its corresponding cut-out void which is part of the waste matrix. Reference lines 820 show the relative “stagger” orientation of cut sheet 815 to adjacent stagger cut sheets 830 to the normal direction across the web process direction.

FIG. 8C illustrates an example of a “skewed” angle-cut pattern where a web 810 traveling in process direction 812 is cut with a cutter module, such as a die-cutter, to produce a skewed-cut sheet 840 having a very slight parallelogram shape which sheet is separated from the web to form a sheet stream and its corresponding cut-out void which is part of the waste matrix. Reference regions 845 show the relative “skew” or angle-cut orientation of the cut lines in the process direction of cut sheet 840.

FIG. 8D illustrates an example of a “square” angle-cut pattern where a web 810 traveling in process direction 812 is cut with a cutter module, such as a die-cutter, to produce a square-cut sheet 850, that is having all square corners 855, and which sheet is separated from the web to form a sheet stream and its corresponding cut-out void which is part of the waste matrix. Reference regions 860 and 865 show the slight shift or skew angles of the cut lines in the process direction and the across the process direction, respectively.

It is understood that the abovementioned cut patterns and methods for web cutting can be readily adapted to and are applicable to sheet-fed cutting embodiments. It is also understood that the abovementioned cut patterns are illustrative and are not intended to restrict the possible shapes or dimensions of the cut sheets, stacks, or bundles of the disclosure.

FIG. 9A illustrates, in embodiments, an exemplary bundle of printed sheets 900 of the present disclosure, having a plurality of registered, neatly stacked, cut sheets 910, having printing (e.g., images, patterns, line art, and like marks), printed indicia (e.g., text, figures, and like marks), or both 920, on one or both sides, such as label or product information, a band 930 encompassing the stack of printed sheets of the bundle, and a band overlap region 935 which can provide a point of attachment or fastening of the band to itself.

FIG. 9B illustrates, in embodiments, the banded bundle of printed sheets 900 of FIG. 9A further including a clear or translucent protective overwrapper 950, and one or more optional tear-tapes or pull-tabs 960 to facilitate unwrapping of the overwrapped bundle. In embodiments, the overwrapper 950 can be shrunk by, for example, known shrink-wrapping methods, such as the application of heat or radiation, to form a tightly sealed bundle.

FIG. 9C and 9D illustrate, in embodiments, other examples of bundle of printed sheets 900 of the present disclosure having alternative stack or bundle geometries while still having a plurality of registered, neatly stacked, cut sheets 915, images, printed indicia, or both 920, on one or both sides, such as label or product information, a band 930 encompassing the stack of printed sheets to form a bundle, and an optional band overlap region 935 which can provide a point of attachment or fastening of the band to itself. FIG. 9C and 9D additionally illustrate that, in embodiments, the sheets and their resulting stack and bundles of printed sheets can have a unitary shape other than a cube or a parallelepiped, including for example irregular aspects, curved aspects, notched aspects, peaked aspects, and like aspects, or combinations thereof, which aspects taken together can be functional, aesthetic, or both. The bundle of printed sheets of FIG. 9C can be for example a food product label or a promotional item. FIG. 9D can be for example a sports product label or insignia label.

In embodiments, other advantages of the in-line apparatus and production process for making bundled printed sheets of the present disclosure can include, for example, particularly when a precision rotary die-cutter is used: chipboard or like rigid stack supports are not required to maintain stack integrity during or after manufacture; the apparatus and production are less costly to operate compared to alternative systems; and the apparatus and production process, in embodiments, provide improved product-to-product consistency, such as sheet-to-sheet and bundle-to-bundle size uniformity, lot-to-lot uniformity, that is where there is time gap between identical print jobs, print registration, and print registration to cut edges of the sheets and their bundles. By comparison current state of the art guillotine cutting systems provide cut sheet variance of greater than about ±{fraction (3/64)} inches. The improved print registration to cut edges reduces paper waste, ink waste, reject waste, and improves the appearance and customer acceptance of the bundled printed sheets and the individual printed sheets, such as in consumer product label applications. Furthermore, the apparatus and process of the disclosure can reduce the total time to manufacture a supply of printed sheets, such as labels, from 12 to 24 hours to, for example, about 1 to 4 minutes. Standing or storing of cut printed sheets or bundles of printed sheets, for drying, curing, or like processes, is not necessary in embodiments of the disclosure. The bundles of printed sheets and the cut printed sheets therein, in embodiments of the disclosure, can be ready, if desired, for immediate customer use, for example, in the application of labels to articles. In embodiments the high cut-to-print registration can provide printing processes and products with design or artwork freedom advantages, for example, having artwork capabilities with uncommon bleeds, and avoiding the requirement for solid “banded” borders which are typically required, for example, in conventionally prepared guillotine cut-labels.

Table 1 provides an exemplary operation-time summary of a web-based production system for the manufacture, start-to-finish, of a single bundle of printed sheets product of the disclosure. In embodiments of the disclosure, in the manufacture of bundled printed sheets there can be incidental or intentional “holdup,” that is a slight delay or a slow-step in one or more manufacturing steps, for example, to accommodate limitations on equipment or operators, such as in manual packaging operations, shift changes, and like circumstances. Holdup can be minimized or eliminated, as desired, with different configurations, equipment, belt speeds, and like modifications, or combinations thereof.

TABLE 1
Approximate operation-time summary for web-based manufacture of a
single bundle of printed sheets.
OPERATION/MODULE TIME
web printing (8 color offset with 1-30 seconds
concurrent intermediate UV cure; web
speed average = 300 feet per min.)
web coating (varnish - single side) <1 second 
web drying (air) <5 seconds
web chilling (chilled rollers)  1-5 seconds
cutting (die-cutter) <1 second
sheet transfer (sheet stream)  1-2 seconds
collating (for stacks of 1,000 sheets 30 seconds-120 seconds
each with 2 batch stackers)
conveying (one stack to banding; 1st and  5-30 seconds
2nd conveyors)
packaging 100-160 seconds
(banding - 2 bands applied  (5-10 seconds)
simultaneously)
(complete plastic overwrap) (90-120 seconds)
(containerizing - corrugated box (<5 seconds)
wrap)
(box sealing - tape)  (1-10 seconds)
(carrier loading - each box  (5-15 seconds)
stacked by an operator)
TOTAL about 140 to about 350
seconds
(about 2.5 to about 6 minutes)

The bundled printed sheet products of the present disclosure provide a superior product for print-to-cut quality and stack uniformity properties, produced in less time, and a lower relative cost, compared to other available apparatus and methods. The bundled printed sheet products of the present disclosure, with or without additional packaging, are suitable for immediate use by a customer or user, for example, a packaging or labeling vendor-customer engaged in a high speed label application operations. Such a product is more responsive to current and future customer needs, for example, for print-on-demand availability or just-in-time inventory, and their concomitant advantages. The bundled printed sheet products of the present disclosure can provide a vendor-customer with bundled sheet products, in high quality and in high volumes, which products have less overall waste, for example, less waste packaging and less waste or unusable printed sheets which sheets historically had to be detected and discarded, and typically caused costly disruption or unnecessary down-time in customer operations.

The bundle printed sheets of the present disclosure, such as a banded and overwrapped bundle of labels, provide benefits to the process of applying or attaching a printed sheet to an article, such as a consumer product container or package. With previous label manufacturing methods, the printed labels often needed to be supported with chipboard, or other similar cumbersome materials, and shrink-wrapped to unify the stack. To use those bundled labels in a labeling machine, the shrink-wrap is cut off, the chipboard support is removed, and the label stack is placed in a label applicator machine to be fed onto the receiver package. This method of placing labels in a label applicator machine is prone to produce misaligned labels, which can in turn cause label misfeeds or jams, and can result in inferior label application, waste or rework, and compromised label application productivity. The present disclosure provides solutions to these problems. In embodiment, the combination of banding and overwrapping the stacks simplifies placing printed sheet labels in a label applicator machine. The equipment operator or robot can simply unwrap the stack with a highly visible tear-strip or tear-tape similar to that used on clear cigarette packaging. While the stack is still supported by the band, the label bundle can optionally be fanned-out and then loaded in the label applicator machine. Then, using for example a band cutter, the band can be slit and removed, leaving the resulting label stack in ideal position and alignment for feeding through the label machine.

The printed sheets of the present disclosure can each have high uniformity, such as the abovementioned low variance in cut-to-print registration, and the low variance of the length and width dimensions. Consequently, when the substantially identical sheets are stacked, such as prior to or subsequent to bundling by banding, overwrapping, or both, highly uniform stacks and ultimately uniform bundles of printed sheets result. Highly uniform stacks or bundles of printed sheets of the present disclosure are enabled by, for example, the method of making and the apparatus for making as disclosed herein. The high print-to-cut uniformity and the high dimensional uniformity of the printed sheets can be attributed to precision printing methods and precision cutting methods of the present disclosure. The high uniformity of a stack, that is a group or ream of stacked sheets, flows the combination of the accurately dimensioned sheets (i.e., low sheet-to-sheet dimensional variation) and the apparatus and methods used for stacking the sheets and the apparatus and methods used to package the sheets into bundles. The abovementioned high uniformity of a stack enables one to readily obtain a high uniformity bundle of printed sheets, for example, after the uniform stacks are packaged, such as when the stacks are banded, overwrapped, boxed, or combinations thereof. The apparatus and methods of the present disclosure used to make and package the sheets and their resultant bundles, also provide an apparatus and method for making large numbers of bundled printed sheets with high bundle-to-bundle uniformity. Thus, as an example of high bundle-to-bundle uniformity, the first bundles manufactured in a print job, such as bundles 1 to 10, are substantially identical in all aspects to bundles manufactured in the middle, such as bundles 18,490 to 18,500, or the end, such as bundles 36,990 to 37,000, of a continuous 24 hour print job.

In embodiments of the present disclosure, the apparatus and methods can enable the manufacture of on-average, for example, from about 1 to about 150 stacks or bundles of printed sheets per minute. It will be evident that the actual number bundles made or production rate can depend upon many different variables, for example, web speed, web width, printed piece cut dimensions, number pieces cut per web width, conveyor number and speed, banding and wrapping efficiencies, and like considerations. The production rate in this or similar linear productions systems of the present disclosure is typically rate limited by the slowest step or operation. The present disclosure can be adapted to escape from the above mentioned limitations of a linear or assembly line, for example, by “splitting” or dividing the stack streams to permit parallel or concurrent processing and increased through put productivity. In embodiments, the bundles can contain any arbitrary number of printed sheets. It will be evident to one of ordinary skill in the art that, for example, economic, operational, handling, customer requirements, and like considerations, that the bundles preferably have, although not required, approximately the same number of sheets in each bundle prepared during the same job. In embodiments each stack or bundle of printed sheets can contain, for example, from about 10 to about 10,000 printed sheets, preferably from about 10 to about 5,000 printed sheets, and more preferably from about 50 to about 1,500 printed sheets. Other sheets-per-bundle counts can be readily prepared if desired. It will be readily appreciated the number of bundles of printed sheets produced per minute can be multiplied by a factor which corresponds to operating additional production lines under approximately the same conditions and parameters.

It will be readily appreciated and understood from the present disclosure that the dimensions of a stack and the resulting packaged bundle can depend upon, for example, the thickness (height or z-dimension) of the web stock or sheet-fed stock selected, the thickness added to the web stock or sheet-fed stock as a result of, for example, printing, coating, conditioning, or like additions or treatments, the area size (x-y dimensions) of printed sheets cut from the web stock or sheet-fed stock, and the contribution of the packaging materials to the overall bundle dimensions. In embodiments of the present disclosure, the size of the bundle of printed sheets can be any suitable dimensions, for example, to provide bundles that are particularly useful to a user, consumer, or processor of bundled printed sheets, such as a person or machine, such as a robot, which handles the bundles or the constituent individual printed sheets within a bundle, such as, a label applicator machine and its operator. In the example of a label applicator machine and it's operator, bundles preferably have dimensions which make handling of the bundles by the operator convenient, such as readily held in a typical human hand, and unwrapped, unbanded, or both, with the other hand. Thus, in embodiments, a finished bundle of printed sheets can be, for example, about 1 to about 2 inches wide, about 2 to about 4 inches high, and about 3 to about 10 inches long. The foregoing dimensions being preferred, in embodiments, by operators or handlers and in view of human factor considerations. Other bundle dimensions can be readily selected and achieved in embodiments of the disclosure.

The high dimensional uniformity of each sheet in the bundle, the high dimensional uniformity of each bundle itself, and the high bundle-to-bundle dimensional uniformity provides, for example, bundles and printed sheets which are readily loaded and dispensed from a label applicator machine and with high reliability, for example, with minimal or free-from stack or label jamming or stack or label rejection from the label machine.

The bundled printed sheet product or the printed sheets within the bundles of the present disclosure can have a number of desirable aspects or advantages depending upon the details of their manufacture and the details of their use or application as mentioned below. In one aspect, the printed sheets can have superior gloss properties, for example, when the printed web or sheets during manufacture are coated with a gloss layer or varnish overcoat. Generally, the gloss coated or varnish coated printed sheets can have, for example, a reduced glue use or reduced glue requirement by a label applicator machine in applying the printed sheets, such as a label, to an article, such as a bottle, can, and the like, where for example, the ends of the coated printed sheet are overlapped and attached to each other with an adhesive. Alternatively, an adhesive can be applied to all or a portion of one side of the printed sheet to contact and affix the printed sheet to an article.

Accordingly, the bundles, the printed sheets within bundles, or the printed sheets when used, have lower rejection rates and higher acceptance rates among users, such as downstream manufacturers, customers, or consumers, compared to printed sheets made by known processes. In still yet another aspect, the printed sheets within the bundles and the bundles can be used without or with minimal “fanning” by a user or operator prior to use. “Fanning” refers to the practice of, for example, quickly parsing the sheets in the stack, for example, to separate or aerate adjacent sheets in a stack.

In embodiments, the printed sheets in the bundles can be used immediately or very soon after their manufacture, for example, within seconds or minutes, especially if the web or fed-sheets are printed and cured with ultra-violet (UV) curable ink(s) or with a UV curable overcoating, such as an ultraviolet curable varnish formulation, and thereafter cured with a suitable UV source to provide printed or coated printed sheets. UV curable over-coatings, in-line or web coating devices, and UV light sources for curing are commercially available. Thus, printed sheets and their subsequently formed bundles can be made and used on-demand and do not required extended or lengthy time delays associated with an intermediate drying step and which drying step may additionally require special environmental conditions, such as temperature or humidity control, or handling precaution, intermediate storage or warehousing, and like considerations. Uncoated printed sheets or sheets coated with water or aqueous based UV varnishes or coatings typically tend to be more porous compared to organic based UV varnishes or coatings and tend therefore more absorbent of glue formulations, and consequently may have a greater glue requirement and total glue cost, such as by about two-fold, to achieve satisfactory fixing of the printed sheets to articles.

In embodiments, the cut-to-print registration variance can be from less than or equal to about 30 thousandths of an inch, for example, less than or equal to about {fraction (1/32)} inch, and each printed sheet can have the same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the stack to within a variance of less than about 5 thousandths of an inch. In embodiments, the cut-to-print registration variance can be from about 0.03 to about 0.015 inches, that is about 30 thousandths of an inch to about 15 thousandths of an inch, for example, from about {fraction (1/32)} inch to about {fraction (1/64)} inch, and each printed sheet can have the same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the stack to within a variance of, for example, from about 0.001 to about 0.005 inches, or from about 1 thousandth of an inch to about 5 thousandths of an inch.

In embodiments, the band around the stack can encompass a portion of two opposite sides including the full height of the stack, and a portion of the outer facing top and bottom sheets of the stack including the full width of the stack.

In embodiments, two opposite sides of the stack can be parallel where, for example, the bundle resembles a cube comprised of square sheets, or for example, where the bundle resembles a parallelepiped or a rectangular block comprised of rectangular sheets. In embodiments, two opposite sides are other than parallel (i.e., not parallel), for example, where the bundle is other than a cube or parallelepiped. The bundle can have a unitary shape or uniform shape but for the irregular shape of the constituent sheets. Thus, because of the high uniformity or similarity of sheet-to-sheet dimensions the resulting bundle formed from irregularly shaped stacked sheets can also have high dimensional uniformity in the x-, y-, and z-directions. Bundles can have at least one set of non-parallel opposite sides, such as where sheets have an irregular shape, for example, sheets having a bow-tie shaped outline, such as in an arbitrary x-y plane, sheets having a paisley shape, sheets having a tear-drop shape, sheets having a lightening bolt shape, and like irregular shapes. Other sheet shapes can include, for example, circles, ovals, square or rectangular sheets having square corners, rounded corners, or angled corners. It will be readily apparent that certain sheet shapes can have parallel edges yet still appear irregular, such as a sheet having saw-tooth or diagonal cut-out pattern on one or more edges. It is also readily evident that sheet edges of the sheets when stacked (compounded) become part of the sides of the stack or bundle. It will also be apparent that sheets can be made which include perforations, for example, for preparing labeled articles with a detachable label portion.

The ends of a band around the stack can preferably overlap each other and the overlap portion can preferably include a point of attachment. The point of attachment can be accomplished, for example, with an adhesive, a weld, a crimp, Velcro®, and like fastening or joining techniques, or combinations thereof. The band can be any suitable binding material, such as plastic, paper, metal, rubber, elastomer, string, and like materials, or combinations thereof. The bundle of printed sheets can have, in embodiments, for example, from 1 to 5 bands, or more. In embodiments, for example, where the bundle of sheets is long and rectangular the bundle can have 2 to more bands, such as 2 to 3 bands. In embodiments, for example, where the bundle and its stacked sheets are relatively stable against skewing without a band or where cost or use considerations suggest, one or a single band around the bundle can suffice to maintain a useful and unitary shape of the bundle.

The overwrapper can be, for example, any suitable wrapper material or shrink-wrap material, such as clear, translucent, or opaque materials including but not limited to natural or synthetics, such as plastic, paper, and like materials, or combinations thereof. The overwrapper on the banded stack can include one or more pull-tab or tear-strip to facilitate removal of the overwrapper from the bundle. In embodiments, the overwrapper on the banded stack can completely enclose the bundle. In other embodiments, the overwrapper on the banded stack incompletely encloses the bundle, for example, having open-end regions or open-side regions, or for example where the overwrapper does not cover all or a substantial portion of the stack covered by a band.

In embodiments, although not required, the bundles can include, if desired, a chipboard, a stiffener panel, or combinations thereof, see for example U.S. Pat. No. 4,830,186, assigned to Xerox Corp., to provide for example, a removal support structure to stabilize the stack or bundle from inadvertently skewing or toppling during handling or use. For reasons mentioned above, the bundled printed sheets of the present disclosure are preferably free of a chipboard, a stiffener panel, or like articles.

In embodiments, bundles of printed sheets can be prepared, if desired, with a band but without an overwrapper and still retain their unitary shape, cut-to-print registration variance, with individual sheets having the same length and width dimensional variance as the other printed sheets in the stack or bundle. Each sheet can have substantially the same x- and y-dimensions as all other sheets in the stack, for example, as measured in an x-y plane. The “same x and y dimensions” refers to sheet-to-sheet uniformity of the x-dimension and the y-dimension. In embodiments, the x- and y-dimensions for each sheet can be the same (x=y), such as a square sheet. In embodiments, the x- and y-dimensions for each sheet can be different (x≠y), such as a rectangular sheet. In embodiments, the x-dimension for each sheet can be substantially the same to provide a stack having sheets all having the same variation in the x-dimension, for example, a sheet having an irregular x-dimension. In embodiments, the y-dimension for each sheet can be substantially the same to provide a stack having sheets all having about the same variation in the y-dimension, for example, a sheet having an irregular y-dimension. In embodiments, the x- and the y-dimensions for each sheet can vary to provide a stack or bundle having sheets which all have about the same variation in the x- and y-dimensions, for example, a sheet having irregular x- and y-dimensions. The present disclosure in embodiments, provides bundles of printed sheets where the individual sheets can have a variety of shapes, for example, square, diamond, heart, rectangular, circular, oval, triangular, and like regular shapes or irregular shapes. The present disclosure in embodiments, provides bundles of printed sheets where the sheets can have, for example, a regular or an irregular shape, such as irregular or non-uniform dimensions, but where all the sheets in the bundle have substantially the same shape and dimensions as all other sheets in the bundle. Each sheet in the bundle preferably has substantially the same orientation in an arbitrary orthogonal x-y-z coordinate system. Each sheet preferably occupies an x-y plane and the sheets are stacked one-on-top another about the z-axis in the orthogonal x-y-z coordinate system or Cartesian coordinate system, that is having right angles between each axis. “Cartesian coordinate system” refers to any of three coordinates (x-y-z) that locate a point in space and measure its distance from any of three intersecting coordinate planes (x-y-z planes) measured parallel to that one of three straight-line axes, that is, the intersection of the other two planes.

In embodiments, an apparatus for making bundled printed sheets of the disclosure can comprise:

    • a printable web;
    • a print module to print on the printable web;
    • a cutter module to cut the printed web into a stream of printed sheets and a waste matrix;
    • a collator module to collate each stream of printed sheets into a registered stack;
    • a conveyor module to convey each registered stack into a stack stream; and
    • a packaging module to package each registered stack in the stack stream into a package containing bundled printed sheets,
    • wherein, for example,
    • the printable web and the print module can be a high speed lithographic press adapted to:
      • print and cure multiple color UV curable inks on a paper substrate;
      • apply a protective coating;
      • chill the protectively coated web; and
      • apply an antistatic coating;
    • the cutter module can be a rotary die-cutter adapted to angle-cut the printed web, the cutter further including a static eliminator to facilitate sheet and matrix separation;
    • the collator module can be a sheet stream transporter and batch-stacker to transport and collate each stream of printed sheets from the cutter module into a registered stack;
    • the conveyor module can be a conveyor for each batch-stacker and adapted to directly receive the stack batch and transport the stack batch as a single stack stream to the packaging module;
    • each of the bundle of printed sheets can have from about 10 to about 1,500 cut printed sheets, each printed sheet can have a narrow cut-to-print registration variance of, for example, from less than or equal to about 0.03 inches, and each printed sheet can have the same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the bundle to within a variance of, for example, less than or equal to about 0.005 inches; and
    • the packaging module can include, for example, a banding machine, an overwrapping machine, a heat-shrink machine, a containerizer machine, a stretch banding machine, a palletizer, or combinations thereof; and
    • the apparatus additionally having an humidity controller, a web-nip just before the chiller module, and a web-nip just before the cutter module.

In embodiments, each registered stack can be vertical or horizontal. Preferably, each registered stack is formed in a vertical orientation, that is, having sheets stacked or layered on top of one another and which verticality can avoid the need for additional structural supports, that is, the stacks are preferably unsupported. The printable web and the print module in combination, in embodiments, can comprise a high speed offset printing press. “High speed” refers to, for example, a linear speed of from about 300 to about 1,200 feet per minute or more. The cutter module of the apparatus can comprise a rotary die-cutter, a flat-bed die-cutter, a slit-and-gap cutter, a slit-and-but cutter, a guillotine cutter, or combinations thereof. In a preferred embodiment, the cutter module comprises a rotary die-cutter adapted to angle-cut the printed web into at least one sheet stream and a waste matrix. The angle-cut can be, for example, as shown in FIGS. 8C or 8D, and preferably as shown in FIG. 8D.

In embodiments, for example, in high volume applications such as high speed offset, the printable web can have a relatively wide width and a relatively high speed, such as a width from about 16 to about 40 inches and a linear speed of from about 300 to about 900 feet per minute, or more. In other embodiments, for example, in lower volume applications such as certain flexography applications, the printable web or substrate can have a relatively narrow width and relatively slow speed, such as a width of less than about 18 inches and a speed of less than 400 feet per minute, such as from about 10 to less than about 300 feet per minute. In other embodiments, for example, in mid-volume applications, the printable web or sheet feeding can have a relatively narrower width and faster speed, such as a width of less than about 16 inches and a speed of from about 200 to less than about 500 feet per minute. In still other embodiments, for example, high-speed narrow-width offset applications, the printable web can have a relatively narrow width and relatively fast speed, such as a width of less than about 20 inches, and a speed of from about 300 to about 1,200 feet per minute.

In embodiments, the conveyor module can comprise an endless belt, such as one or more belts, or like transport devices. In embodiments, the conveyor module can comprise a first conveyor having two over-under parallel endless belts and an elevator, and a second conveyor, wherein the two over-under parallel endless belts each carry a stack stream from the collator to the second conveyor, the elevator being operable to alternate the position of the two over-under parallel endless belts relative to the collator and the second conveyor. The conveyor module can be configured so that each stack stream on the first conveyor is merged or combined into a single stack stream on the second conveyor. Other suitable conveyor module configurations are readily apparent and can depend on, for example, convenience, throughput, cost of operation, cost and speed of packing equipment, and like considerations. Thus, in one configuration, a second conveyor can convey the stack stream uni-directionally to the packaging module. In another alternative configuration, the second conveyor can convey the stack stream bi-directionally to two separate packaging modules, that is, the merged stack stream on the second conveyor provides two stack streams alternately flowing in opposite directions from the second conveyor to two separate pack lines, as illustrated and discussed in FIG. 7.

In embodiments, the packaging module can comprise a first banding station, a second over-wrapping station, and an optional third shrink-wrapping station. This packaging module can further optionally comprise a containerizer module having, for example, a boxing station, a box sealing station, or both. In embodiments, the packaging module can comprise a first banding station for making bundled printed sheets which applies a band around each stack of printed sheets, and a containerizer module, such as a boxing station, where the bundled printed sheets are boxed in a box having a sealable liner. In embodiments, the containerizer module, such as a boxing station, can be adapted to wrap a container material around a plurality of bundles (bundle of bundles), such as cardboard stock or plastic, to form the container in-line. In-line container formation has a number of advantages including just-in-time container generation, automatic or robotic handling, reduced space requirement for containers prior to filing, and like advantages.

In embodiments, the apparatus can further comprise a debris collector situated near, such as for about 0.1 inch to about 36 inches, the cutter module. The debris collector can be, for example, a vacuum take-off or manifold, a non-contact tacky-surface roller, a contact tacky-surface roller, a disturber brush member, or combinations thereof. The debris can be, for example, ambient dust or dust created from the cutting, web- or sheet transport, printing, coating, treating, jogging, and like manipulations of the substrate, before or after cutting. Thus, the method can further include removing debris, such as paper or plastic dust or cuttings already present on the web or fed-sheets or generated from cutting or manipulating the web- or fed-sheets into cut printed sheets.

In embodiments, the printable web can be comprised of, for example, paper, film, synthetic materials, foils, metalized version thereof, and like materials, or combinations thereof. A preferred printable web material for economy and versatility is, for example, rolled paper or rolled plastic film.

In embodiments, the apparatus can further comprise an ambient humidity control system, for example, having a localized spray or mist nozzle or having a large scale humidity environmental control systems capable of ambient humidity control over one or more production systems or modules of the disclosure. Although not required the method of making bundled printed sheets is preferably accomplished in a controlled environment, such as where ambient humidity and temperature can be regulated, to safe-guard the quality of the processes and the products. “Ambient humidity” refers to the humidity of the immediate atmosphere, which surrounds the apparatus, particularly in the cutting and stacking operations where static charge, frictional charge, or streaming charge generation or accumulation may occur. The methods of making bundled printed sheets of the disclosure can be accomplished over a range of relative humidity conditions although very low humidity conditions, such as below about 25 percent are contraindicated, especially in the absence of alternative methods of static charge suppression or elimination in web-based production systems. The sensitivity of the methods of making to ambient humidity can depend upon many factors, such as temperature, barometric pressure, operating speed(s), web or sheet substrate type selected (e.g., paper, plastic, etc.), the printing inks selected and the amounts applied, coating or other treatment formulations selected and the amounts applied, and like considerations. In embodiments, a suitable relative humidity range for use in the methods of making which employ a paper web or paper fed-sheets is, for example, from about 50 to about 80 percent, and a preferred relative humidity range is from about 65 to about 75 percent. Methods for controlling ambient humidity are known, such as HVAC climate-controlled facilities, local application of a humidifier, intermittent water-mist sprayers, and like humidification methods. It will be readily understood by one of ordinary skill in the art that the humidity requirements and humidity sensitivity of the apparatus and process of the disclosure can depend upon the print engine or print technologies selected and can even depend upon the different configurations of the same print engine. For example, high-speed offset methods generally tend to favor higher humidity conditions while xerographic methods generally tend to favor lower humidity conditions.

In embodiments, the apparatus and method of making of the disclosure are preferably maintained at, or accomplished at, an ambient temperature of from about 50 to about 90 degrees ° C.

In embodiments, the apparatus can further comprise a web coating module. The web coating module can be configured to apply one or more coatings to either or both sides of the web after the print module. Coatings which can be applied to the printed web, or prior to printing on the web, and can include, for example, a varnish coating, a gloss coating, a protective coating, an anti-static coating, an opaque coating for example to conceal printed images beneath such as in some scratch-off game cards, and like coatings, or combinations thereof. In embodiments, in-line high gloss UV varnish application to a continuous web-based substrate can provide considerable savings, for example, in time, steps, set-up, handling, rework, discards, and like savings.

In embodiments, the apparatus can further include a web-chiller module. The web-chiller module can be situated anywhere along the web's path, for example, between the print module and the cutter module, and preferably just after the in-line coating station or web coating module. The web-chiller module provides a convenient way to, for example, remove excess latent heat from the web arising from one or more printing operations, UV light exposure or curing, frictional contact with web propulsion or guidance devices, and like sources of heating.

In embodiments, the apparatus can further include a web nip situated between a nip roller and a backing roller, the web-nip preferably being situated just before the chiller in the chiller module 13 c and as discussed and illustrated in FIG. 1. In embodiments, the apparatus can further include a web-nip between a nip roller and an anvil roller. This web-nip can preferably be situated just before the cutter in the cutter module as illustrated and discussed in FIG. 4B.

In embodiments, the cutter module can provide from 2 to about 80 streams of printed sheets, the collator can provide from 2 to about 80 registered stacks corresponding to the number of collated sheet streams, and the conveyor module can convey from 2 to 80 registered stack streams into a single stack stream. Alternatively, the conveyor module can convey from 2 to 80 registered stack streams into two stack streams. In embodiments, the packaging module can comprise an optional stack jogger, a stack bander, an optional stack overwrapper, and an optional containerizer. The containerizer can comprise, for example, a person or device for placing the bundled printed sheets within a container, for sealing the container, and optionally placing a plurality of sealed containers on a carrier. For example, a manual operator, a programmable industrial grade robot, or like devices, can be programmed to pick-and-place the bundled printed sheets into a container, such as a box or carton, and thereafter seal the container, and optionally place a plurality of the sealed containers on a carrier, such as a pallet or skid, and thereafter optionally overwrap the plurality of containers on the carrier with stretch banding to prevent containers from separating for the others or to prevent containers from falling off the carrier.

In embodiments, the package can comprise a bundled printed sheets comprising: a plurality of printed sheets in a stack; a band around the stack; and an optional overwrapper on the banded stack, each printed sheet having a narrow cut-to-print registration variance, for example, of from less than or equal to about 0.03 inches, and each printed sheet having the same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the stack to within a variance of less than or equal to about 0.005 inches; and a container for the bundled printed sheets. The package can further comprise a plurality of the containers on a pallet, the plurality of containers optionally being partially overwrapped with an overwrapper.

In embodiments, the present disclosure provides a sheet-fed based apparatus for making bundled printed sheets, comprising, for example, a sheet feeder; a print module to print on the fed-sheets; a cutter module to cut the printed fed sheets into a stream of cut printed sheets; a collator to transport and collate each stream of cut printed sheets into a registered stack; a conveyor module to convey each registered stack into a stack stream; and a packaging module which packages each registered stack in the stack stream into a package having a bundled printed sheets. In embodiments of the sheet-fed apparatus, the sheet-feeder and the print module in combination can comprise, for example, a high-speed sheet-fed print engine. The cutter module can comprise, for example, a rotary die-cutter to angle-cut the printed sheets into at least one sheet stream and a waste matrix. The packaging module can comprise, for example, an optional stack jogger, a stack bander, an optional stack overwrapper, an optional source of heat energy to shrink the overwrapper if desired, and an optional containerizer. The package can further comprise a plurality of containerized bundled printed sheets.

In embodiments, the present disclosure provides a method of making bundled printed sheets, comprising:

    • printing on a printable web;
    • cutting the printed web into a stream of printed sheets and a waste matrix;
    • collating each stream of printed sheets into a registered stack;
    • conveying each registered stack into a stack stream; and
    • packaging each registered stack in the stack stream to form a bundle of printed sheets.

In embodiments the apparatus and method of making can employ a rotary die-cutter which cuts printed sheets from the web, which printed sheets prior to cutting can be, aligned adjacent sheets, staggered adjacent sheets, angle-cut adjacent sheets, or combinations thereof.

In embodiments, the method of making steps, such as printing, cutting, collating, conveying, and packaging, can preferably be accomplished continuously. “Continuously,” “continuous,” or like terms, in this context refer to non-stop operation during a job, or without interruption, for example, for a period of from about 10 minutes to about 1,000 hours or more. In embodiments, the method and apparatus are capable of operating non-stop or without interruption for extended periods of time such, as 24/7 for up to a month and beyond, when for example, web- or fed-sheet stock, inks, coatings, surface treatment material or agents, banding materials, wrapping materials, and the like consumables, can be replenished as needed to sustain the continuous operation and production of printed sheets and the resulting bundles. In embodiments, the method of making bundled printed sheets of the present disclosure is highly efficient and can provide continuous manufacture of bundled printed sheets in relatively high volumes, starting from the uncoated or untreated web- or fed-sheet stock to the bundled and packaged printed sheets, for example, in from about 1 to about 10 minutes, preferably from about 1 to about 8 minutes, and more preferably from about 1 to about 6 minutes, to go from paper roll feed stock to a boxed bundle.

The printed sheets can be used for, but are not limited to, for example, labels, business cards, greeting cards, trading cards, tickets, game cards, bank cards, phone cards, identification cards, note pad sheets, paper currency, negotiable instruments, interlaced images, coupons, chits, ballots, maps, forms, time sheets, and like applications, or combinations thereof. The printed sheets can be used in, but are not limited to, a variety of applications including, for example, individual product labels, such as used on beverage containers or canned goods, signage, bumper stickers, and like applications.

In embodiments the present disclosure provides a method of making bundled printed sheets, comprising:

    • printing on a printable web;
    • die-cutting the printed web into a stream of printed sheets and a waste matrix;
    • collating each stream of printed sheets into a vertical registered stack;
    • conveying each registered stack into a single stack stream;
    • banding each registered stack in the conveyed single stack stream to form a banded stack of bundled printed sheets wherein a band circumscribes a portion of two opposite sides and the entire height of the vertical stack and a portion of the width of the first sheet and a portion of the width of the last sheet in the stack;
    • overwrapping each banded stack; and
    • optionally placing each overwrapped banded stack in a container.

Similarly, in embodiments the present disclosure provides a method of making bundled printed sheets from single-sheets or fed-sheets, comprising:

    • providing single-sheets;
    • optionally printing on the single-sheets with a print engine;
    • cutting each printed single-sheet into a stream of cut-printed sheets and a waste matrix;
    • collating each stream of cut-printed sheets into a registered stack;
    • conveying each registered stack into a stack stream; and
    • packaging each registered stack in the stack stream into a bundle of printed sheets.

In embodiments, the provided single-sheets can be, for example, free of printed images or have printed images on one or both faces of the sheet. As mentioned with other embodiments for methods of making of the present disclosure, the cutting can be preferably accomplished by die-cutting. The die-cutting can preferably be accomplished with an angle-cut rotary die-cutting machine. In other embodiments, the cutting can be accomplished using slit-and-gap cutting methods. “Slit-and-gap” cutting generally refers to cutting which is capable of slitting and cutting-out or creating a gap between adjacent sheets or work pieces in the process direction.

In embodiments the present disclosure provides a method of affixing printed sheets to articles, comprising:

    • optionally slitting the over-wrapper on an over-wrapped bundle of printed sheets;
    • removing the over-wrapping from over-wrapped bundled printed sheets comprising:
    • a plurality of printed sheets in a stack;
    • a band around the stack; and
    • an overwrapper on the banded stack, each printed sheet having a narrow cut-to-print registration variance of from less than or equal to about {fraction (1/16)}th inch, and each printed sheet having the same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the stack to within a narrow variance of less than or equal to about {fraction (1/100)}th inch;
    • optionally fanning the unwrapped bundled printed sheets;
    • removing the banding from the unwrapped bundled printed sheets;
    • inserting the stacked printed sheets into a sheet applicator machine;
    • optionally activating an adhesive on, or applying an adhesive to a portion of the individual printed sheets; and
    • contacting the individual printed sheets with an article.

In embodiments, the present disclosure provides an article having a printed sheet attached thereto prepared by the abovementioned method of affixing printed sheets to articles. In embodiments, the present disclosure provides an article having a printed sheet attached thereto, the printed sheet being obtained from unpackaging a bundle of printed sheets of the disclosure comprising a plurality of printed sheets in a stack having a band around the stack and an overwrapper on the banded stack, and affixing the printed sheet to the article with a label applicator machine.

In embodiments the present disclosure provides a stack of printed sheets, comprising: a plurality of printed sheets in a unitary form, each printed sheet having a narrow cut-to-print registration variance, for example, of from less than or equal to about 0.03 inches, and each printed sheet having the substantially same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the stack to within a narrow variance of less than or equal to about 0.005 inches, and the stack being situated in a label applicator machine.

In embodiments, the printed sheets of the stack can be product labels having product collateral information, images, text, and like markings, or combinations thereof, printed thereon. The stack of printed sheets can be a unitary form such as a parallelepiped, having for example, all square corners of about 90 degrees, such as a cube or an elongated cube. A cube has substantially identical length, width, and height dimensions. An elongated cube may have one, two, or three of its length, wide, or height dimensions being different from one another.

In embodiments the present disclosure provides an article having a printed sheet attached thereto, the printed sheet being obtained from unpackaging a bundle of substantially identically shaped printed sheets, the bundle of printed sheets comprising:

    • a plurality of printed sheets in a stack;
    • a band around the stack; and
    • an overwrapper on the banded stack,
    • each printed sheet having a narrow cut-to-print registration variance of, for example, from less than or equal to about {fraction (1/16)}th inch, and each printed sheet having substantially the same length and width dimensions as the other printed sheets in the stack to within a narrow variance of, for example, less than or equal to about {fraction (1/100)}th inch.

Methods for manufacturing labels, such as self-adhesive labels, for use in a label applicator machines are known, see for example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,273,987. Label applicator machines and methods for applying labels to articles or containers are known, see for example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,793,891. U.S. Pat. No. 4,798,648, discloses an article-feeding device for use in a label applicator machine, and also discloses forming adhesive labels by die-cutting from a web, intermediate transfer of the cut labels, and application of the labels to articles. High speed label applicator machines for high volume solutions using hot melt adhesives, cold adhesives, pressure sensitive adhesives, or combinations thereof, and conveyor equipment are also commercially available from, for example, Abacus Label Applications, Maple Ridge, B.C. Canada (www.abacuslabel.com).

All publications, patents, and patent documents are incorporated by reference herein in their entirety, as though individually incorporated by reference. The disclosure has been described with reference to various specific and preferred embodiments and techniques. However, it should be understood that many variations and modifications can be made while remaining within the spirit and scope of the disclosure.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8162437Oct 27, 2010Apr 24, 2012Electronics For Imaging, Inc.Ink jet printer
US8230665 *May 11, 2007Jul 31, 2012Pugh Jeffrey DApparatus and methods for producing embossed promotional cards
US8408676Apr 23, 2012Apr 2, 2013Electronics For Imaging, Inc.Ink jet printer
US8529186Sep 16, 2009Sep 10, 2013Bielomatik Leuze Gmbh + Co. KgCollecting and transport device for a stack formed by layers of sheets
US8663410Feb 8, 2010Mar 4, 2014Primera Technology, Inc.System for finishing printed labels using multiple X-Y cutters
US20080035003 *Sep 26, 2007Feb 14, 2008Ivan BrignaniProcess for Producing Printed Articles
US20110202157 *Feb 17, 2011Aug 18, 2011Helmut SpikkerMethod and device for manufacturing individual cosmetic articles ready for dispatch
Classifications
U.S. Classification206/449, 53/520, 53/435, 53/582, 53/399
International ClassificationB41F13/64, B26D7/08, B65B13/02, B42D, B26D7/18, B65B27/08, B26F3/00, B65H35/00, B26D11/00, B31B1/88, B26D5/32, B26F1/38, B26D9/00
Cooperative ClassificationB26D2007/2692, B26F1/384, B26D9/00, B65H2701/182, B65H35/00, B65H2701/124, B26D7/08, B26D5/32, B65B27/08, B26F3/002, B65H2701/11, B26D11/00, B26D7/1863, B26F2001/407
European ClassificationB26D7/18E3, B26D5/32, B26F1/38B, B26D9/00, B26F3/00B, B26D11/00, B65H35/00, B65B27/08, B26D7/08
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jun 13, 2006ASAssignment
Owner name: PRECISION PRESS, INC., MINNESOTA
Free format text: CORRECTIVE ASSIGNMENT TO CORRECT THE SPELLING OF THE THIRD ASSIGNOR S NAME (GRAVELY SHOULD READ GRAVLEY) PREVIOUSLY RECORDED ON REEL 015090 FRAME 0406;ASSIGNORS:TIMMERMAN, LEE;FLITTER, DOUG;GRAVLEY, LANE;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:017771/0013;SIGNING DATES FROM 20060117 TO 20060504
Free format text: CORRECTIVE ASSIGNMENT TO CORRECT THE SPELLING OF THE THIRD ASSIGNOR S NAME (GRAVELY SHOULD READ GRAVLEY) PREVIOUSLY RECORDED ON REEL 015090 FRAME 0406. ASSIGNOR(S) HEREBY CONFIRMS THE ASSIGNMENT OF U.S. PATENT SERIAL APPLICATION NO. 10/860,605.;ASSIGNORS:TIMMERMAN, LEE;FLITTER, DOUG;GRAVLEY, LANE;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:017771/0013;SIGNING DATES FROM 20060117 TO 20060504
Aug 30, 2004ASAssignment
Owner name: PRECISION PRESS, INC., MINNESOTA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:TIMMERMAN, LEE;FLITTER, DOUG;GRAVELY, LANE;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:015090/0406;SIGNING DATES FROM 20040803 TO 20040809