Star product: Heidelberg Stitchmaster ST 500

By Simon Eccles, Friday 11 October 2013

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The latest Stitchmaster has a range of new features and upgrades to improve performance.


What does it do?

The Heidelberg Stitchmaster ST 500 is an all-purpose, medium- to high-volume wire stitching and trimming line. It offers fast makereadies thanks to a customer-selectable list of automated set-up features. This is a new concept within the Stitchmaster range; previous models have either been fully automatic or all manual.

There are also brand new features including dynamic linking of feeder offset timing when running up to speed, inline punching options, and a touchscreen control panel. An optional collating function gathers sections of offline perfect binding.

When was it launched and what market is it aimed at?

Heidelberg previewed the ST 500 at Drupa last year, but the production version was only recently released. Target markets are commercial printers and book binders with a wide range of stitching requirements. As well as conventional wire stitching, the ST 500 offers inline punching for ring binders and calendars, and collation and gathering of sections for separate perfect binding.

How does it work?

It works by insetting pre-folded signatures by laying them onto a travelling gathering chain. Sections from four to 32 pages can be inset, with four- or eight-page cover sections added last. These are stitched and then three-edge trimmed. Two- and three-up production is possible, though the three-up needs additional manual settings. Trimmed and finished books are usually delivered by a compensating stacker.

The sheet feeder, trimmer, stitcher and stacker have individual drives that can all be automated. This uses full servo technology for setting up jobs, controlled by the touchscreen or recalled from memory.
Synchronisation of feeder, stitcher, and stacker is automatic. Individual servos enable the ST 500’s dynamic offset feature to automatically time in the feeder as the speed of the gathering chain increases. This is believed to be a unique feature.

How does it fit into factory networks?

There is JDF connectivity via Heidelberg’s Prinect Postpress Manager, which can connect to a broader Prinect factory-wide workflow.

How does it differ from other ST models?

The ST 500 is the first of a new generation of Stitchmasters with selective automation. It replaces the older manual ST 350. The entry model is the all-manual ST 100 for formats up to A4 at 9,000cph. The new ST 200 runs at up to 11,000cph and shares a format range and some automation features with the ST 500. The ST 450 is fully automatic and runs at up to 14,000cph.

How productive is it?

For single copies, the ST 500 runs at 13,000cph, or 26,000cph for two-up. Productivity is aided by fast job changeovers thanks to the servo-driven automation and job recall from memory. Stitching heads can be set up offline in a quick-change chase frame, and can then be simply swapped over and ready to go when they have to be changed.

What’s its USP?

The collating function allows individual book blocks to be created prior to binding. This is said to be a Heidelberg first, "opening up the opportunity for small and medium-sized printers in particular to expand their portfolios beyond saddle-stitching without making an additional investment in gathering," says product manager Ian Trengrouse.

Three-step indexing through the trimmer allows additional tools for calendar perforation, file hole punching and two- or three-up jobs to be run simultaneously. The feeder holds sections vertically, spine down, so there is less pressure than with a conventional flat feeder, helping to reduce marking. Chromium-plated sheet guides in the feeder also reduce marking. Heidelberg believes its offline set-up for fast changing of the stitching heads is unique.

How easy is it to use?

This partly depends on the level of automation. The touch panel control uses the Heidelberg Stitchcontrol user interface. All settings can be stored in memory for future use. This means that setting up of a range of jobs can be done by skilled operators and loaded into memory, then the actual running can be handled by less skilled staff.

How much does it cost?

A bare bones machine would cost from £280,000, although Trengrouse says nobody would buy it like that. A machine with a typical specification would cost around £350,000, he says.

How many are installed?

There’s one running at Druck Pruskil in Gaimersheim, Germany, but none in the UK so far. Trengrouse says that one is destined for Heidelberg UK’s Brentford showroom fairly soon.


"Our job structure includes all kinds of different saddlestitching formats, which means frequent changeovers. The output of the Stitchmaster ST 500 is absolutely perfect for our requirements, and the product quality is also as it should be" 5/5

Hannes Arnold General manager, Druck Pruskil


Max speed 13,000cph

Formats Untrimmed: 80x128mm to 330x500mm; Trimmed: 80x120mm to 315x475mm;
Min trimmed with KFT small-format attachment 55x120mm

Max product thickness 12mm

Feeders Up to 16

Normal stitching heads Up to 6

Loop stitching heads Up to 6

Footprint 10.4x5.8m (L-shaped)

Price From £280,000

Contact Heidelberg UK, 020 8490 3500,


Muller Martini Primera

Primera saddle stitchers accept pre-folded sheets and are have broadly comparable features to the ST 500, with customised configurations. The range has recently been rationalised to just two, the standard Primera at 14,000cph and Primera 160 at 16,000cph. Both feature high and expandable automation with auto synchronisation of feeder and gathering chain.

Max speed 14,000cph

Feeders Up to 16

Stitching heads Up to 8

Price From £185,000

Contact Muller Martini, 0844 875 4590,


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