The Art in Hot Melt: Graphic Arts and Bookbinding

For most bookworms, the paperback book is just one of a kind. Kindles and EPubs may dominate the publishing industry today, but the printed word isn’t going anywhere. Regardless of everyone’s speculation that paper is becoming obsolete, more paper mass production innovations are developing today. One of them is hot melt graphic arts.

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What is hot melt anyway?

If you came across with this article, chances are you’re a curious graphic designer, a student who has a bookbinding project, or a worker in the adhesive industry. But for those who don’t know what a hot melt is, it’s a thermoplastic type of adhesive that is designed to melt in glue guns. It’s used to bond many types of materials that we use every day. Few of them are wood, plastics, ceramics, fabrics, and glass.

What does hot melt graphic arts have to do with books?

One of hot melt adhesive’s application is hot melt graphic arts. Bookbinding and paper conversion is under the graphic arts market. Hot melt binding uses adhesive in hot melt packaging, hot melt labelling, gluing spines, and hinge gluing.

Historically, bookbinding was done by craftsmen, which was called hand binding then. Today, bookbinding can be mass produced with the help of hot melt.

Here are some examples of bookbinding processes that benefit from hot melt adhesive:

Double-fan adhesive binding – It’s done by applying thin layers of glue to each edge in pages. The glued edges of the formed text block form the spine once they’re attached to a cloth.

Perfect binding – It’s often used in paperback and soft-cover books. The cover is made of a thicker and heavier paper, while the spine is glued together with a strong glue. The spine has notches so that hot glue can penetrate into it. Aside from hot melt, dispersion adhesives and reactive polyurethane hot melts are also used in perfect binding.

Tape binding – It’s done by wrapping a piece of tape around the base of the document. A thermal adhesive on the glue strip is activated through a tape-binding machine.

How does hot melt help the bookbinding industry?

It’s difficult to imagine the bookbinding industry without hot melt adhesives. New application techniques have paved the way for more effective adhesives as well.

Hot melt systems are helping the bookbinding industry’s demand for high speed and precision. The products must provide a solution bonding materials. Hot melt is also speedy but has low energy consumption.

In the recent years, the standard for the graphic industry has vastly improved. Improved adhesion spectrum in hot melts made production safer. It also made mass production more economical because materials that are difficult to bond are now being bonded. Spine glues like hot melts used in two-shot processes, low-temperature hot melts, and new reactive polyurethane hot melts are also developing.

Surveys even found that hot melt adhesives used in brochure and catalog production are safe for paper recycling. If sustainability in application and products will be further improved by the hot melt adhesive industry, the calls for trashing paper because of its “unsustainability” will be finally silenced.

With this, bookworms who prefer paper can rejoice because the printed word is going nowhere. See more at