PrintBITS: Folded Self-Mailer Standards Change for 2013

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According to the United States Postal Service, mailing distributors  printers, and marketing services are sending out more booklets and self-mailers than ever before. Since these mailing pieces tend to be heavier, larger, and act differently compared to closed letters and flat packages; they are getting ripped, torn, shredded, and basically ruined because the post office lacks the appropriate machinery. In addition, the way these are mailed can sometimes create additional problems when a mailed piece is not properly closed. Although we all try to appease the post office by ensuring our mailing pieces don’t get ruined in their machines, every so often something goes awry and we need to quickly amend our mailing practices. I’m sure this has caught some people off-guard far too often.

Due to these mailing misfortunes, the post office is working hard to help businesses and individuals like us to cope with the shortcomings of mailing loose marketing material. One way they are helping solve this issue is by implementing new tabbing placements for folded self-mailers. Before, anyone could place glue and tabs randomly based on how we thought the piece should go. As much freedom as everyone had, the post office didn’t respond well to this method of haphazardly sending out mailing pieces. As a result, their machines ended up eating much of the projects that they processed.  To correct many of these errors, the post office has issued many new rules for the placement of tabs and gluing of mailed pieces. These standards were tested by some of the biggest mailing facilities in the country. Their mailing practices and design tactics became the “guinea pig” for the new self-mailer standards. Read further for some of the standards announced for the coming year.

All self-mailers being considered are based on panel count, and tabbing and gluing rules are based on the number of panels your mailing pieces has. Panels are created by the numbers of folds in your mailer: bi-folds, tri-folds, or 4-panel pieces can have nested sheets around the outside panels.

The flap of an envelope or direct mailer is going to be placed close to the inside, with a minimum distance of 1.5 inches from any folded edge, while flaps are being placed no closer than 1 inch to the bottom or trailing edge of the mailer. In addition, die-cuts have a minimum of a 5 inch flap so items have a lesser chance to get caught in machinery and tear.

There are now only three certified closure methods:

  • continuous glue lines 0.125 – 0.25 inches from the closing edge
  • glue dots with at least 0.375 inch diameter placed
  • elongated glue lines at least 0.5 inches in length when closing

Using these methods of gluing has been proven to help prevent unnecessary damage to mailing pieces.

In addition, internal attachments, like return envelopes or survey inserts need to be attached securely to any panel on the mailing. Internal pieces that are attached to the panels shouldn’t be over .09 inches thick.

Perforations are following in line with the flaps, being at least 1 inch away from any edge, and 5 inches when they are part of a die cut. Any shape can now be accepted as part of the mailing design, or as a potential die cut that can be interactive.

As you see, there are lots of new ways that printers, designers, and mailing fulfillment centers can take advantage of the new standards put in place by the USPS.

From a marketer and designer standpoint, the post office is allowing print houses and design firms to increase the creativity put into projects and the innovative development of mailing projects. The post office is actually encouraging unique designs for mailed pieces, and we are ecstatic about this!

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