Indiana native Jeff Combs, President of Perfect Binding Corp. and Discom Technologies, is an unusual man. This inventor, with two patents and seven pending, prefers to live life on his own terms. Flowing blond hair and casual style make it easy to see Jeff Combs is concerned with more than business. As a matter of fact, his focus this summer will be on a totally different track…helping terminally ill children. The unconventional entrepreneur will donate a percentage of sales from Discom’s Compact Disc Display Unit to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Indiana. He is also preparing to test market a TV commercial in order to help his efforts. Combs, who hasn’t taken time to have a family of his own, states, “It is hard to imagine there are children in this world that will never have the opportunity to see their dreams and ideas come true. For the families of these children, they only have one wish…that is to see a smile on their son or daughter’s face”. And if there’s one person who believes in the birth of ideas, Combs is it.
At 33, Jeff Combs is a twenty-one year veteran of the Graphic Arts industry. His father, Gary Combs, started the Perfect Binding Corporation and still remains the company’s CEO. Family members pitched in during summers and on the weekends, and word of mouth built the company into a one hundred person operation that grosses $4 million in annual sales. It was there that Jeff got his first taste of the business. Soon he discovered a passion for the equipment and how it functioned. Jeff learned his way around the bindery and eventually began searching for ways to make the equipment more productive. Jeff never outgrew his love for the bindery and went on to major in Supervision and Industrial Technologies at Purdue University. It was this ongoing fascination that led him to become president of PBC and sparked the idea for his first patented invention, the Glue String Eliminator.
The Glue String Eliminator is being hailed as the saving grace of perfect binders everywhere. Previously, binders had to contend with those long messy strings of adhesive that trailed from the product after it passed over the glue pot. That excess glue is often responsible for jamming machines and creating unnecessary spoilage. The Eliminator, a type of heater, catches and removes excess glue directly after the application. This invention, which led Combs to be inducted into The Who’s Who of American Inventors, is offered exclusively by Kolbus International, a German manufacturing company. A new addition in 1999, Kolbus offers The Glue String Eliminator as an option on all its binding equipment. Compared to the $1-2 million price tag of a piece of Kolbus equipment, Combs’ heater is an inexpensive but effective option, raising the cost by a mere $10-15,000. A small price to pay for a clean and productive end result.
Discom Technologies, another Indianapolis based company, was formed by Combs in December 1998 in order to keep his inventions separate from PBC. With Discom underway, Combs was back at the drawing board creating his next invention. The Bind-In CD Holder is a clear vinyl sleeve that makes including CDs into bound books a reality. This invention, made for sewn or saddle-stitched automation, encases a CD and allows it to be machine inserted at virtually any place in a book, replacing the time-consuming method of hand inserting discs into the front or back cover. This sleeve also makes it possible to insert more than one CD at the same time and perforations allow it to be torn out without damaging either the holder or the book. Previously, blank cardboard sleeves were the norm, covering the product’s printed information. The clear sleeve allows the customer to see the whole disc, another selling feature. Due to an overwhelming response, Combs now offers a “one stop shop” for CDs, supplying everything from printing to replication of discs. He is also designing a line of equipment to produce the bind-in sleeves. According to Combs, “These sleeves have been a godsend” and are currently being used internationally. The Printing Industries of America agrees, awarding Combs the Premier Print Award for Special Innovations. Major companies such as MacMillian Publishing, Quebecor, and RR Donnelly have also taken notice.
The CD revolution has sparked more than one idea for Discom. Its newest product, The CD Display Unit, is a padded vinyl binder designed to store, transport and display compact discs. The two-ring binder includes 12 sleeves, each holding a CD and its corresponding booklet, or 2 CDs. The unique design allows it to serve as both a carrying case and a desktop display. It is this product’s sales that will spawn the donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, fulfilling Jeff’s lifelong dream to “give back and help other people”.
Along with its products, Discom has patented a faster method for gathering machine pockets with its Quick-Release Gathering Attachment. In the binding business, set-up times are a major expense. Although newer equipment reduces set-up, gathering machine pockets can still equal tedious, time-consuming work. The side-guide screws have to be loosened, moved and re-tightened for each job. With the Quick-Release Gathering Attachment, the binder operator simply lifts a lever, moves the side guide to the right placement, releases the lever and the guide locks itself.
When asked what’s on the horizon for Jeff Combs, he replied with a laugh, “Hopefully, I’ll slow down!” His drive to produce new things allows little time for anything other than work. Currently, he hopes to finish his new line of equipment, continue to build both businesses, maintain his ongoing commitment to Make-A-Wish, and maybe, just maybe, get some sleep.
For more information and video clips, visit their website at www.discomtech.com