Finding a good quality spiral coil binding machine for a good price can be challenging. It can be difficult to find a machine that is reliable, easy to use and has the features that you need all for a decent deal. However, the Akiles CoilMac ECI claims to be all of these things. In fact, it appears to be one of the most popular coil binding machines on the market. I recently went out into the warehouse and opened up one of these machines to see if the Coilmac-ECI is all that it claims to be. This review will detail my observations concerning the features, limitations and construction of this machine.

Features:

The first feature that I decided to test on this machine was the punching mechanism. The ECI has a manual punching mechanism that is rated for punching up to 17 sheets of paper at a time. When I actually tested my machine I found that it would comfortably punch between 14-15 sheets per lift. Seventeen sheets of 20lb paper was possible but you had to pull pretty hard to get it to punch. The Coilmac-ECI had no problem punching the clear covers or polycovers that I tested on it. However, punching plastic covers should be limited to 2 sheets at a time with this machine.

Second, I wanted to take a look at the coil inserter. The machine has two rollers mounted near the front of the machine. There is a switch to turn the coil inserter on and off and a foot pedal control to activate the coil inserter. The coils spin very fast and help to spin the coils onto your books. The inserter on ECI includes two fixed spinning rollers. This makes it great for spinning smaller sized coils (larger coils will need to be inserted by hand). The foot pedal control is very useful, it allowed me to hold my documents with both hands while I was inserting the coil.

The ECI had a few other features that I thought were worth noting. First, it has a number of disengageable dies on the front of the machine. These dies allow you to pull a punching pin for dealing with different sizes of paper. Using these pull pins you can use the ECI to punch 8.5", 11", A4 and A5 paper. This is a pretty good selection of sizes and will fit the needs of most organizations. I also noticed that the Coilmac-ECI includes a continuous punching guide. This is simply a small metal tab that extends from the right side of the machine. If you need to punch documents that are longer than 13" you can simply flip them over and place one of the holes over the small dot on the continuous punching guide. This makes it a lot easier to line up the ECI for punching legal size and 11" x 17" paper or other large format sheets. With a little bit of ingenuity you can also use the ECI for punching oversize covers by lining up the edge of the covers with the end of the punch and pulling the appropriate pin (this is not a recommended application).

The Coilmac-ECI also includes a depth of punch margin control that allows you to adjust the distance of the holes from the edge of your paper. It comes with a pair of spiral coil crimping pliers to help you finish your documents. It also has a heavy duty metal edge guide adjustment knob that makes it easy to line up your documents for punching.

Limitations:

In using the CoilMac ECI I didn't really notice any glaring deficiencies. However, punching paper for large documents was a little bit tedious and repetitive. For users who need to do a lot of binding or who do large books I would suggest looking into an electric punch. However, the version of the ECI with an electric punch costs almost $1000 more so depending on your volume and your budget this machine may still be a good fit for you.

As I noted above, the coil inserter will not work with larger sized coils (probably anything larger than 30mm). However, this is common for integrated inserting devices. To fix this problem you would need to buy a standalone inserter and it still won't do a great job of the larger books.
The ECI is also not ideal for scrapbooking and other highly customized applications that use odd sheet sizes. The disengageable dies on the ECI will work great for punching standard sheets but are not flexible enough to punch fully custom lengths. If you anticipate the need to punch sizes other than half letter (8.5"), letter size (11"), A4, A3 or legal size you might look for a machine with fully disengageable dies.

Construction:

The construction of this machine is extremely sturdy and the design is aesthetically pleasing. Having the coil inserter near the front of the machine is very handy for inserting purposes (some machines have inserters on the top). The all metal construction of the machine makes it ideal for medium volume applications. The only part that could potentially break with the ECI is the small clear rubber belt that drives the coil inserter. These cost a couple of dollars and are simple to replace.

Recommendation:

With a medium duty manual punch and an high quality electric coil inserter I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the CoilMac ECI. If you step too far below this machine you will lose the coil inserter, all metal construction and durability. Unless I only needed to bind a few documents per week I wouldn't want to give up any of these things. However, if you do a lot of binding, you might want to consider either a modular system (a separate punch and inserter) or a larger combination system with an electric punch.