Folded Self-Mailer Standards for 2013

HoldEm 0

Here's the “deal” with the new FSM Standards.

A folded self-mailer is formed of panels created when one or more unbound sheets of paper are folded together and sealed to make a letter-size piece.

According to the Postal Service, the revised standards “are a balanced response to design innovation in the marketplace and allow for efficient processing of letter-size mailpieces.” The requirements take into account USPS automation and are intended to reduce the risk of damage to mail or machinery.

However, some of the changes can significantly impact your FSM designs going forward.

One year ago, as a “heads up,” the Federal Register provided a ten-page, single-spaced document detailing the process by which the new standards had been adopted. That document makes for some rather dry reading—we’re talking the Death Valley of spec sheets here. A somewhat more concise PDF with myriad illustrated examples of folds and seals can be found here.

Matrix graphic

“This isn’t Rocket Science?”

Despite the fact that “this isn’t rocket science,” the design matrix included in the aforementioned PDF is only slightly less complicated than the wiring schematic for the Apollo Lunar Module. So I shall summarize. Key revisions are as follows:

  • The final fold must be on the bottom of the piece. For oblong pieces, the final fold is on the lead edge. These considerations may affect the placement of address and postal indicia on some layouts you are used to seeing. The final folded panel now creates the back (non-address side) of the mailpiece. This means that an unfolded letter-size piece will have the address in the center section of the sheet, not near the top or bottom.
  • The maximum length of the folded, sealed piece (W or H) is 10½ inches. The USPS has determined that mailpieces exceeding 9 inches in length experience significantly higher rates of damage and jams. The proposed maximum length of 10½ inches is intended balance the need for machinability with the customer's need for the maximum amount of usable space. However, as 11” is a standard paper dimension (letter or tabloid), certain art currently in use may require revision.
  • When using tabs as the sealing method, a minimum of two are required. Tabs may be made of paper, translucent paper, vinyl or plastic. Tab size may vary, based on design, but perforated tabs are no longer permitted (again, to improve machinability), and tabs cannot be placed on the bottom edge of oblong-style pieces. A third tab is required on pieces weighing more than one ounce.
  • New provisions for using glue as a sealing method have been adopted.
  • New language also has been developed to account for a variety of optional creative elements (attachments, loose enclosures, perforations, die-cuts, etc.) that may be part of the design.

Origami Kit for Dummies book cover.

Coming Soon...

The USPS notes that folded self-mailers not meeting the new requirements will be assessed postage at non-machinable rates after January 5th. In an effort to keep your costs down and ensure maximum return on your self-mailing investment, Metzgers’ MacCreations masters, prepress pros and mailing mavens will aid you in assessing the viability of your visuals prior to printing. (We’ll even throw in way too much alliteration, free of charge.)

Here’s to continued successful relationships in 2013!

Tags: mail - bindery

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