Print, laminate, cut, repeat, yawn - how to avoid production bottlenecks with a stand-alone cutter
I have come to the conclusion that printers are for printing and cutters are for cutting. Yes, there are some great bits of kit that will do both in one go for you but, and let's be honest, that is only about convenience as opposed to volume production. Why? Because 99% of the time your lovely contour cut graphics will also need laminating, so the printed matter has to be removed from the printer and laminated offline, then reset once more into the printer for cutting. Because of this, your production speed has dropped off straight away.
You might think it a better option to just buy another print & cut devise. After all, they are as cheap as chips and just about every manufacturer makes them. But what would be the point in that? Certainly you will add a further printer to your production workflow, which could certainly come in handy, but if this is also clogging up your finishing production with perpetual cutting you will be back to where you started in no time at all. Furthermore, the cost of the cutter really is peanuts when compared to buying another printer, so it makes excellent sense to invest in a stand-alone cutting devise, and by running the printer and your cutter efficiently you will easily recoup your investment in the cutter in no time at all.
We print a lot of full racing vehicle wraps for a multitude of leading race teams who all have different needs and requirements to the next, and the only thing that any of the teams have in common, apart from the cars that we fit the graphics to, is they all want their particular job done yesterday. Sound familiar? You bet. Our world is no different to any other printing company or sign-making business in the country. The only difference is we get to ponce about at glamorous motor racing circuits and fit amazing looking vehicle graphics to sexy looking racing cars but, just like any other wide format printing company or sign maker, we also have a range of customers that- just-want-stickers.
For example – a repeat job we have consists of 5 stickers set into an A4 sheet for supply, 5000 at a time. We have to print & cut 1000 A4 sheets for the client. With our old print & cut machine this took an age to complete. Our workflow would be print; unload; laminate; re-load; cut; unload; repeat! On top of that we sometimes had to hand trim down to A4 for supply. And with the old print and cut machine not being as quite as precise as we would like it to be there was always an amount of wastage happening. We had to shorten print runs to ensure the cut paths stayed true, but not so now!
Our current set up is a high-speed OKI ColorPainter M64-s coupled to a stand-alone Graphtec FC8600 cutter – a formidable pairing. We also use the CADlink RIP which has the cut path recognition system built in. This is a very easy bit of software to set-up for print & cut, and a walkthrough system guides you easily through. Another thing I like about the FC8600 is an option to perforate for you too, which is a very handy tool to have for printing stickers.
With the OKI/Graphtec set-up we are now able to print, unload (set another print-run going), laminate, and load into the FC8600 and set the cutter going. The print precision is nothing short of epic – millimetre perfect every time. Then a blade position change, set it off for a perforation cut and there you have 5 stickers on a pre-cut sheet all done. Just pop them out and stack them up ready to ship out. We printed the sheets 24 up and the printer happily rattled through all that with consummate ease and speed. A job that would have taken at least a week to complete was done and dusted in two days, with one person handling the whole thing as opposed to two sharing the job to get it done. Money saved all round and the job was turned around in a fraction of the time, allowing the printer to carry on doing what it does best - and that’s print!
We have our cutter hooked into our network so any of the artworking machines can access it. USB connections are great for point-to-point data transfer and provide a solid connection, but a network connection is far better, and with networks being more reliable and faster, this is the only way to go for productivity. Plus you are not restricted to the 10 metre USB cable lengths.
As mentioned above, we use the CADlink RIP which has the cut path recognition system built in. However, there are several options in the cutter driver to get the 'eye' to read quite a few of the standard print and contour output marks. Or it will just as easily print out a standard set of roman crop marks at 12.7mm with a 5mm offset and set-up the cutter driver page to recognise these.
Equally, setting up your artwork files to have a cut path in the print artwork is a cinch. It is as simple as creating a spot-colour of your choice (I usually plump for 100% magenta) and naming it 'CutContour' - as long as the cutter driver is set to recognise this as the cut path then all will be well. Our cutter also perforates sheets, and the same goes for the spot-colour set up and name - ours is called 'PerfCut'. When all is set up and running the whole system works a treat.
Our printer will take the 1520mm width media and our cutter can take these roll widths too. A bonus for us is that we combine the colour change wrap films with print, so we use our cutter to cut the colour change films. No more trimming down the larger rolls to fit in our 1220mm cutter - a simple thing but very handy. This also creates less waste and we can be much more economical with the materials and the cost saving can always be passed onto the client, a win-win situation.
A little bit about the precision – I do like to test things to their limits, so I duly set a print & cut file at about 2.5m with big sweeping arcs, text and contour cut images. Did it track off? Nope... not one bit! Again, perfectly cut to the millimetre. And this was not a fluke, since we installed the Graphtec FC8600 cutter back in the summer I have run hundreds of metres of material through it and I can honestly say I have total confidence to just to send the file and walk away, as opposed to watching over it and praying everything stays online.
There is a huge amount of information available on the internet about all sorts of cutters from a range of manufacturers, so have a read through and see for yourself how easy it is to run them. From my point of view our Graphtec is a great bit of kit and, apart from the kettle, it’s probably the hardest working machine in the studio.
Wilmot-Budgen doubles two-sheet cutting productivity with Zünd automation
Point-of-sale specialist Wilmot-Budgen has doubled production speeds on two-sheet cutting processes following the installation of a brand new Zünd D3 XL3200 digital cutting table, combined with its existing Zünd Board Handling System.
The Zünd D3 features two beams and specially developed software to multiply productivity. The company says it is ideal for a wide range of applications including signage and graphics, composites, textiles and leather.
"We had been keeping an eye on Zünd's R&D and when we were told about the new Zünd D3 we made the purchase based on having it installed after its launch," says Peter Burford, operations director at Wilmot-Budgen.
"We were the first business in the UK to have the Board Handling System and are really pleased with it. It feeds, cuts and delivers material automatically allowing for longer runs to be unattended, and production speed on two-sheet cutting has doubled as anticipated.
“We have seen a further speed increase on single-sheet cutting due to optimisation in the software to take advantage of the dual beam configuration. Unattended operation levels are high and we now have 24-hour production on the system,” he says.
New tools from Esko take corrugated cutting to new levels of quality and productivity
If you didn’t make it to Drupa you would have missed Esko launching its new CorruSpeed tool, a brand-new tool for its Kongsberg family of cutting tables designed for high-speed cutting of corrugated board without oscillating. The result is cleaner, more accurate cuts comparable to conventional die cutting, bringing the highest quality of digital finishing to the corrugated market. Tools are available for Kongsberg C Series, X Series, XP and XE cutting tables.
“We saw very high enthusiasm for these new tools at drupa,” says Esko product manager Knut Johansen, “and have seen fast adoption both as add-on tools for existing Kongsberg tables as well as inclusion in the sale of new tables. Digital cutting of corrugated board has been problematic in both the packaging and signage markets due to the tendency for digital cuts to leave burrs or tags on corrugated board that detract from the quality of the final product. With these new tools, that barrier is eliminated. It is silent and results in a smooth cut similar to conventional die cutting by enabling more aggressive pre-crushed lines that prevent the liner from cracking. It has set a new benchmark in digital finishing.”
The new CorruSpeed cutting tools include an innovative floating foot with spring-loaded adjustable pressure that enables cutting of a wide variety of corrugated board types up to 7mm double wall BC flutes. This allows it to crush down on the liner, preventing it from cracking and creating a cleaner cut. It also means that cuts can be accomplished at high speed, improving productivity and throughput. A side or top gauge clearly indicates the level of crushing pressure being applied.
Esko has produced a first class video (below) showing the new cutting tools in action:
“Real-world experience with these new cutting tools demonstrates both an improvement in cutting quality and a significant time savings, even with corrugated board that has a high level of recycled content,” adds Johansen.
New smaller footprint duplex laminator launched by Vivid
Vivid Laminating Technologies has launched a smaller footprint double-sided duplex laminating system able to laminate, foil and create spot UV-style effects on SRA3 portrait sheets.
According to Vivid, there has been a huge demand for a smaller double-sided laminator from both end-users and the company’s network of global distributors.
The Matrix 370 is ideal for short-to-medium run jobs, and with the company’s Auto-Feeder prints can be top loaded ‘on the run’, saving both time and money. Here's what its bigger sister can do below:
The firm has also launched a new Easycoat SRA3-size gluing system that adds a layer of adhesive to media to create book covers and luxury, high quality business cards.
Second Kongsberg for Swanline boosts finishing throughput
Swanline Paper & Board, the recently launched materials division of Swanline Print Ltd, has installed a Kongsberg C24 cutting table from Esko, featuring multi-zone operation and robotic loading and unloading.
The C24 will join an existing Kongsberg XP digital cutting table, enabling the company’s finishing operation to keep pace with two next-generation HP Scitex FB11000 Industrial Presses. The investment now stands to increase throughput at the company by as much as 80%.
The combined solution will enhance Swanline’s ability to provide a total service – from design to delivery – or to dovetail with existing production capabilities to help customers address market demands and broaden revenue opportunities.
The new Esko Kongsberg C24 is equipped with multi-zone capability, meaning zones can be independently loaded with material. While the material in one zone is being processed, the robotic loading and unloading system loads and prepares the other zone for finishing. In this way, operator idle time is drastically reduced and the cutting table operates virtually non-stop.
Ross Griffin, managing director, says: “We are convinced that the Kongsberg C24 cutting table, with multi-zone operation and robotic loading and unloading, is the right solution to keep up with our two HP Scitex FB11000 printing systems and their upcoming upgrades. We strongly believe that the partnership between Swanline and Esko will continue to deliver optimum integration between our print and finishing production, drastically increasing throughput.”
With a 2.9-metre reach, the robot is able to handle substrates from multiple pallets. Infrared laser scanner technology protects the operator and reduces the need for physical safety fences.
- QPS to distribute Easymount laminators from Vivid
- Dönitz Displays & Verpackungen adds Kongsberg for prototype displays
- Canon and Zünd showcased flatbed print & cut prototype workflow at Drupa
- POS specialist Wilmot-Budgen takes UK’s first Zünd D3 cutter
- Bristol based Insight Print Media steps up to a Zünd G3 and Roland XR-640