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Do More with Less

Finish Substrates with One Device

By Melissa Donovan

Part 1 of 3

For print service providers (PSPs), the best digital finishing device for their shop is based on commonly used substrates, efficiency, and footprint. Versatility is a big draw in digital finishing. "Many printers need a wider range of routing tools for maximum application coverage," admits Steve Urmano, marketing manager, Mimaki USA, Inc. Additional knifes allow for easier maneuverability depending on the material being cut. Manufacturers design software to ensure the physical cutting devices are programmed to efficiently run on a large range of media.

Versatility is a big customer consideration. "Customers might only use three materials, but they need to use three different cutting tools to cut them, so they look for versatility in one device," shares Steve Albert, Gerber M series product manager, Gerber Scientific Products, Inc.

In response to inquiry on why versatility is such a key player, the answer circles back to the current economy. "Like most industries, sign shops and PSPs have to do more with less—fewer employees and a limited budget for capital equipment," adds Cherie White, marketing manager, Universal Laser Systems, Inc.

A Responsive Evolution
Advancements in finishing have occurred for a number of reasons. "Finishing evolved into a variety of operations. A PSP may need to cut 50 banners one morning and then produce 100 standees on foamcore in the afternoon. Finishing may include knife-cutting stickers for another client and then producing mock-ups of a package. Today, finishing is processing a variety of materials that the print customer can utilize in their printing world," says David Tebon, sales manager, Zünd America, Inc.

With the peak in interest regarding flatbed printing, routing is a must-have feature for many PSPs. According to David J. Cich, VP of sales and marketing, CET Color, as more shops invest in flatbed technology and print directly to rigid substrates, they encounter applications that are unable to be hand trimmed and require non-square finishing. With heavy-duty materials such as wood or even glass, a router with a powerful knife is ideal for the cleanest cut.

Contours follow the shape of a graphic, a technique that is also in demand. Finishing devices that cut crisply, without fraying or creating jagged edges, around the most curvy graphics push PSPs to up the ante by offering challenging applications to their customers.

"Contour cutting of rigid substrates is particularly popular," shares Randy Paar, display graphics product manager, Océ North America. "Typical uses are point of purchase (POP) displays, exhibit displays, and booth furniture."

"This type of application can be found in a wide range of projects, from large wall graphics to table displays. These are often customized for local markets—for example, images of local athletes in which graphics are registered and precisely cut to irregular image outlines," agrees Don Skenderian, VP market development, EskoArtwork.

Devices with the ability to contour cut precisely for long-length tracking are a necessity, according to Hiro Futsukaichi, marketing director, Mutoh America, Inc.

Precise cuts register as quality on a customer’s radar. This and the ability to rely on the PSP are critical during the finishing process, says Dana Curtis, product manager, Roland DGA Corporation. "Mistakes at this point in the process can be costly and time consuming. Poorly registered cuts and other finishing problems can mean re-running an entire job."

Automation Nation
A versatile device—saving time, money, and footprint—is ideal in almost every segment of the graphic arts, and finishing is no exception. A digital device means automation, which is arguably one of the biggest time savers of all, in regards to added versatility and less hands-on time.

"Users always look for a multiple function machine to satisfy customers’ applications. For example, a cutter that can cut vinyl and cut thicker material like sandblast or thinner material like window film," shares Sandy Shih, product manager, GCC.

"Versatility is the name of the game in this new economy. Specialization always has a place in the industry, but as more businesses consolidate, the need to diversify is paramount if a company wishes to survive. As the nature of consumer purchase tendencies migrate toward one-stop shopping, PSPs need to capture that business by having as diverse an offering as possible," explains Curtis.

"This ability expands their capabilities therefore allowing the company to offer other services not previously available to them before," agrees Roy Valentine, sales manager, Techno Inc.

Having a versatile system enables PSPs to take on more traditional work plus diversify their business into new areas, according to Paar. "With digital cutting systems, users create a finished product rather than just producing a printed graphic."

Semi-automatic finishing devices should not be overlooked, they also offer versatility. The Fletcher-Terry Company offers hardware that falls under both semi-automatic and manual categories. "Our cutting equipment utilizes a design philosophy based on interchangeable cutting heads. This gives the user the greatest level of versatility and longevity in their investment. When a new material is introduced in the marketplace, the only additional investment required is a new cutting head holder versus a new piece of equipment," explains James McNickle, marketing director, Fletcher-Terry.

Supply and Demand
Much of the demand for innovative, versatile, and efficient finishing systems comes from customers. "PSPs demand systems that accommodate a wide variety of materials due to their clients demanding the same of them," explains Tebon.

Luckily, finishing manufacturers respond to this demand. Next week read about multiple digital finishing devices—ranging from plotters, print-to-cut machines, laser cutting systems, routers, and even semi-automatic machines—in the second part in our series on digital finishing.

Click on the link above to get more information on the vendors mentioned in this article.

Dec2009, Digital Output

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