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Finishing with Ease


Routing and Cutting Software Solutions


By Amber E. Watson


Part 1 of 2


Print service providers (PSPs) striving to provide the best end-to-end service for their customers, cannot overlook the importance of the final step in the printing process—finishing. Advanced computer software products are available to aid PSPs in achieving flawless finishing results.


Automating the finishing process ensures greater accuracy by eliminating the need for manual cuts—and therefore, manual mistakes. Less mistakes means minimal product waste.


Another cost-saving benefit is time. Automatic finishers and their software counterparts greatly reduce time spent making cuts or placing trim lines on an image in design. All of this properly maintains the quality and consistency of the output, while increasing overall production.


EskoArtwork contends that coordination of the cutting and graphics workflow is most important. Bill Hartman, VP marketing, digital finishing solutions, EskoArtwork, states, “If you don’t print a job right, you cannot attempt to cut it correctly. Making sure cutting instructions and registration marks are coordinated is paramount to producing jobs well. A print provider who designs-to-prints-to-cuts in the most effective manner succeeds.”


Advanced routing and cutting software does all, increasing the capabilities a PSP can offer, such as three dimensional (3D) cutouts, difficult contour cutting, and printing on a variety of materials. 


Routing and Cutting Software Options

The Colex Imaging, Inc. Sharpcut flatbed cutter is capable of cutting, scoring, oscillating cuts, and routing. It includes i-cut software, a router spindle, fixed knife and oscillating knife tool holders, vacuum table, and dust removal. 


After the cut file is loaded, the computer selects the appropriate tool holder, with knife/mill ending. The knives and end mills are provided by i-cut, allowing for the capability of multitude of applications. The camera, with video and capture board, accurately reads registration marks.


This cutting and finishing process enables printing on common types of media such as styrene, poster board, foamcore, gator foam, wood, PVC, acrylic/plexi, coroplast, paper, vinyl, banner, and acrylic. It also allows for difficult contour cuts, which are impossible to do by hand. The Colex Sharpcut is capable of producing a clean cut by using the cut file to produce error-free results.


EskoArtwork’s i-cut Suite offers preflighting and layout preparation software. The operator then uses the finishing system software, i-cut Vision Pro, to run the finishing table.


New tools part of the i-cut Vision Pro include adaptive registration, a feature that decreases the number of registration marks read throughout the finishing process—this reduces the amount of time it takes to cut a sheet while still maintaining accuracy. With Vision Pro 7.1, print material specifications are removed from the work stream—including cutting keys that supply operators with optimized tool settings and blade/bit recommendations—and are processed with preset cutting parameters. This reduces set up time by simplifying tasks necessary for starting each unique job.


Hartman further explains the need for vision control with digital finishing systems, “all printed materials contain size, rotation, and scaling distortions that produce inaccurate digital die cutting if not corrected—even more important with difficult, contour cuts. i-cut Vision’s patented means of distortion compensation enables digital cutting systems to produce error-free results.”


A new addition to i-cut Suite is i-cut Automate, which automates the design-to-print-to-cut workflow. Automate eliminates capacity constraints and its operations and monitoring capabilities reduce operator intervention.


Mimaki USA, Inc. Fine Cut software features the ability to accurately detect registration marks, and then kiss cut and/or die cut an entire roll or sheet of media unattended on certain jobs. This process makes it easy to accurately repeat digital jobs and enables a PSP to produce work on demand.


Fran Gardino, new business development manager, Mimaki, advocates the ease of use associated with its software. “Mimaki Fine Cut plug-ins are user friendly and powerful. They require basic Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw design skills to operate efficiently,” he says.


MultiCam Inc. includes its production-based workflow software with each digital finishing device. Its Digital Express cutter allows end users to integrate with all RIP software. No external programming is needed after the RIP processes a job. Also, by combining EnRoute or any computer aided manufacturing (CAM) software with MultiCam’s digital finishing line, operators can take advantage of the machine’s spectrum of capabilities such as 3D contour routing.


At the heart of every MultiCam cutting solution, is the EZ Control, which incorporates CNC computer technology and an easy-to-use human-machine interface. 


MultiVision is a standard feature on all Digital Express combination routing and knife-cutting machines. This digital camera/software-based system recognizes media registration marks visually and automatically compensates for skew, distortion, and image drift. MultiVision provides the additional flexibility of utilizing CAD/CAM software for enhanced tool path generation as well as 3D sign and graphic applications.


Again, productivity is a key benefit. “MultiCam’s production-based workflow software doesn’t require any external programming after RIP software processing, so printers spend less time processing jobs and increase productivity on the cutter side,” notes Shawn Kirsch, application specialist, MultiCam.


Océ North America showcases its ProCut Prepress software. This software first provides simple assignment of finishing tools to vector paths in the artwork; it then nests multiple copies or other jobs destined for the same substrate to minimize waste. Additionally, optical registration marks and barcodes are added to the artwork for later use at the finishing stage. The ProCut Prepress software then sends a nested PDF to the printer and the cutting file to the Océ ProCut digital cutting table. The workflow accommodates any printer or RIP, enabling easy integration into an existing environment.


Randy Parr, display graphics marketing manager, Océ, points out the benefits of such software. “Digital finishing enables a PSP to cost effectively take on more complex finishing jobs, or finish more demanding substrates.”


For perfect contour cutting, Summa, Inc. offers OPOS-CAM, the fourth generation of the company’s contour cutting alignment system. Utilizing advanced camera optics technology and Summa’s CameraControl recognition software, OPOS-CAM produces registration mark recognition speeds up to ten times faster than other products. Summa S Class S140T and S160T contour cutting plotters now include OPOS-CAM as a factory upgrade option.


Zünd America, Inc.’s Cut Center suite, together with the Prepare-it application (app), offers a complete print-to-cut workflow. Based on the given cutter configuration and extensive material profiles, Zünd Cut Center guides the operator through the cutting process.


Apps such as job, nesting, and cut queues are shared throughout the entire shop, making it easy to distribute preparation tasks among individual departments. PC and Mac apps connect through fail-safe client/server technology. Since Zünd Cut Center is RIP and printer-independent, it easily fits into the workflow of any PSP.


Pete Alsten, product manager, Zünd, details some of the many benefits for users. “By suggesting appropriate tools based on material and quality requirements, the suite minimizes set up time, takes the guesswork out of tool and blade/bit selection, and ensures the cutter is running at maximum productivity levels at all times.”


The Zünd Cut Center is ideal for cut data preparation tasks including nesting, tiling, eyelet definition, and barcode and register mark insertion prior to RIPping and printing.


The Prepare-it app minimizes time consuming prepress work and RIP intervention by maximizing print capacity with full-width printing of nested graphics, saving ink by auto-cropping to the cut contour, and reducing the risk of error in the finishing process.


More to Come

Routing and cutting software ensures PSPs see the quality of an application through to completion. Look for part two of this series in our next online edition. It highlights a print shop utilizing some of the innovative cutting/finishing software outlined above.

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

Oct2011, Digital Output  DORC1011

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