Print service providers (PSP) consider adding a digital cutting system to their equipment lineup for many reasons. For one, it reduces labor compared to finishing applications manually. Additionally, the high speed, accuracy, and ease of use is capable of handling a variety of complex cutting jobs on a range of substrates.
Several manufacturers offer multi-function finishing solutions to accommodate a variety of output—whether rigid signs, packages, textiles, or flexible media. These devices are generally flatbeds that rout through heavy-duty materials to common signage items such as foamcore.
Multi-Function Cutting Systems
Anderson America Corporations’s AKUT CNC multi-tool cutting system for sign and graphic shops utilizes i-cut patented software and cutting tools. Main features include six vacuum zones controlled by a switch button, three ten millimeter high pop up pins, two servo driven systems equipped with X axis, and 11hp water cooled main router spindle capable of 40,000 rpm. The device is designed for three and two dimensional signs and graphics and handles material ranging from foamcore to MDF wood up to six feet.
Colex Industries recently introduced its latest Sharpcut Flatbed Cutter with optional semi-automatic board feeder and digital roll feeder. The Sharpcut’s unique feature is its triple interchangeable tool head station that selects the proper tool for the job. The work zone surface is divided into six zones with each having its own vacuum pump controlled by individual electrical on/off buttons on the front panel.
The Sharpcut is a fully integrated hardware and software solution and includes a fixed knife, oscillating knife, creasing wheel, kiss-cutting knife, and router that allows for multiple applications. The device works with many substrates including foamboard, gator foam, styrene, sintra, wood, acrylic/plexi, corroplast, paper stock, honeycomb, and vinyl. Speed is 2,800 inches per minute (ipm). The Sharpcut is available in a five- by ten-foot model with an all inclusive package price of $73,900.
Colex, exclusive distributor of Fotoba automatic roll cutters, also offers the Fotoba Dreacmut XLD-170, designed to work with both rolls and sheets. The device is ideal for trimming flexible media output up to 67 inches wide and 35 millimeters thick. Models are available to accommodate media from 44 to 130 inches.
A unique feature is Fotoba’s automatic feed alignment—regardless of any feed misalignment, Fotoba cutters automatically realign to the edge of the printed image. Square images are always produced even if the printer fails to print parallel to the media edge, or if the printer fails to wind up the rolls squarely. On average, a 150-foot roll is cut in less than ten minutes.
Esko’s Kongsberg XN is a versatile digital finishing device, whether the focus is packaging, signs, or displays. It accommodates materials from vinyl to boards to wood, and is available in seven different sizes from 66x50 inches to 87x258 inches.
The Kongsberg XN configures for applications ranging from kiss cutting to packaging mockups to heavy-duty routing. Most importantly, the new Kongsberg XN can be equipped with a powerful milling spindle—the 3kW MultiCUT High Power. With the new high power water cooled spindle, the Kongsberg XN offers up to three times more milling productivity.
With a choice of five tool heads and a range of specialty tools, the Kongsberg XN handles materials such as corrugated, folding carton, pressure-sensitive film, solid board, foam, coating blankets, vinyl, wood/MDF, acrylics, textiles, aluminum composite material, and plastics. Newly developed tools include solid board and corrugated paper-core board V-notching tools, and a Braille tool insert.
The Kongsberg XN also offers complete integration with i-cut Suite, including i-cut Vision Pro for print-to-cut registration, and workflow automation with i-cut Automate. Additional productivity is achieved with the optional material conveyor system, auto-feeder, and roll-off unit. Entry-level users are able to start with the tool heads and consumable tools needed and invest in more capabilities as business grows.
MCT Inc. offers three systems each matched to a print provider’s needs. The new ValueLine finishing system offers cutting versatility, speed, and material range within a single platform. The ValueLine includes standard features and productivity improvements, including a liquid cooled 2.5 kW at peak; 60,000 rpm router spindle; drop-in tools for kiss cutting, oscillation, creasing; and rotary-driven blade cutting combined with a dual x-drive servo system. It also boasts a forceful rack and pinion motion system combined with a 10HP zoned vacuum, table surface mapping, and an optional conveyor roll feed system.
The system operates upwards of 40 inches per second (ips) at one G-force, and processes a variety of materials, thicknesses, and densities. The ValueLine is currently available at 63 inches wide, with a 126-inch wide model—offering a standard length of ten feet—released in the first quarter of 2013. Additional lengths are available by request.
In addition, the Genesis line of digital flatbed finishing systems is tailored to the dye-sublimation (dye-sub) market and direct to print textiles. This system is available with or without conveyor and has the ability to be scaled from 63 to 126 inches to accommodate most grand format devices. Cutting lengths from 110 inches or longer are available in custom sizes. The Genesis line is fitted with a self-sharpening rotary driven wheel and offers cutting speeds up to 59 ips.
Lastly, the MasterCut system is a dual cutting solution capable of finishing wide format digitally printed or dye-sub textile graphics and soft signage. The rack and pinion drive system provides cutting speed and accuracy, and surface mapping for precision depth control is a standard feature.
The system is equipped with an industrial class CO2 liquid cooled laser for cauterized finishing of polyester textiles as well as all of the tangential cutting tools including the self-sharpening rotary textile cutter. A number of different roll-off options are available to accommodate accurate laydown of material on the cutting bed. The MasterCut comes in three different cutting widths—63, 126, and 246 inches wide. Cutting lengths range from 126, 246, and 390 inches, or custom sizes. A sophisticated camera vision registration system is standard on all three models.
The MultiCam Digital Express combines high-speed digital registration with powerful routing and knife-cutting capabilities in a sheet-feed or conveyor cutting platform. This computer numerical controlcutting solution features three independent Z-axis heads with speeds up to 7,000 ipm. It cuts materials including cardboard, foam, fabric, foamcore, vinyl, corrugated plastic, acrylic, and wood.
A standard feature on all Digital Express machines is the MultiVision digital registration system, which recognizes media registration marks visually and compensates for skew, distortion, and image drift automatically.
MultiCam developed the EZ Knife cartridge system to perform mechanized knife cutting, creasing, and perforation operations. It allows the user to configure two independent tangential knife receivers on the Digital Express.
The optional conveyor system for rolled materials and jobs longer than the table may be added. A conveyor belt serving as the vacuum cutting surface advances the material. The operator may retrieve material from a roll continuously, or the system feeds sheets automatically. Offered in 50- to 80-inch widths and 60- to 240-inch lengths, Digital Express prices start at $85,000.
Océ North America’s ProCut family of digital cutting systems offers ten different table sizes ranging from 51x63 inches upto 128x124 inches. Each table supports both rigid and roll media. The maximum supported roll media width is determined by the width of table. The Océ ProCut system cuts a variety of roll and rigid substrates such as banner vinyl, PSA, fabrics, foamed PVC, styrene, acrylic, Dibond, foamboard, and wood. The cutting functions include through cutting, V cutting, kiss cutting, rotary and oscillating knife cutting, and routing for harder materials. Additionally, the systems support creasing, enabling the production of prototype and short-run packaging. Maximum linear cutting speed of up to one meter per second offers accuracy and repeatability.
The latest addition to Zünd’s lineup of wide format multi-functional cutters is the S3 line, available in six space-saving footprints from 52x31 to 70x63 inches. The S3 accommodates an extensive selection of Zünd tool options for kiss- and through-cutting, oscillating, creasing, rotary and bevel cutting, marking, punching, as well as a 300 watt routing insert.
The S3 processes a range of flexible and rigid materials in rolls, sheets, and boards. Suitable materials include vinyl, paper, cardboard, mat board, corrugated, foamcores, plastics, and textiles. Various automated material handling options may be added for timesaving loading and offloading while the machine is cutting. Similar to the large format Zünd G3 line, S3 is driven by Zünd Cut Center software.
Determine True Productivity
Cut speed varies with cutter size and application. To determine true productivity for any machine, manufacturers such as Zünd advise PSPs to investigate how long every aspect of the cutting process takes—from job/file preparation, tool set up or changeover, to actual cutting and material handling time.
Other productivity enhancing features to look for include twin cutting, pendulum production, and the tooling versatility necessary for processing any given material with the fastest possible cutting method available.
Multi-function devices are not the only option available to PSPs. Traditional cutting tools, both semi-automated and automated, also exist. These finishing solutions include vinyl cutters and cutting tables and bars for lighter weight material. The second part of this series examines products in this space.