Versatile finishing tools enable print service providers (PSPs) to offer more applications with a smaller investment. With this in mind, roll-fed cutters and plotters as well as flatbed routing and cutting solutions are popular. In addition to the need to cut, plot, and route, these devices offer features such as advanced tool sets, small footprints, and software bundles to fit specific requirements.
“Always keep in mind that, unlike digital printers, digital cutters are a ten to 15 year—or more—investment,” recommends Pete Alsten, product manager, Zünd America, Inc. “PSPs need to consider productivity differences over the entire lifespan of the cutter as well as the ability to upgrade/expand the capabilities of the system,” he adds.
Size, configuration, scalability, design, price point, substrate versatility, and available tools are essential factors when considering a router or cutter. The ability to contour cut and route substrates enhances the value of a PSP’s offerings. Depending on services, most invest in a solution that best fits current needs as well as the ability to upgrade as requirements evolve.
Shop Space and Power
When dealing with large format signage, the space available for printing and finishing equipment is limited. Footprint is a consideration when deciding what type of cutter, plotter, and/or router to invest in. Power consumption is another factor and requirements vary between devices.
Werner Waden, president, Colex Imaging, Inc., states that the Sharpcut requires a minimum footprint of 14x18 feet, including aisle space. Additionally, it needs 40 amps, single phase, which translates to a very low monthly electrical bill. The compressor is included in the standard package and is placed under the machine.
The most common Esko Kongsberg configuration has a five- by ten-foot processing area and a footprint of approximately 12x13 feet. For electrical, it requires 110/220 volts and compressed air.
MCT Inc. and Blackman and White, Ltd. (MCT/B&W) offer a series of cutter/plotters under the MCT/B&W partnership. Nine different router/cutter models are included within the MasterCut (MC) VersaTech, MC MultiTech, and the MC G series families. Steve Young, sales and marketing, MCT/B&W, notes that PSPs should consider the space necessary to move rigid boards on and off of the system, typically planning for two to three times the machine dimensions depending on roll or sheet operations.
MCT/B&W systems require 110 and/or 220 volt AC single-phase service plus 240 volt three phase for the liquid cooling necessary for the router and laser.
“To determine the proper space allotment for a cutter, it is important to consider the length and width of the machine and all peripheral devices with a clearance area of about three feet for service, loading, cleaning, and safety,” notes Shawn Kirsch, application specialist, MultiCam Inc.
MultiCam’s CNC cutting machines run off of 220 volt AC single phase, 220 volt three phase, 380 volt three phase, or 460 volt three phase power. “The machine and options determine the voltage,” says Kirsch. The company offers in-house UL certification if needed.
Michelle Johnson, marketing coordinator, Mutoh America, Inc., says its roll cutters are slim in size and fit in any print shop. They feature low electrical requirements and share power with a printer.
Regarding space, Randy Parr, display graphics marketing manager, Océ North America, recommends adding about ten feet in width and length to the selected cutter model, to allow for smooth media handling. “For instance, for a typical Océ ProCut 2500, which features a cutting area of 70x89 inches, we recommend 189x213-inch space allotment,” he explains.
The footprint of a Zünd cutter is dependent on the model and the type of material handling option selected. Air and electrical requirements also vary with different tools and applications. Most Zünd cutters are available with a 200 to 240 volt, three phase, highly energy efficient vacuum generator. Additionally, compressed air requirements do not exceed 100 to 120 PSI at eight by ten cubic feet per minute.
A digital finisher’s compatibility is often limited by blade options and toolsets. For more versatility, users opt for additional and complex tool configurations.
Anderson DPC’s Acut cutting system is developed by Omnitech Systems. Users select the main router spindle for rigid materials or switch to the oscillation knife for foam core, corrugated material, and thin plastics. For flexible substrates such as vinyl, foil, or paper the built-in kiss-cut knife is suitable. An added crease wheel handles folding operations.
The Colex Sharpcut flatbed cutter includes a fixed knife, oscillating knife, and router with optional kiss-cutting knife, creasing wheel, V-cut knife, and foamboard knife. Its standard package includes six of the eight tools available. Additional tools can be added at any time for $1,350 each. The average investment for the Sharpcut is $70,000 to $75,000.
In terms of cost, an Esko Kongsberg finishing table for narrow format starts around $85,000. The mid-range—and most common Kongsberg finishing tables—range from $140,000 to $180,000; and for higher volume print shops that demand high productivity and automation, the investment reaches to $250,000.
Many tools are available, including the standard 1kW router or the optional 3kW water cooled router for processing thicker, heavier materials. Tooling includes, but is not limited to, single- and double-edge knives, kiss cutters, V-notch, and a Braille tool.
Bill Hartman, VP of business development, digital finishing solutions, Esko, suggests that the tooling offered today is quite complete, and advancements in regards to cutting will come in the form of increased speed and throughput, as well as larger table sizes to match the specifications of grand format digital printers.
Gerber Scientific Products, Inc. offers the M Series cutters and Sabre routers. The Gerber M Series flatbed is a versatile solution for automatic print-to-cut finishing of a spectrum of graphic outputs. Sabre routers are ideally suited for dimensional sign making, woodworking, and parts fabrication applications.
MCT/B&W provides a grand format hybrid laser and blade cutting platform, which allows for versatility and the ability to finish a range of materials, including acrylics, which are laser cut with no post flame flashing to smooth out cut edges.
Mimaki USA, Inc. promotes its CF2 and CF3 Series devices to serve rigid media cutting needs.
MultiCam offers a full line of reciprocating knives, spindles, and various additions for creasing, kiss cutting, and ultrasonic. Router speed and edge-quality limitations are based on the rigidity of the machine’s structural frame. The stronger the drive system and the more rigid the gantry, the faster the user is able to put a bit in material at a higher rate of speed.
Parr states that most Océ ProCut tool upgrades are easy and cost effective, since many fit in the same universal module. Only the addition of a pneumatic oscillating tool or a router requires additional compressed air. For greater productivity, he suggests adding cutter extensions so cut materials can be loaded or unloaded while cutting continues on the center of the table.
Summa, Inc.’s F Series is a flexible and rigid cutting option.
Techno Inc. offers solutions to cut wood, plastic, foam, or metal with its HD, HDS, LC, LC Tabletop, and HD mini Series CNC Routers; as well as its HPLC Series CNC Plasma cutters.
Teckwin International LLC provides the Teckut CNC router.
Between its S3 and G3, Zünd offers four different tool modules and 13 cutting, routing, and drawing/marking tools. In addition, many are available in laser cutting configurations.