By Cassandra Balentine
Part 2 of 2
Digital production remains just a fraction of the overall label production market, but it is a growing segment. To accommodate digital, label printers and converters have many factors to consider.
The first part in this two-part series on label cutting discusses various cuts and machine configurations. Here, we highlight specific features designed to support digital label finishing.
One major advantage of digital print technology is its ability to handle variable data printing. Because of this capability, the finishing industry has also been pushing to reduce makeready to enable more cost effective, short, variable runs. Jay Larsen, GM, director of R&D – digital hardware division, INX International Ink Co., points out that in the case of laser die cutting, it was traditionally done offline and setups were changed easily, but only between jobs. When integrated with digital printing, the print system can pass the die lines to laser for each label, allowing low-cost production of job runs as short as one label.”
To minimize the tooling costs and changeover time, semi-rotary die-cutting systems are most common on narrow web digital presses, according to Andre Blais, label sales account manager, Heidelberg. “The semi-rotary design requires only a low-cost die plate for each new repeat or shape size.”
A variety of digital print engines are dedicated to label production. Here, we highlight features from companies that participated in this article.
Epson SurePress digital inkjet presses are agnostic in terms of finishing equipment. The company typically sees a flood coat flexographic station and/or roll lamination, semi-rotary or laser die cutting, matrix stripping, or slitting and rewinding on the finishing line for its pressure-sensitive labels. Further, options like a sheeter/stacker and conveyor are added as needed for each application.
Each Heidelberg Gallus narrow web press comes with several inline die-cutting options depending on the customer application and needs.
INX, in conjunction with Spartanics, offers both inline and offline versions of most finishing options, including laser die cutting, rotary die cutting, sheeting, slitting, lamination, and coating. Machines can be designed to address unique workflow for production scenarios.
Xeikon cooperates with a diversity of partners in its Aura Partner network, but also has its own converting solutions to be used in or offline, like the DCoat, entryDCoat, and Web Varnishing Module.
VALLOY Incorporation offers the DuoBlade SX, which is a digital knife die cutter. It is an all-in-one solution that provides lamination, die cutting, full cutting, matrix removal, slitting, and separation. Tension is digitally controlled and a web guide system is embedded by default. It is an independent digital finishing machine so in many countries it is sold with other digital printers.
In addition to advanced equipment cutting, software helps streamline the finishing process and reduce errors.
Cutting software is an important element. “Full digital printing with laser die cutting allows the artwork creator to specify the die line directly in the artwork. When this artwork is processed by the RIP, the die line is recognized and extracted automatically so additional steps are needed. The RIP contains setups for different media types, which allows the printer to automatically setup the laser to properly cut the chosen material,” says Larsen.
Cutters tend to be driven by exclusive software. These solutions read cutting information in PDF, artificial intelligence (AI), or PLT formats. For example, VALLOY’s DuoBlade SX digital die cutter is powered by DuoBlade cutting and AI2PLT converting software.
To overcome complexity and improve production time, Xeikon developed Vectorizer, a software product that sends all of the required information to the laser unit. This is specifically designed to take away the complexity of job planning with laser die cutting. It will automate the whole job flow and control the laser die-cutting unit, shares Donna Covannon, director of marketing, Xeikon North America.
Heidelberg recommends POLAR Mohr Compucut software. “Software is used to provide operators with the most efficient way to create a cutting program with difficult printed layouts. It calculates and provides the cutting program within minutes and sends the cutting program to the cutter for production,” explains Blais.
Cut for the Course
Cutting is an essential component in the label production process. A variety of cut types and methods to produce them are available. To ensure seamless production, select the right finishing process for the job at hand.
Mar2020, Digital Output