By Olivia Cahoon
Roll-to-roll (R2R) printer/cutters are popular amongst print service providers (PSPs) looking to save space in their shops. These devices provide efficiency and eliminate the process of moving a roll of printed media to a separate table or roll cutter to finish the job. Depending on the needs of a shop owner, a printer/cutter is ideal to make the most out of limited space while still offering service versatility.
Print-and-Cut Hybrid R2R printers with a cutter function provide hybrid workflows to save time and provide a dual operation for shops to produce a variety of applications on one machine. Printer/cutters produce applications like architectural signage, backlit signage, decals, fine art reproduction, garment decoration, labels, point of purchase, posters, static clings, vehicle wraps, and wayfinding signage.
Michael Maxwell, sign and graphics business development and marketing senior manager, Mimaki USA, Inc., says cut-and-print devices save floor space while ensuring accurate cutting.
These devices function by printing manageable-sized sections, returning to origin for contour cutting, and then feeding to the take-up unit, which automatically winds the material onto a secondary roll, explains Daniel Valade, color printers’ product manager, Roland DGA Corporation. “With advanced features and functionality, these inkjets make the entire print-and-cut workflow virtually automated,” he adds.
R2R printer/cutters eliminate wasted time, additional labor, and allow print providers to begin design work for the next project or even leave the shop overnight while the printer/cutter continues to work unattended.
Matt Gusse, sales and marketing VP, Advanced Color Solutions (ACS), explains that some print-and-cut machines feature RIP software that include color charts and plug-ins for popular graphic programs. “The color charts insure accurate color and the plug-ins included make cutting easy,” he adds.
Minimizing Time and Space
Printer/cutters create a simplified workflow for PSPs, which involves less manual labor. The machines condense space in a print shop by using one device compared to two.
“The benefit of an all-in-one solution is the ability of the print provider to set up a file one time and have the machine perform the functions that would normally take two machines, more space, and additional time,” says Maxwell. These printer/cutters streamline workflow to increase productivity.
Printer/cutters are cost efficient for the appropriate user. “When compared to competitive print-only devices, in most cases, the cost to get started with an integrated printer/cutter is significantly less, since a separate cutter doesn’t have to be purchased,” explains Valade.
Gusse shares that units under 30 inches may be less than $10,000 while larger and faster machines are closer to $30,000. Besides cost, print-and-cut devices also provide ease of use, especially for beginners. “The ability to load a variety of materials for dozens of applications in one machine and learn just one machine is easier to comprehend versus getting multiple machines,” he says.
Maxwell adds that R2R printer/cutters don’t have many challenges unless the material needs another process, for example lamination, applied between the print-and-cut workflows.
The Right Fit
While R2R printers with built-in cutters save on space and cost, they may not be a fit for all types of print shops. Valade shares that some PSPs require large format devices that are wider than the R2R printer/cutters on the market. “Most integrated print-and-cut devices range from 30 to 64 inches in width and some service providers may need grand format machines as wide as 104 inches.”
However, Valade says that these types of shops should still consider purchasing an integrated printer/cutter. R2R printer/ cutters allow print shops to handle jobs complementary to grand format work and a print-and-cut device allows PSPs to become a one-stop shop.
“All PSPs can benefit from a print-andcut device, however, some have utilization or other equipment that need cutting,” explains Maxwell. In a situation where a secondary process is required to finish the job or another printer is present, it may make more sense to have a standalone printer that is utilized while the other print tasks are performed.
R2R printers/cutters feature new advancements to keep up with the rest of the industry like self-functioning features. Maxwell shares that some machines automatically switch the pinch wheel assignments and pressures to eliminate marring printed areas. The machines also have self-diagnosing functions for nozzle checks and recovery.
As users print on thicker and denser substrates, R2R print-and-cut devices need to have increased downforce to handle cutting. Valade says that five years ago, 250 grams of force was sufficient for almost any printable substrate that required contour cutting. R2R devices now handle 500 grams of force and feature functions like overlap and perforated cutting. “They can even generate crop marks for registering applications that require lamination before cutting, which allows the material to be reloaded into the device after lamination for precise contour cutting,” he adds.
The R2R Market
Here, we share printer/cutters available for purchase from various vendors.
ACS distributes the Roland TrueVIS VG-540 with a 54-inch print width. The device allows a maximum thickness of one millimeter (mm) with liner for printing, and 0.4 mm with liner and 0.22 mm without liner for cutting. The printer/ cutter prints at up to 900×900 dpi at a maximum speed of 141 inches per hour.
The TrueVIS VG-540 features VersaWorks Dual RIP software, a new core engine for processing files like transparencies. The software includes capabilities like a predictive ink calculator, variable data printing, embedded ICC support ink level adjustment tools, advanced cropping, tiling, and nesting options. It supports up to four Roland devices.
CSL Digital offers the Lightbar VS-I series of printer/cutters. Available in 54 and 64 inches in width, the solvent/UV ink technology is based on Roland printers.
The lightbar unit features stationary, low-energy UV lamps and prints up to 1,440 dpi.
Mimaki features the CJV Series cut-andprint devices with a maximum media width of 63.8 inches and 55 inches in height. The CJV Series features Mimaki piezo printheads and Mimaki eco-solvent and dye-sublimation ink technology. The inks feature a variety of colors including metallic, silver, white, orange, and light black. The cut-and-print functions allow pre-cutting before printing to prevent film separation and problems related to post-cutting thin materials.
The CJV Series has self-diagnosing features such as Mimaki’s Nozzle Check Unit, Nozzle Recovery System, Waveform Control, and Mimaki’s Advance Pass System to eliminate print artifacts. The CJV Series is intended to produce applications from fine art reproductions to outdoor signage. It prints at up to speeds of 1,140 square feet per hour (sf/h) with a resolution of up to 1,440 dpi. Mimaki’s printer/cutters are priced between $15,000 and $30,000.
Roland offers the TrueVIS VG Series with a maximum width of 64 inches, four Roland FlexFire printheads, and TrueVIS INK. TrueVIS INK is odorless and lasts up to three years outdoors with no lamination. It is also Greenguard Gold certified. The VG Series uses a new carriage and blade that offers 500 grams of force for printing substrates and contour cutting. It also features a built-in control panel that allows functions to be controlled by smartphones or tablets using Bluetooth.
The VG Series is used to create several applications including die-cut labels and decals, banners, signs, vehicle wraps, posters and backlit displays, wall graphics and murals, fine art, and print-andcut heat transfers. Roland offers a take up system and optional drying units to boost performance during high-volume, unattended operation.
Summa, Inc. provides the Summa DC Series printer-and-cutter available in a maximum width of 54 inches. It is a thermal transfer printer that cuts at 24 inches per second and prints 93 sf/h in standard mode for spot color resin ribbons. The machine also prints by mirror metallic ribbons for indoor use.
The device’s cutting features cut with a drag knife using standard Summa D-Series blades and includes ColorControl RIP and Cut Software. It also supports multiple printers, which enables up to four DC Series machines to be connected to a single computer. The Summa DC Series produces images durable for up to five years outdoors without lamination.
Wide Format Printer/Cutters
R2R printers/cutters allow PSPs to offer wide format creations as a one-stop shop. These devices save on floor space and are cost effective. With the newest technology advancements including the ability to print on thicker substrates and self-diagnostic features, the market is full of great options for PSPs to consider.
Mar2017, Digital Output