By Olivia Cahoon
Part 1 of 2
When it comes to labels, stickers, and decals, print service providers (PSPs) may opt for standalone printers and cutters or integrated print-and-cut devices. Wide format print-and-cut devices are designed for non-stop production with the ability to print and cut from one piece of hardware. These solutions typically include software for sticker and label customization and handle substrates up to one millimeter thick.
Unlike standalone cutters, print-and-cut devices have printing and cutting capabilities that require layering to achieve multiple color designs. These devices feature integrated contour cutting, which increases productivity and simplifies workflow, says Daniel Valade, product manager, color products and cutters, Roland DGA Corporation.
Print-and-cut devices are not only used for labels, stickers, and decals but also for heat transfer graphics, floor graphics, packaging, point of purchase displays, and window clings. Applications with thicker media typically benefit more from a standalone printer and flatbed CNC cutter/router.
“For clients looking to make custom die cut decals and stickers, print-and-cut devices have become a must-have,” says Matte Gusse, VP of sales and marketing, Advanced Color Solutions. “The ability to print-and-cut with one machine, even decades after it was introduced, is still the easiest out-of-the-box solution for most.”
Print-and-cut devices featuring white ink allow users to print on clear or dark substrates by generating an opaque layer of white for printing CMYK graphics with greater density and vibrancy. “Primer is not really a factor when it comes to printing labels, stickers, and decals, as it’s rarely used for such applications,” says Valade. Primers are typically used for printing on materials like acrylic, glass, and plastic to maximize ink adhesion.
According to Gusse, clear vinyl and static cling decals for decorative industrial applications are on the rise. Additionally, printing with clear can add a protective boundary or even give a raised or dome effect when printed on UV machines with multiple passes.
Offering labels, stickers, or decals is a great add-on service to generate additional business. “With significant growth in the customization market, expanding your products and services in this way helps attract new customers by offering high-end products with low quantity requirements,” says Valade.
If the devices are already owned for another purpose, adding label, sticker, and decal offerings is an additional revenue stream from existing equipment. “We’ve seen requests for smaller quantities, such as local town administrators, asking for all sorts of labels ranging from political posters to reflective vehicle identification,” says Michael Maxwell, senior manager, Mimaki USA, Inc. “These would be cost prohibitive if smaller quantities were produced using traditional analog processes, but it’s additional revenue for the PSP.”
Software for Sticks
Software powering print-and-cut devices includes RIPs and add-on programs designed to make printing and cutting easier and faster. For graphic design creation, PSPs usually use Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw. Some print-and-cut manufacturers include plugins for these graphic programs.
Common features include tools for generating cut lines. Third-party clip art, add-on programs, and online design programs feature simplified interfaces for making and ordering graphics. Gusse says this also allows for an easier Web to print workflow. “Even for clients laminating, today’s print-and-cut machines offer easy user interfaces with the most popular cutting devices.”
Updated RIP software automates the cutting process with registration marks and bar codes on the print. Maxwell says the barcode, read by a crop mark sensor, contains cutting and rotation information to automate the cutting process. He offers, “this function is particularly useful when running nested print/cut jobs as the printer continuously reads the data for both single and ganged jobs.”
RIP software also includes swatch palettes for special color effects. For example, RasterLink6 RIP software includes a swatch palette for 648 metallic colors selectable from Adobe Illustrator. According to Maxwell, silver ink can be used to create metallic color effects, which are in high demand for label, decal, and package prototyping applications.
“Manufacturers or their resellers should be able to provide information and demonstrations to make sure your application, art, or idea works and will be supported before you purchase anything,” says Gusse. With basic graphic knowledge, he believes a minimal learning curve is expected.
However, Valade warns that the most difficult part of label, sticker, and decal creation is developing the design skills. He believes for most PSPs, many of which already have some design knowledge, the learning curve for adding cut/contour data to an existing design is minimal.
With the ability to produce custom labels, stickers, and decals, print-and-cut solutions offer an integrated printing and cutting process for fast production. The second part of this series features a roundup of available print-and-cut systems.
Apr2018, Digital Output