By Olivia Cahoon
Part 1 of 2
Routers and cutters are only as good as the software that powers them. These solutions process cutting information and deliver it to finishing equipment to automate finishing and promote higher production speeds. Features like integrating with CRM, ERP, and RIP solutions streamline production across the entire workflow.
Software is critical for digital cutting and routing equipment because it facilitates each phase of production from prepress and job setup functions to the speed of production. Prepress and job setup functions include tool selection and automatic initialization.
“It allows for easy or even touchless file retrieval via barcode or quick response (QR) codes and interactively guides the operator through more complex cutting processes such as tandem production and flip and cut for operations that require processing from both sides of the material,” says Greg Soya, North American channel manager, Zünd.
According to Soya, production speed is composed of three important functions that digital workflow software must offer to be effective—automation, integration, and simplification.
Aside from accurate and faster cutting, finishing software helps increase margins and contribute to high value work like offering contour printing. George Folickman, business development director, digital finishing, Esko, says that a good cutting solution adds metadata, like material type, to the cut file and delivers the information directly to the cutting solution—automating the finishing process.
Michael Frawley, VP of sales, MCT Digital, believes implementing a simple and easy-to-learn cutting software is paramount to a company’s success. “Saving a few seconds in finishing here and there can add up to hours over a few weeks, then days in a few months, and even weeks in a few years. You’ll make a living at using almost any cutting software on the market today,” he explains.
Although speed specifications are important to overall workflow, it isn’t the main indicator of a digital finishing system’s productivity. Cutting software offers several different features, some of which are integral to the workflow.
Software compatibility should be a top priority. Dylan Hoffman, engineer, Colex, warns that if cutting software isn’t compatible with the graphic design or RIP software, it can be difficult to efficiently create a cut file. Before purchasing, it’s important to consider if the intended cutting software will operate alongside the RIP software.
Soya also suggests print providers look for easy integration with RIPs and other workflow software with ease of use, automation, and optimization features. Without these features, he believes the cutting and processing speed of the machine becomes irrelevant. First-time buyers should pay attention to ease of use and integration with RIPs.
Full media and tooling libraries help print providers choose the appropriate tooling for specific media heights and blade depths. Frawley believes these libraries save operators time, grief, and damaged tables or tools. “A well-equipped, well-trained operator delivers jobs as promised. The more control they have within a cutter’s software program the more successful they will be. To that end, the more user controls you can offer, the more adaptable an operator will become to finishing jobs in less time,” he says.
Folickman agrees and believes the ability to program contour cutting with software offers print providers the opportunity to offer more complex, creative jobs that make cutting easier. “This is further assisted by automatic bleed generation tools that prevent false registration and the annoying white lines between the cut and the graphics,” he says.
Integrating with Third Party Solutions
By integrating with third party CRM, ERP, and RIP solutions, print providers streamline production across the entire workflow.
“It reduces the number of touchpoints for operators and the potential for errors that exist at every level,” says Soya. Outside software can provide better analytics and statistics for quoting, production planning, and cost analysis.
Folickman agrees and says that obtaining the right software that includes data directly accessible from the cutting table allows companies to create more accurate job estimates, track waste, and move jobs within queues to get them to the machine faster.
“Third party compatibility is important from a cost basis as proprietary software is expensive and eliminates the print provider from being locked in,” explains Hoffman. Cut files generated by CRM, ERP, or RIP solutions can include finishing details like material thickness or spindle speed linked to a barcode or QR code for the finishing equipment operator to scan into the queue.
While cutting software offers the ability to enhance production speeds, it’s a new process that operators must learn. Print providers should first consider how implementing cutting software will affect the entire production workflow.
Folickman suggests print providers review their current workflow and understand that implementing software, even intentionally, can change it. “It is not always enough to rely on software providers to do that for you. Make sure you have the expertise or can rely on the provider to help you,” he recommends.
When introducing a cutting system and software into the production workflow, Soya warns that print providers should expect major process changes. “Depending on the degree of automation and advanced implementation of the software, they will be able to realize exponential increases in productivity,” he explains.
Once a print provider is aware of how cutting software may affect production and workflow, they can consider what cutting software is compatible with third party add-on solutions like packaging and 3D software. Providers that intend to expand their offerings should keep in mind what future markets they might enter. “This will provide versatility and additional capabilities for the life of the cutter,” comments Hoffman.
As new substrates are released into the digital sector, it’s important that cutter software is flexible enough to adapt. According to Hoffman, cutting software should be robust enough to work with any new media. He warns print providers to beware of software and cutter companies that charge for routine updates.
Frawley agrees and advises providers to thoroughly interview software vendors and ask questions regarding the software’s age, when it was last updated, when it will be updated again, if it can add features, and how quickly it will take.
Finishing Made Easy
Although print providers should keep in mind how cutting software can boost production, it’s important to consider if the software also integrates with third party CRM, ERP, and RIP solutions. Once a provider knows how cutting software affects its production and workflow, it can then consider which features are best for the shop.
The second part of this series features a roundup detailing available cutting software.
Oct2017, Digital Output