By Cassandra Balentine
Part 1 of 2
Cutting capabilities add efficiency in the shop. When it comes to finishing rigid materials, flatbed routers and cutters are called into action.
Automation, ease of use, and wider media compatibility are continued improvements seen on these devices in the past ten years.
Ken VanHorn, director, marketing and business development, Mimaki USA, Inc., points out an increased need for versatility to match trends in digital print markets. “Also, from a digital conversion perspective, faster direct to print is overtaking screenprinting and low-volume offset printing; however digital finishing has lagged, creating a bottleneck for digital workflow,” he explains.
Advancements on the flatbed side address this with speed enhancements, precise cutting, and versatile toolkits that enable cutting, routing, scoring, and creating with a single table—and in some cases—in a single job, offers VanHorn.
Nikolai Mikkelsen, president, MCT Digital, also notes that the addition of the CO2 laser alongside traditional router and knife cutting tools is a big advancement. “Lasers are clearly seen as the solution for the fastest growing segment of the digital print industry—fabric,” he says, adding that hot knife or laser cutting leave edges sealed to prevent faying. “The ability to cut fabric and yet still able to route an aluminum sheet, cut foam core or styrene, and more or the same finishing system is highly desirable in today’s marketplace.”
Below we highlight some of the latest and differentiating feature sets of select wide format, flatbed router/cutters on the market today.
High-quality prints are produced on a range of rigid substrates, including aluminum, acrylic, wood, and composites. Robert J Marshall, VP market development, AXYZ, explains that ttraditional finishing systems using a high-speed knife or low power routing spindle are not well suited for heavier materials. “This is where the traditional sign making router is starting to play its part. Machines such as the AXYZ Series routers with their high power five or ten horsepower spindles and camera registration system for exact print to cut alignment are the only cost effective way for processing such materials, whether it’s a one-off print job or high-volume production.”
Recent developments include new cutting heads, vision systems, new drive methods, and an all new controller to handle high-speed motion smoothly and safely. “Now, with a choice of knife heads that can be used alongside the routing head, we have a single machine that can be used on all substrates from paper or cardboard to natural wood or aluminium. Process areas are fully configurable from five to more than ten feet in width and 50 feet or more in length.
With the latest generation of ink technology, it is now much easier to print directly onto materials such as clear acrylic. The ability to cut clear acrylic and leave a smooth polished edge is important because flame or diamond polishing cannot be used on printed materials. The AXYZ router utilizes a new seven-segment controller for ultra-smooth motion and a high-quality helical drive system with servo motors designed to maintain rigidity and precision at all times. The result is a smooth, virtually polished edge, which needs little or no further finishing.
Digital Graphic Systems (DGS)
DGS provides the DYSS DGS V-PRO X5 digital cutter, designed to handle prototyping, sample-making, and short/medium run production needs of packaging and point of sale display companies. Featuring a robust construction and high-end engineering, the machine produces high-quality results in record time, says Roberto Rodriguez, president, DGS.
The DYSS DGS V-PRO X5 comes in a full size—4×8- and 5×10-foot—with versatile tooling to suit all common signs, visual communication, and packaging substrates, including folding SBS boards, foamboard, corrugated cardboard, expanded PVC, styrene, structural honeycomb boards, self-adhesive vinyl, magnetic film, textiles, and paper. The cutter also features a conveyor belt, rigid material feeding system, and extension table.
Esko offers the Kongsberg cutting tables. The V series are designed to deliver reliability, precision, and ease of use for companies interested in delving into packaging sign and display markets, seeking to add productive digital finishing. Bill Hartman, VP business development, digital finishing, Esko, says they are delivered with standard configurations for a diverse range of packaging and sign and display applications.
The Kongsberg V for sign and display comes with a MultiCUT tool head for vision controlled cutting and routing. It combines many tool options, ideal for a range of materials including acrylics and other synthetics. The Kongsberg V for packaging is configured for sample making, short-run mockups, and other packaging-specific applications. It offers highly accurate, powerful cutting and creasing of material such as folding carton and corrugated board.
A broad selection of cutting, creasing, drilling, and plotting tools is available. “The rack and pinion drive system balances raw power with the finest axis control, ensuring speed, durability, and strength,” says Hartman.
The Kongsberg C systems are fully featured, wide format digital finishing systems—based on a completely re-engineered platform. “The new, wider format perfectly fits modern 3.2-meter wide format printers, working with wide rolls and sheets,” says Hartman.
The Kongsberg C64 model works with 126×126-inch materials, fitting modern wide format printers. Also available is the Kongsberg C60 model, accommodating 126×63-inch long sizes. Covering more than ten feet across the table, a unique, rigid, carbon-composite traverse beam assures excellent precision and supports high speed, fast acceleration, high-quality creasing, and exclusive milling capabilities.
“The Kongsberg C offers exceptional versatility for all sign, display, and packaging applications. Customers no longer need to invest in different digital finishing devices for different applications. With its combination of dexterity and power, the Kongsberg C fits all production needs—roll, sheets, corrugated, milling—offering a more effective and smaller footprint solution than having to own multiple systems,” says Hartman.
Gerber Scientific, Inc.
Gerber offers its M Series flatbed cutters, which are designed to present a versatile solution for automatic print-to-cut finishing of a wide spectrum of graphic outputs. This includes routing printed rigid substrates to kiss-cutting vinyl decals and contour cutting and creasing digital offset point of purchase graphics.
Mark Bibo, regional sales manager, Gerber, notes versatility, productivity, and value, as core advantages of its M Series cutter.
MCT’s Versa-Tech series of cutters are available in five- and ten-foot widths as well as 3.2-, 4.8-, and 6.4-meter lengths.
Mikkelsen says there is a demand for wider width finishing systems and initial sales of its wide format cutters reinforce the premise that the grand format market was underserved. “80 percent of the machines sold so far by MCT are 3.2-meter width and 25 percent are in excess of 20 feet long. MCT sees this as a clear indicator that not only do customers want wider, but also longer machines to handle the increasing challenge of grand format workflow.”
It is important to note that all MCT flatbed cutters can be equipped to handle roll materials with optional roll holding and powered roll handling systems for complete semi- or fully-automatic feeding. The company points out that the flatbed cutting systems can cut in any shape where as the roll cutting systems can only do XY—meaning square or rectangular shapes.
Mimaki introduced its first flatbed cutting plotter in 1987—the A1 size Mimaki CF-70 model. The current generation Mimaki CF2 Series are compatible with a variety of materials up to one-inch thick. Available in three flatbed sizes, CF2-0912 is 47.2×35.4 inches, CF2-1215 is 15×47.2, and the CF2-1218 is 70.8×47.2 inches.
According to VanHorn, each can cut a range of media from lightweight cardboard or foam core to heavier rubber and resin materials.
MultiCam provides the Digital Express and the Graph-X-Cutter. The Digital Express combines high-speed and contour cut accuracy for a powerful digital finishing system. The Graph-X Cutter is upgraded with high-speed routing and heavy-duty tangential knife-cutting capabilities.
Priscilla Sanchez, marketing, MultiCam, says the company supplies the conveyorized—or roll cutting—platform as well as the flatbed cutting platform. “There have been several notable advancements in the flatbed and roll cutting systems over the last decade,” she explains. “For example, the vision systems have become much more sophisticated and have a much faster capture time,” she notes.
Additionally, Sanchez points out that vacuum beds coupled with automated roll-feed tables allow automated reduced cycle times and spindles are larger and can be equipped with automatic tool and knife changers, allowing heavier substrates to be cut. “As a result, a new breed of heavy-duty flatbed cutters has emerged to accommodate the larger spindles and increased Z-axis cutting requirements. The variety of knives now available, including the new 45 degree blades for miter cutting of corrugated art board, is another notable advancement.”
Zünd offers its G3 and S3 digital flatbed cutters.
Featuring a modular design concept, the G3 cutting systems are designed to adapt to ever-changing needs and retain value. The systems feature energy efficient, adjustable table vacuum generators that provide optimal material hold down.
The G3 series is available in a range of sizes.
The Zünd S3 series offers a compact design. Featuring modular tooling and material handling systems, the system allows for additions and upgrades at any time.
The S3 cutter system features intelligent control technology, an advanced drive system, and sophisticated tooling.
The design of the S3 multi-functional cutter permits variable production workflows. The S3 series is available in a range of sizes.
Speed and versatility are expected to continue to evolve. “Jobs will continue to be fed by faster digital printers, so there will be continual improvements in the automation of material handling for high production environments,” suggests Esko’s Hartman. Continued advancements in complete design to print to cut solutions are also expected, which include software and workflow applications.
Digital work requires automation, precision, and efficiency to assure profitability. Popular finishing equipment, including flatbed routers and cutters, are tasked with meeting and exceeding these demands for modern print service providers.
In part two of this series on cutting equipment, we look at how roll-fed options are advancing with the latest trends in wide format output.
Oct2014, Digital Output DOCR1410