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Die-Cutting Technology

Although finishing may not be the most glamorous part of the printing process, it does play a major role. Rob Fletcher looks at the latest die-cutting technology and the benefits it offers

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The focus of Intelligent Finishing Systems (IFS) with its Horizon die-cutting technology is enabling its customers to retain a greater margin on their products through offering print solutions that offer greater creativity, impact, and flexibility. Pictured: Bryan Godwyn, managing director of IFS, at The Print Show 2016

Cut to the point

Having attended a number of trade shows in 2016, one major thing stood out for me—the amount of innovation in finishing. While presses may grab most of the headlines, finishing has always, and will continue to, have the final say on printed work.

One type of technology that has seen significant development in recent times is die-cutting, with manufacturers and suppliers championing the impact that this kit can have on the overall production process. However, while this may be true, picking out the right machine for your business is not the easiest of tasks.

Here, we look at some of the latest options available to the market and analyse not only the immediate benefits they offer to printing companies, but also the long-term impact they can have on business.

Careful investment

One company that has a number of solutions on offer in this area is Intelligent Finishing Systems (IFS), which stocks machines from a number of major brands. Jason Seaber, technical sales director, advises companies to carefully study their own operations before making an investment.

“It is important to invest in quality die-cutting equipment as most die-cut applications are on paper or card substrates up to 500 micron thick and these thicker substrates require a high level of cutting pressure and accuracy to produce consistently high quality products,” Seaber says.

He continues: “It's also important to select a die-cutting system that is suitable for both offset and short-run digital print with image tracking and automatic adjustment. It's also important to select a system that provides very fast and simple job changeovers and make-readies. A flexible solution that can also crease, kiss-cut and perforate is becoming more popular today to cover a more comprehensive range of applications.”

With this in mind, he draws attention to technology on offer from IFS, focusing in particular on the Horizon RD-4055, a rotary system that has the ability to die-cut, kiss-cut, crease, perforate, slit, hole punch, and round corner in one process for digital and offset printed sheets.

“The one pass processing 6,000 cycles per hour RD-4055 offers a maximum sheet size 400 x 550mm and substrate flexibility up to 0.5mm,” Seaber explains, adding: “A ‘Repeat Register’ function enables smaller flexible dies to be used for smaller products to help reduce the die cost. Image tracking is also present to automatically track the image area on digitally printed jobs to provide high quality registration to the printed image.”

Seaber adds: “Investment in the right die-cutting system can help drive sales of new products and applications with improved levels of profit. Combine this with digital foiling on our range of Foliant laminators and you can produce some truly stunning and unique products.”

Registration is critical

Also active in this sector is Duplo, which launched its new PFi Di-Cut 300 device to the UK market at The Print Show 2016. Sarah Crumpler, marketing manager at Duplo UK, says the manufacturer has already generated plenty of interest in the machine.

Duplo launched its new PFi Di-Cut 300 device to the UK market at The Print Show 2016, following its initial unveiling at Drupa

Crumpler comments: “With its intuitive touch screen controller, making it very quick and simple to set up and operate, it fits very well into Duplo’s ethos of automated precision. Registration is critical, and the PFi Di-CUT 300 has X and Y registration, with the sensors able to read the registration mark on the top or underneath the sheet. This gives operator flexibility to process sheets face up or down depending on the applications.

“The registration guides in this section adjusts automatically without any need for manual intervention, so making a changeover is quick and easy. As the job is processed the registration guide keeps the sheet properly aligned ensuring each sheet is properly cut, both X and Y registration, ensuring accurate die to image placement, from the first sheet to the last.

“The system can cut, perforate, slit and kiss cut in one process and one pass, giving it a huge amount of multi-functionality and a wide range of possible applications.”

Spingold, a commercial digital printer based on the Suffolk-Essex border, was the first customer to sign up for the new machine, taking delivery of the PFi Di-Cut 300 in autumn. Since its installation, Crumpler explains that the die-cutter has helped to reduce some job times by over 75 percent and also freed up Spingold’s Duplo DC-745 multi-finisher to help on other jobs, speeding those up too.

O Factoid: Launched to the UK market at The Print Show 2016, Duplo’s PFi Di-Cut 300 can operate at speeds of up to 6,000 cycles per hour. O

 Another company to have launched new kit in 2016 is Graphtec GB, which rolled out the I-Mark automatic digital die-cutter. Phil Kneale, director at the firm says that although the machine has only been available for a short time, there has been a positive response from the market.

Kneale expands: “A key benefit of the cutter and one not found on similarly positioned alternative machines is that the die-cutting process is carried out automatically, thereby eliminating the need for owners to purchase expensive dies.

“A second major attribute is that, contingent upon the thickness of the material, the cutter will handle up to 120 sheets in a single and continuous cycle whilst allowing operators to add more sheets as required without interruption of this production cycle.

“The i-Mark is especially suited to short-run label printing and finishing, digital prints and packaging solutions. The incredibly compact footprint enables the cutter to be mounted onto a work surface as small as 60 x 67cm.”

Quality invariably equates to efficiency and consequently to increased productivity

Commenting on investment in such technology in general, Kneale is keen to stress the importance of investing in quality, such as the solutions offered by Graphtec GB. He says: “Quality invariably equates to efficiency and consequently to increased productivity. A well-designed and proven die-cutter will save hours in set-up time as well as offering a low-maintenance capability.”

Quality talks

Elsewhere, Friedheim International stocks solutions from a number of brands, namely Bograma rotary die-cutting and the Pro Cut series from Kama. Neil Elliot, marketing manager at the company, is keen to highlight the Kama DC 76 ASB die-cutter, plus DC 76 Foil ASB foil stamping system, which launched at Drupa in Germany.

Elliot comments: “The DC series has been developed for the packaging market and especially for short runs, which constitutes a growing trend in the industry and for which Kama has found a way of performing the stripping and blanking process without any tool. This process is necessary after die-cutting and normally requires another expensive tool; the system is called the Stripping and Blanking Unit. The DC 76 is equipped with the Kama Auto Register system as standard, which aligns each sheet to the print image in order to ensure the highest possible register precision.”

Also unveiled at Drupa was the Bograma 550 Basic, a lower cost alternative to the established BSR 550 Servo rotary die-cutter. Elliot says the new model “offers short set-up times, simple control guidance, fast, economic and cost-effective production”, making it suitable for die-cutting, kiss-cutting, creasing, perforating, and embossing on products such as packaging, labels, and mailings. The Bograma 550 Basic can operate at speeds of up to 8,000 cycles per hour, with a maximum sheet size of 550 x 750mm.

Friedheim International stocks the Bograma 550 ‘Basic’, a new, lower cost alternative to the established BSR 550 Servo rotary die-cutter

While picking out these machines as solid investments, Elliott goes to offer more advice to customers looking to purchase new kit, explaining that there are two key points to consider: “On the one hand the quality of the machine itself, on the other, the quality of the output produced. A machine that delivers good output quality is normally also very well built, and vice versa.”

Which way to go?

Meanwhile, Thomas Andersen, managing director of Kluge International, is keen to stress that the company is well placed to offer solutions for all three ways of die-cutting—platen, cylinder/rotary, and laser.

Andersen explains: “Kluge Platen die-cutting is ideal for a wide range of stocks; options include dwell to keep the press on impression as well as a heated platen and bed to cut through heavy stocks. You can also cut without nicks, which can be quite an important factor to the end user.

“Kluge Platen die cutting is ideal for a wide range of stocks; options include dwell to keep the press on impression as well as a heated platen and bed to cut through heavy stocks,” says Thomas Andersen, managing director of Kluge International

“Cylinder/rotary presses typically do not handle such a wide range of stock, that being said, the process is usually faster than what can be achieved on a platen. 

“Laser die-cutters can produce an intricate pattern that is simply not achievable any other way. Because they operate with a program as opposed to an actual die, laser die cutting can run a run-length of one at the same efficiency as a longer run length.”

Focusing on the options available from Kluge, Andersen picks out a number of options: “On the Kluge platen die-cutting presses we have recently introduced new features such as the Tru-Dwell adjustable dwell system, heated platen, and adjustable impression.

“On our Insignia rotary die-cutters, the ability to run in-line with a folding and gluing unit offers a single solution for products such as folding cartons, presentation folders or boxes. The new Insignia series is offered in a variety of configurations geared to the customer’s primary output needs.”

Elsewhere, Printers Superstore stocks a selection of options from Hans Gronhi, including the LC range of laser die-cutters that it offers to the UK market. Graham Moorby, joint managing director at the firm, cites these machines in particular as products that can serve as effective solutions.

Moorby expands: “They are available in a range of configurations in the SRA3 and SRA2 formats, either sheet fed, hand fed or reel to reel. We take delight in seeing the reactions of our customers when they see the process in action; after a minimal setup from digital artwork, the cutting process is extremely fast; intricate designs seem to ‘appear’ on the paper instantly.

Caption Hans Gronhi’s LC laser die-cutters are available in either SRA2 or SRA3 formats. Pictured: LC340S SRA3 sheetfed model

“It’s not just about cutting intricate shapes into paper or card. LC machines can kiss-cut to create products such as adhesive labels, they can crease, they can perforate, and they can etch into a surprising variety of substrates including leather, plastics, copper foils, aluminium, and even wood.

“The potential to open up new niche markets for the LC user is huge. As with digital print, digital finishing means that personalised products are possible.”

Moorby goes on to issue warning over opting for cheaper machinery, saying this could have a negative impact on production: “No matter how well printed a job is, if the finishing is substandard, the job is substandard. Poor quality equipment can be a false economy, with higher lifetime cost, the risk of an inferior end product and reduced production efficiency. Of course you can also overspend and overspecify, the ideal is to find equipment in the ‘sweet spot’ where the quality and cost equation is in balance and profitability is optimised.”

Although perhaps not the most glamorous part of the print production process, die-cutting plays a key role for many companies when it comes to the final look and feel of a printed piece. With so many options on offer from a host of big names in the industry, those that require this type of technology can be assured that both their own and customers’ needs will be catered for.

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