December '20

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2 2 G R A P H I C S P R O D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 0 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M Graphtec's newest plotters include a da- talink barcode system and an upgraded vision system that allows print-and-cut from any printing device. "You can take the print from a desktop or rolltop printer of any size and can put it into the appro- priate size cutter. It will read the registra- tion marks and do a kiss cut, through cut or perf cut," Belcher notes. Most printers can't print edge-to-edge, he says. Graphtec's cutters allow a shop to cut outside of the registration marks. "It gives you the maximum yield you can get out of sheet or roll materials," Belcher says. That could mean squeezing in an extra decal per row for maximum productivity. Beatrice Drury, Zund America, states that the company's flatbed multifunc- tional digital cutter has 30 or more tools to choose from, which is something that a shop should consider when looking to purchase this equipment. It can do kiss and through cuts, oscillating and rotary cutting, and routing. A laser module can also be added. There's various punch, per- foration, and creasing tools, and an inkjet tool for labeling. In general, Justin Rinaldi, another mem- ber of the Safety Speed team, states that graphics producers looking to add a panel saw to their shop need to look at a few key things before making their choice: cut accuracy, maximum cross-cut and frame length, and how much space they have in their shop. Mark Bibo, Gerber Technology, adds that cutters enable producers to take their shops to the next level, from hand cutting projects or outsourcing them to another shop to do- ing everything in-house. Gerber's MCT cutter has nine different knife cutting tools so that shops that want to start out using only one of the options, like milling, can expand into routing or laser cutting as they get more comfortable with the technology. For example, Gerber automated its drag and oscillating knives, which can be used to cut fabrics. Soft signage is the latest rage in the graphics industry and textiles can be knife cut or laser cut. "As long as a banner doesn't have PVC in it, it can be laser cut," Bibo says. He adds that a new generation of PVC-free banner material is coming out, which will allow shops to laser cut flags and banners. CUT TO THE CHASE Returning to the topic of popular sizes, 4' X 8' and 5' X 10' machines are sought-af- ter because many textile rolls come in sizes wider than 60". The tables that are most popular for fabric cutting tend to be wider, at 126". The biggest machine currently available is 10' X 10'. Shops looking to expand operations by purchasing a cutter should start with the size of machine that works best for their setup. "You can add extensions for the infeed and output, but you can't change the active cutting area," Drury says. Next, shops should choose the right tool- ing for the substrates that will be printed. A registration system is important for faster cutting. According to Drury, Zund devel- oped an over-cutter camera that takes one image from above the cutting area, picking up all the register marks at once. Textiles, particularly stretchy materials, require addi- tional register marks. "If you have a camera that has to capture each one, it takes a lot longer than an overhead system that takes one image," she says. Drury goes on to note that material han- dling is important when it comes to choos- ing the right machine for your shop. Dif- ferent machines have different levels of au- tomation. For lower volume shops, a more static table is fine, she advises. The material can be loaded and unloaded manually. If a shop opts for a larger table, the cutter can be used in tandem mode. While one side of the table is being loaded, the cutter can be working on another image on the other end of the table. "It has a pendulum that swings back and forth. It gives you productivity because the machine is not idle while you load and un- load. It continues cutting. It is still a man- ual process but a more efficient workflow," Drury continues. Shops can add varying degrees of automa- tion, from board and sheet feeders, to ro- botic arms that pick up the finished mate- rial and stack it into boxes or conveyor belts that move the substrate to the cutting area. "As people are getting more into automa- tion, that is getting more and more impor- tant," Bibo notes. "The biggest advancements have come on the software and workflow side to allow for all the automation," Drury adds. "The software has gotten very interactive. It basi- cally tells you based on the file and material used… what tool to use and what machine settings to use. All those things have gotten more user friendly and productive because it speeds up every process in that whole pro- duction cycle." The final point to consider is that many shops buy a printer first and then shop for a cutter. Bibo argues that people should buy a cutter first because printing technology changes so quickly that most printers are obsolete in three to four years. GP PAULA AVEN GLADYCH is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. She can be reached at Left: Seen here is the Zund America team demonstrating the Zund G3 cutting system. Right: Shops looking to expand operations by purchasing a cutter should start with the size machine that works best for their setup. (Images courtesy Zund America)

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