Originally published in
SPECIALIST PRINTING WORLDWIDE : ISSUE TWO : 2012
What really mattersabout digital cutting?
Lars Bendixen outlines the importance of criterianeeded when investing in a cutter/router
they often realise it makes sense to buy awider cutter than they actually need today.As you expect your business to grow, it isequally important to evaluate the cutter/routerupgrade possibilities and in particular the costof upgrading, both in terms of cuttingcapabilities and tooling and also in terms of productivity and automation.
Another common mistake is to look at speedor acceleration as an expression forproductivity. Specifications typically statespeed and acceleration as maximum figureswhen following a straight line in one givendirection. Actually, the figures may differconsiderably for other directions and, inreality, you will be cutting different shapesconsisting more of curves than straight lines.The cutter will further stop in corners toextract, turn and re-enter the blade whichnaturally also influences the productivity.When routing it is mostly the material andtooling that dictates the speed at which thecutter/router moves and, as a result, one cansimply not rely on the cutter with the highestspecification as being the most productive.Remember that productivity includes jobpreparation time, machine set-up orchangeover time, cutting time and materialhandling time. A larger cutter and cutters withextensions in the front and back enables you tocollect the cut parts and position the next sheetwhile cutting continues. Without such options,even the fastest cutter will never be moreproductive than the operator’s ability to removecut parts and feed material. In terms of productivity, eliminating such idle time can bemany times more effective than, for example,doubling the speed and acceleration figures.To figure out the real productivity you needto test the time the cutter/router requires tofinish several copies of several of your jobs,using your selection of materials. Cutting withtwo knives simultaneously obviously doubles thethroughput, so don’t forget to check whethersuch twin-cutting functionality is offered.Robust or bulky looking cutter/routers areoften expected to cut and route thickermaterials faster. Remember that no chain isstronger than its weakest link and even thebulkiest looking or strongest cutter/router isnever stronger than its weakest point.When cutting, the actual force which isput on the knife blade is mainly dependent onits geometry and how sharp it is (its ability tocut), how deep you cut and at which speedyou are cutting. All popular cutter brands areeasily able to move with forces which willbreak the blade; even bigger motors orstronger constructions, able to create evenlarger forces, will not necessarily bring theexpected advantages.For routing, and in order to take advantageof the fast X/Y moving capabilities, most cutter/ routers use high frequency routing spindlescapable of exceeding 30,000rpm. The weakestpoint is then usually the spindle bearings andthe force put on the bearings is amplified bythe length of the router bit. You must actsuspiciously when manufacturers claim theycan route deeper, faster, while utilising a highfrequency spindle. The real question is howlong the spindle will last when doing so?It is often assumed that cutting rigidpaperboards like Re-board, X-board andsimilar brands require a lot of force/strength.Due to the clever construction of theseboards, they are both lightweight andincredibly strong and rigid in use. But, forcutting, it is more relevant to consider theweight of the material rather than its strengthor rigidity. Less weight indicates that thematerial contains more air and then often cutsquite easily. Cutting 16mm Re-board materialat a speed of 1m/second typically requiresaround 100 Newton of horizontal force.For cutter/routers like the Zünd G3 this isan easy task, even in a 24/7 operation.
The advantages of digital cutting and anefficient print-and-cut workflow are eminentand new digital cutter/router models andmanufacturers continue to enter the market.Print service providers have been involvedwith digital printing for years and havebecome experts in evaluating, image quality,resolution, printing speed and other factors.But, when it comes to digital cutting, theymay face a new challenge in evaluating andselecting as yet unfamiliar cutting/routingequipment.
Popular multifunctional flat-bed cutter/ routers include Zünd, EskoArtwork Kongsberg,Summa, Aristo and similar brands. In thefollowing article we will discuss what reallymatters and what is important to look for whenevaluating and selecting such digital cutter/ router equipment.
Digital printing technology develops fast andequipment normally has to be amortisedquickly. Cutting technology, however, isdifferent and when buying equipment it is acommon mistake not to recognise that thelifespan of premium cutter/router brands oftenexceeds 15 years.It is, therefore, important to consider notonly your requirements of today but also yourexpected future needs. Most look for a cuttersize to match their current printing equipment;but when they look back to see how theirprinting formats have developed over time,
Eliminating machine stoppage due to material handling is the most effective way to increase productivity