Putting the ‘Specialty’ in Finishing Tools

These 17 tools can help keep the production floor humming.

Big Picture

Too often, print shops strive to get by with less when it comes to finishing tools. While it’s easy to continue to utilize the same sewing machine or welder that’s been the shop’s mainstay for two decades, it just might be time to begin looking around for that particular tool’s replacement. Or, perhaps you previously outsourced all or some aspect of finishing and you’re now looking to bring these services in-house.

This month, we report on 17 specialty finishing tools that caught our editorial eye. Keep in mind that we’ve e avoided certain tried-and-true finishing categories only because they’ve appeared elsewhere within these pages this year (or will soon do so): laminates (January issue); cutters and routers (last issue); and laminators (July).

An Infrared Cure
Want your prints to dry more quickly? The Digi-Dry infrared digital print dryers from BBC Industries are designed to distribute uniform heat and fully cure inks without circulating air. Available in sizes from 54- to 108-in., the print dryers are safe with any inks and substrates, are portable from one printer to another, and can be adjusted 30 degrees (incline/decline). An auto shutoff is optional. A second heater can be added for high-speed heating. In 120- and 220-volt models. Also available: the Digi-Cure direct-to-garment conveyor dryer.
BBC Industries

Heated Solution
If you’re seeking a solution for frayed ends or just small cutting jobs, HSGM USA’s HSG-0 Heat Cutter with Polyamid housing and a Kevlar cord might be the answer. This hand-operated heat cutting tool is engineered to cut small quantities and short-time operation. It’s suitable for cutting and edge-sealing of synthetic fibers, cords, ropes, webbing, and belting. It also boasts a Kevlar covering on the cord, to prevent the user from accidentally severing the tool’s cord. Heat-up time of the blade is 6-8 seconds; blade temperature reaches 1100 degrees Fahrenheit (blade heat can be roughly controlled by depressing/releasing the trigger). 110V/70W; also available in 220-volt by special order.

Attacking Narrow Curves, Sharp Corners
Consew’s 503K Portable Electric Rotary Shear allows for the cutting of fabrics at high speeds, while easily accommodating narrow curves and sharp corners. Remove the tool’s base plate and the shear can also be used for slitting and trimming knitted fabrics. Features include: a grip-style switch bar (auto stop when not pressed); a six-sided, 2-in. carbide blade; shock protection; a worm gear drive; shielded ball bearings; and a built-in sharpener. Max cutting depth is 9/32-in. 110v standard; 220v optional. Consew also carries a full line of sewing machines, including single- and double-needle varieties.

Joining at High Speeds
Specifically aimed at the wide-format market, Miller Weldmaster’s 112 Extreme is a hot-air fabric welder for pre‐printed or printed media. The most recent generation of this machine adds to its seaming and cutting technologies with an optional Easy Slide Grommet system. Boasting a solid-steel frame construction, the 112 Extreme is designed to weld high‐speed hems, rope‐in‐hems, pockets, overlaps, backlit seams, and more. In addition to welding various industrial fabrics, it can also handle recyclable polyethylene. Available in sizes from 10 to 98 ft. The company offers a range of machines specifically engineered to the wide-format and signage markets.

A Banner Year
Supply55’s BannerPro is a professional-grade banner-welding system that offers numerous capabilities including hemming for grommets, pole pockets, and pocket sign fabrication. Constructed of steel, the heavy-duty BannerPro offers a weld length of 24 in. and a weld width of 0.2 in.; weld cycle time is 7 seconds. It features a foot-pedal, hands-free operation and solid-state electronics for consistent welds.

Static Stopper
Is static a problem in your shop? The StaticWisk graphics brushes from Kinetronics are designed to dissipate static electric charges on materials and improve production speed in manufacturing, and the brushes serve to reduce the static that attracts dust and lint. The StaticWisk brushes are made from conductive synthetic fibers, which are 1-5/8-in. long, and are mounted into a special extrusion that holds the brush in place. A 6-in. magnetic mounting system with double ball joint allows for quick and easy mounting to printing, folding, packaging, and manufacturing equipment. Each brush is furnished with a coiled grounding cord. In sizes from 4- to 25-in.


Great Grommets
The Model 3P5 portable pneumatic press, from Edward Segal Inc., is specifically designed for grommet applications. It’s a compact, manual-load press measuring just 17-in. tall, 4-in. wide, and 11-in. deep (and weighing in at 22 lbs), and is capable of punching a hole in a wide range of industrial fabrics and attaching a plain grommet and washer (self-piercing grommets not required), and doing so in a single cycle. For grommet and washer sizes #00 to #4; it can also accommodate snap fasteners and eyelets. The Model 3P5 works on a variety of materials, from nylon webbing to foamboard, including vinyl and canvas. It’s designed to be portable or bench mounted. Various stands, options, and special configurations are available. The company’s Model 3P5-X handles grommets #5 or larger.

A Stitch in Time
Juki’s DNU-1541 sewing machine is a single-needle, unison-feed, lockstitch machine with double-capacity hook. The machine now features a larger needlebar stroke, higher presser foot lift, and new double-tension mechanism, the company reports. Maximum sewing speed is 2500 RPM (3000 RPM on the DNU-1541-7) and maximum stitch length is 9mm. The machine is also offered with a safety mechanism.

The Weld’s the Thing
BAK’s PlanOn is a small, automatic hot-air welding machine engineered for coated fabrics, foils, billboard materials, banners, and tarps. Of industrial-grade construction, the PlanOn features an automatic drive start system and the ability to adjust welding speed (from 1.6 to 39 ft/min) as well as temperature. Available for 20-, 30-, or 40-mm welding seam. US distributor is AAA American Plastic Welding (

Death to Dust
SDI Systems bills its Dust Removal System as “the ultimate tool for cleaning particulate contaminants.” The system includes two primary components: a hand roller and a cleaning pad. The roller is available in three sizes (6-, 12, and 18-in. wide) and in five handle designs (straight and bends). The 9.5 x 13-in. cleaning pads come in various tack levels: high tack for rigid substrates; medium tack for artwork and glass; and medium tack general purpose for delicate substrates, plus low-tack and silicon-free.

Punch It
Seeking a portable solution for cutting holes? EL Hatton’s PowerPunch is a heavy-duty, handheld punch capable of cutting a 5/16-in. hole through substrates up to 1/8-in. thick (reach is 1-in. on center). The punch itself is replaceable. Designed to work in conjunction with EL Hatton’s Banner Ups PowerTabs and PowerTape products, the PowerPunch can also cut through thick banner material.

Big and Purple
ImageOne Impact’s Sooper Edge is a stainless-steel cutting edge designed especially for the signage and graphics markets. With a curved aluminum finger-guard design to offer maximum protection, the Sooper Edge features an anodized purple finish and a non-slip bottom to prevent unwanted movement. In sizes from 28- to 96-in.

Heavyweight Sewing
Brother’s S722OB is an industrial sewing machine for medium- and heavy-weight materials. A single-needle direct-drive straight lock stitcher, the S722OB also features a thread trimmer, low noise and vibration, lubrication-free technology, a user-friendly operation panel, and more. Maximum sewing speed is 4000-5000 RPM; maximum stitch length is 4-5mm.

Like Cutting Butter
The handheld TC 20 Thermocutter from AZ Formen is compact and easy to use for cutting plastics, fabrics, polystyrene, rubber, and other materials. It offers: adjustable power regulation; rapid blade heat up (with overheating protection); easily changed blades; LED function control; and much more. A variety of thermocutter blades are available for different applications.

Interchangeable is Good
From Hiker USA, this H-901F/B Grommeting Hand Press features interchangeable die, so several different types and sizes of grommets can be accommodated. In addition, the lower die is adjustable, providing a consistent, quality setting in various material thicknesses, the company reports. The H-901F/B can insert eyelets as small as 1/16-in. interior diameter, and self-piercing grommets as large as 5/8-in. interior diameter. Available with forward or backward handle.

Razor’s Edge
ScrapeRite plastic razor blades can be used for scraping, peeling, and cleaning – all without scratching or damaging the surface you’re working on. The dual-edge blades measure ¾ x 1-1/2 in., and fit most standard blade holders. The blades themselves are available in three compounds: General Purpose (orange), the softest of the compounds and the most chemical-resistant; Polycarbonate (blue), a Lexan blend and the toughest surface; and Acrylic (yellow), an acylic blend and the most brittle.

Customizable RF Welds
A portable RF welder with an integrated press, computer, and frequency-inverted motor, Forsstrom’s TD 200-800 is designed for the manufacturing of large products with straight welds such as billboards, tents, tarps, truck covers, and sunshades. The smallest of the company’s travelling machines (with emitted power of 5 to 20 kW), the TD 200-800 can have its table customized to the size of the products that will be produced; it can also be plain or equipped with one or two small troughs for material storage. Various options are available.

One-Stroke Eyelets
Munro’s 16FEI automatic pneumatic eyelet and washer setting machine is capable of cutting a hole in a variety of materials – including aluminum sign board and Kevlar, reports the company – and then feeding and setting the eyelet and washer in a single stroke. Setting time: less than 1 second; no adjustment is necessary when setting through thin or thick material, reports Munro. The 16FEI can be set up for either plain eyelets with tooth or neck washers, or rolled rim eyelets and washers. Comes complete with workbench, tool kit, and spare die.

The Tech of Joining
While you may be familiar with industrial sewing machines used to join printed graphics, you may not be quite as familiar the other joining technologies. Here are some basics on each:

Sewing: Joining panels with a sewing machine offers several advantages, including that the seam can be removed (welded seams generally cannot be removed without destroying the material). Sewing provides a very strong seam, particularly with industrial sewing machines and over-lock sergers, which typically sew and finish a seam and trim off the excess fabric all in one step. Then there’s the speed factor: Some offer speeds of more than 11 ft/min with 40 stitches/in. Some industrial machines have a walking foot to produce consistent stitches, and double-needle chainstitch machines use multiple spools of thread for large-volume production. On the downside, however, since sewing makes holes in the material, the resulting seam is generally not watertight and the holes may weaken the fabric. Plus, depending on the project, shops may have to deal with matching thread color and threads that fade under constant sunlight.

RF or HF Welding: Radio or High Frequency (RF or HF) welders use radio-frequency energy to generate heat, and then pressure is applied. The energy is generated between two metal bars; this is important because the weld is only applied on the material that touches the bars-limiting the area that can be welded at one time. The speed of RF welding is typically slower than that of heated welding, and RF welders can generally only be used on PVC, PET, and polyurethane (other materials can be RF welded, but only under special conditions). The material also must be very clean for a secure RF weld; dirt is not such a problem, but if a fabric has any salts or iron shavings on it, or is wet, the fabric may burn or arc. Manufacturers of RF welders, report that RF is easier to use than heat welding (see below) on projects that involve many tiny pieces or complicated angles because it’s difficult to start and stop with heated rotary welding techniques.

Heated Welding: Hot-air or wedge rotary welders utilize hot air or a heated metal wedge to heat the fabric. The material is typically pulled through rollers (or the heated head travels along a track) where heat is applied, with the rollers applying the required welding pressure. Heat-based welders can weld PVC, polyurethane, PP, PE, and acrylics (with welding tape). Continuous feeding of materials (with rollers) adds to the speed, and rollers make it easy to weld long, straight seams. OEMs in the hot-air welder camp note that heated welding doesn’t affect solvent-based inks. In addition, hot-air welder OEMs report that, compared to RF: hot-air’s speed is roughly double, it takes less people to operate, and it requires a smaller initial capital expenditure.

Ultrasonic Welding: Another welding option is ultrasonic welding. Like RF welding, ultrasonic creates heat through friction, but the heat is created between the layers, rather than in the materials themselves; the vibrating tool (die) creates the heat. Ultrasonic can join most plastic materials such as PE, PP, PVC, and PU. This welding technology is fast (up to 65 ft/min), but it can prove more costly to weld large surface areas.

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