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The Razor's Edge

Cutting systems and routers for wide-format printing.

Big Picture

As printers get wider, one handy feature included on many is the ability to gang smaller jobs into one print run. This conserves media and saves money. In order for this capability to work for your company, however, you must have the hardware to separate all these prints before delivery to the client.

A plethora of machines are available that will cut your printed graphics-from the thinnest of films to the heaviest and densest of synthetic materials. Generally, cutters can be classified into three categories: cutters/trimmers that only make straight cuts (manual or motorized); rollfed or flatbed machines that offer contour cutting and routing (from simple vinyl cutting to complex cuts generated by reading printed registration marks); and larger flatbed and CNC (computer numerically controlled) machines that offer traditional cuts as well as dimensional cuts using a range of tool heads (such as a variety of knife blades, kiss cuts, creasing, engraving, etc.).

Before purchasing a cutter/router, you should analyze your company’s needs:

* Do you generally need to cut vinyl, rolled graphics, or heavy-duty rigid substrates?

* Do most of your jobs call for straight cuts, contour cuts, or for an elaborate combination of cutting, kiss cuts, and creasing (used by many prototype/packaging firms)?

* Does manual cutting fit into your workflow? Or do you need an electric cutter for faster finishing, thicker media, and more elaborate cutting?

* Does the shop have space for a standalone machine? Or should you pursue a tabletop model, or perhaps mount the cutter on the wall to save floor space?

The sourcelist that follows offers a sampling of companies across the marketplace that produce cutting and routing systems designed for wide-format graphics.

Akiles Products (www.akiles.com): Its 36-in. Roll@Blade 3615 Roto Trimmer will cut media up to 2-mm thick.

Allen Datagraph Systems (www.allendatagraph.com): The SmartMark-equipped Series 1000 cutter (in 36-, 48-, and 60-in. widths) features its SmartMark system that scans printed registration marks and then launches the contour-cut process, adjusting for scale or skew. The SmarkMark system can also be mounted onto its Allen i-Tech vinyl cutters, which are available in several sizes up to 60-in. wide.

AXYZ Automation (www.axyz.com): Manufactures CNC routers, useful in finishing graphics printed or mounted on rigid media, including thick and dense materials like wood or metal. The 4000 table series handles materials up to 5-ft wide; other routers have working areas up to 10-ft wide. Bed lengths extend up to 32-ft long.

Beam Dynamics (www.beamdynamics.com): Offers the laser-powered Lumen Digital Cutting Center, with a 4 x 4- or 4 x 8-ft cutting bed. The DCC-9000-PA is designed for unattended loading and cutting with its Automated Pallet Loader, Barcode Reader, and the Job Batch Software to read the job code and load the proper job specs.

BeDigital (www.bedigital.info): This Spain-based manufacturer sells the SuperCutter 210/320, a 70/110-in. machine for cutting heavy boards (up to 20-mm thick) such as Kapa Block or Gatorfoam. It uses a laser guide for precise cutting.

CAD Machinery (www.cadmachinery.com): Has an array of CNC router/cutters, including the AristoMat CL, SL, TL, and the large-format GL series (with beds up to 125 x 204 in.); also 3-D CNC Router tables.

Coda (www.codamount.com): Sells the CodaTrim 59- and 63-in. trimmers with a self-sharpening blade and optional roll-feed assembly.

Contech (www.contech-usa.com): Its DigiCutter is a large-format media trimmer.

Craftsman Cutter (www.craftsmancutter.com): Offers Easy Cut manual cutter with a dual in-line blade in 24-, 36-, and 48-in. models. Also has an air-operated Straight-Line Cutter for cutting up to 24-pt board in custom sizes.

Dahle (www.dahle.com): Produces a wide range of large-format cutters, available as both rolling trimmers (up to 51-in. long) and guillotines (up to 43-in. wide).

Eastsign International (www.eastsign.com): Offers 22 models of DingTec vinyl cutters, which cut materials as wide as 61 in. at speeds up to 31 in./sec.

Esko-Graphics (www.esko-graphics.com): The Kongsberg i-XL is equipped with MGE’s i-cut vision system, offers working areas up to 87 x 120 in., and provides a choice of FlexiHead and MultiCut toolheads. Options include a conveyer system to feed rolls or sheets. The i-XE10 is a smaller version (31 x 43 in.) of the i-XL, but it can be equipped with a pick-and-place sheet-feeding system. The Kongsberg DCM loads/unloads boards and cuts/creases them directly from a CAD file; it is particularly helpful for packaging and P-O-P displays.

Fletcher-Terry (www.fletcher-terry.com): Manufactures the wall-mounted Fletcher 3000 Multi-Material cutter (in 48- and 60-in. widths), which features a "triple turret" with cutting assemblies for cutting board, glass, or scoring plastic. Users can change cutting instruments with a click of a switch.

FlexiCAM (www.flexicam.com): Its ValueLine CNC large-format routers are available in 11 sizes, up to 100 x 242 in. and can cut a variety of materials from acrylic to aluminum.

Fotoba USA (www.fotobausa.com): Offers Digitrim Digital Print Cutters (32 and 62 in.), which can sense cut marks printed between digital images and will adjust to a misaligned print. The Rollcut WR 55/61/75 and XL250/320 auto cutters cut in horizontal and vertical lines to separate prints on a roll, using printed cut marks. The X/Y Autodigitrim cuts and sorts sheets or rolls up to 62-in. wide.

GBC (www.gbc.com): Offers 45- and 63-in. ProTrim rotary cutters with bidirectional trimming.

GCC (www.gccworld.com): Its Jaguar II, Jaguar III, and Puma II series cutting plotters come in a variety of widths up to 75 in.; the new Sable is a 24-in. vinyl cutter.

Gerber Scientific Products (www.gspinc.com): The Gerber Sabre router has a cutting area of up to 53.5 x 101 in. with a maximum media thickness of 4.4 in. Its newest cutting machine is the GerberCut, a Sabre with MGE i-cut technology, which reads printed registration marks. In addition, it also offers the Gerber P2C plotters (in sizes up to 62 in.) and several sprocket vinyl plotters up to 30-in. wide.

Graphtec America (www.graphtecusa.com): With models up to 64-in. wide, the FC7000 Series Cutting Pro cutting plotters is compatible with vinyl and digital media and can be used in post-printing contour cutting. The CE5000, in 24- and 48-in. widths, is a cutting plotter that features speeds up to 40 in./sec. Graphtec also offers a series of flatbed cutting plotters from the tabletop FC4200, to the large-format FC2240, to the heavy-duty FC3600.

ImageEdge (www.imageedge.com): Manual image-cutting system with ruler and retractable cutter.

Ioline (www.ioline.com): The rollfed SmarTrac Contour reads registration marks and cuts graphics up to 72-in. wide. The SmarTrac I/S series cuts vinyl up to 31-in. wide.

Keencut (www.keencut.com): Manufactures a wide variety of large-format cutting systems including cutting bar, rotary cutters, and sheet material cutters. Javelin, Practik, Max, and Sabre comprise its cutter bar line; Big Bench is a table that accommodates its large-format bar cutters. Rotary cutters include Technic, Technic OE, Technic TE, and Classic. Sheet materials cutters include Excalibur 1000, 1000E, 3000, and 5000.

LaserPro (www.laserproi.com): Offers laser-cutting hardware including the 51 x 36-in. Gaia, the 38 x 20-in. Explorer, and the large-format 50 x 37-in. Neptune.

Mikkelsen Graphic Engineering (MGE) (www.mge-us.com): Its i-cut vision registration/compensation system is an automated digital die-cutting system that is available on MGE cutters, as well as cutter/routers of several partner companies. The MGE cutter system accommodates flexible media up to 4 x 8 ft; its router system works with media up to 3-in. thick; the i-cut Laser FX Model offers a working area up to 51 x 51 in.

Mimaki (www.mimaki.com): Vinyl cutters include the FX Series with machines up to 74-in. wide and the 26-in. CG 60st. The 30-in. CG-75ML cutter features a photo-electric eye for registration-mark detection. The CF2 flatbed series of cutting plotters has models up to 70 x 47 in. and offers the MGE i-cut system as an option.

MultiCam (www.multicam.com): Produces a wide range of CNC cutting systems, including the 1000 series of routers that range up to 120-in. long. Its new Multi-Vision Digital Registration System incorporates the MGE i-cut and is compatible with MultiCam router, laser, plasma, water, or knife cutting systems.

Mutoh (www.mutoh.com): Its Ultima series of cutting plotters offers contour cutting in 33- or 55-in. widths.

Neolt (www.neoltusa.com): Distributed in the US by Digital ES, Neolt makes a large variety of manual and electric cutters and foam trimmers for both rigid and flexible media up to 205-in. wide.

The Electro Foam Trim (horizontal or vertical) offers foamboard and Sintra cuts up to 122 in.; the Plexi-Trim uses a router-type head to cut Plexiglas, acrylic, Dibond, PVC, and Sintra up to 0.25-in. thick.

Flexible cutters include the manual Power Trim Plus with a cutting width up to 98 in. for materials up to 0.07-in. thick; the Electro Power Trim Plus cuts graphics up to 142-in. wide; and the Electro Super Trim cuts heavier non-ridged substrates up to 10-mm thick and up to 205-in. long.

Neschen Americas (www.neschenamericas.com): Seal cutters and trimmers include: the AccuCut Table Mount system (60 or 100 in.) for media up to 3/8-in. thick; the 63-in. MultiCut Wall Mount system for Sintra, foamboard, aluminum, and glass up to 0.5-in. thick; EasyCut 40- or 60-in. models for foam-centered or rigid media up to 0.5-in. thick; and the 60-in. rotary EasyTrim.

Orca Photonic Systems (www.laser-cutting.com): The Conveyor Feed Laser (CFL) system is designed for outline cutting, kiss cutting, and fast web-based slitting, up to 60-in. wide. Orca’s Flat Bed Laser System (50 x 50 in. or 60 x 50 in.) can be upgraded to the CFL system.

Roland DGA (www.rolanddga.com): Roland features the GX Pro (up to 47 in.) and the CAMM-1 Servo GX-24 (up to 24 in.) vinyl cutters.

Rollem International (www.rollemusa.com): Offers a variety of slitting, scoring, and perforating machinery. The Champion 990 ETR System, available in 24- and 30-in. models, can be used with up to 20-pt board and coated materials.

Rosenthal Manufacturing (www.rosenthalmfg.com): Smartrim converts printed graphics (up to 60-in. rolls) into finished sizes.

Rotatrim (www.rotatrim.com): Cut flexible or roll materials with: Professional manual cutter (24- to 54-in. wide; 3-mm thick); DigiTech manual (61- to 99-in. wide; 0.75-mm thick); Technical manual (26- to 99-in. wide and 4-mm thick); Mastercut A manual (up to 48-in. wide and 1-mm thick); and Powertech electric cutter (26- to 99-in. wide and 4-mm thick).

SignWarehouse (www.signwarehouse.com): Features Vinyl Express Q-series vinyl sign cutters from 30- to 64-in. wide; 24-in. vinyl cutters include Qe, Lynx, Panther, EnduraCut, and EnduraCut Plus. Also Trim62 rotary trimmer.

SpeedPress Sign Supplies (www.speedpress.com): Offers Double Wheel Print Trimmer (24 to 48 in.); Tec 2000 Board Cutter (40 to 120 in.); and wall-mounted Bull Dog Board Cutter.

Summa USA (www.summausa.com): The 24-in. SummaCut D is a vinyl cutter; vinyl/contour cutter SummaCut D60 SE has models from 24- to 54-in. wide. The Summa S Class offers 30- to 54-in. wide contour cutters; the D and T series feature OPOS X contour cutting alignment. Additionally, the T series also offers TrueTangential motor-controlled blade rotation.

Universal Laser Systems (www.ulsinc.com): Universal Laser offers an XL series of laser systems for cutting, engraving, and marking with work areas up to 48 x 24 in.

VyTek (www.vy-tek.com): Routers in its Rebel series cut up to 6 x 10 ft; the EX laser cutters offer a cutting area of up to 36 x 51 in.; and the G/X laser cutting system has a 51 x 51-in. cutting area. VyTek’s F/X Laser series offers work areas up to 51 x 51 in. and can cut and engrave a wide variety of media from paper to metal. The i-cut Laser FX (a VyTek base with an MGE i-cut vision system) offers a registration system to detect materials that may be askew, offset, stretched, or shrunk.

Zund (www.zund.com): Offers several table sizes (from 31 x 31 in. to 118 x 86 in.), a choice of cutting tools and technologies-from camera-controlled MGE i-cut cutting, to laser, to knife cutting-and optional automated feeder/unloading systems.

Roll Slitters

Just like buying a 30-lb sack of rice is more economical than buying 30 1-lb packages, print shops can save money if they purchase bulk orders of larger rolls of paper. If printers are narrower than the wide bulk roll, it must be cut to the proper width to fit the printer. However, an X-Acto knife and a truckload of perseverance are no match for rolls that weigh hundreds of pounds and are up to 20-ft long. One company, SmartSlitters (www.smart-slitters.com), offers a solution: roll slitters. A division of Rosenthal Manufacturing, SmartSlitters offers a variety of manual and automatic single knife slitters (also called log slitters or baloney slicers) and roll rewinders up to 74 in.

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