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Breaking out of a Rectangular World

(January 2008) posted on Fri Jan 11, 2008

Digital contour cutting is impacting the market.

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By Peggy Middendorf

Benefits of the systems range beyond simply faster cutting-shop workflow and the bottom line are also impacted. "The payback on the optical vision systems is so enormous, that not only does the cutter decrease costs dramatically, but the available workflows make finishing a natural part of the digital processes already in place, instead of a manual nightmare," says Steve Aranoff, director of business development at Mikkelsen Graphic Engineering (MGE).

Advantages and flexibility

Today’s systems offer print providers a number of benefits and when married with the speed and accuracy of digital printing, these benefits can become primary drivers in a shop’s success. Advantages include: increased cutting speed and accuracy, flexibility, automation of cutting workflow, reduced costs/additional revenue stream, and new product offerings. Let’s take a closer look at each:

Increased cutting speed and accuracy: There’s no comparison between hand-cutting and digital cutting-with the digital system, cutting is faster, and more intricate and accurate than even experienced finishers can achieve. In terms of the digital cutter’s speed versus traditional CNC cutters and routers, "Older routers have more power, but they lack the speed and agility of the new digital-cutting devices," says EskoArtwork’s Skenderian. "There is still a place for routers to serve a given task, but digital die cutters open the doors for more diverse applications."

Flexibility: The optical-registration cutting systems offer a level of performance over dedicated CNC routing systems or contour-cutting technologies-allowing them to finish a broad range of materials, both flat and flexible, says Marco Azzaretti, Gerber director of graphic solutions. These systems provide for accurate cutting of flexible decals, vehicle wraps, and window clings, as well as thick rigid signage and P-O-P graphics. And they also allow for flexibility in the actual cuts. Shops are no longer locked into using simple knives and routers; now, shops can match the tool to the job. Tools may include the drag knife, kiss-cut knife, oscillating knife, textile wheel knife, routers, and lasers, as well as reciprocating blades and tangential cutters, points out Pete Alsten, North American product manager for Zund.