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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

New product offerings: Once the digital contour-cutting system is integrated into your shop’s workflow, your array of wideformat printers and the imagination of your sales staff may be the only limiting factors to the type of jobs you can print and finish. By combining a digital registration system with a CNC machine, companies are capable of expanding their business opportunities without sacrificing workflow, says Kris Hanchette, vice president and general manager for MultiCam LP. "In other words, operators can digitally cut products while still maintaining the capability to expand their business into other vertical markets, such as 3-D machining and product packaging. In terms of potential applications, the sky is the limit."

Skenderian of EskoArtwork agrees: "New applications and equipment could be opening doors-for example, P-O-P and small-lot production of containers are products a packaging company used to make."

Determining your best system

Okay, so you’re interested. How do you then go about determining just which digital-cutting system best complements the wide-format printers used in your shop? Two criteria to consider: Determine how the new system impacts current jobs, then evaluate how it can expand your company’s offerings and boost your bottom line.

In determining how a system could affect your shop’s current jobs, consider these factors:

* Does your current set of wide-format printers support rigid printing? Does the design software and RIP support contour cutting and placement of registration marks?

* How many current jobs require a cutting system to finish them?

* How long are these print runs? Are there many one-offs/short runs? Or are there many longer runs that would be faster or more cost-effective to die cut?

* How are you finishing contour-cut rigid jobs now? Are you cutting by hand, utilizing die-cutting, or out-sourcing the project to a shop that owns a digital contour-cutting system?

* If cutting by hand, what is your percentage of re-dos of jobs ruined by an errant hand?

* Does waiting for a die delay time-sensitive jobs?

* Is outsourcing of the digital cutting of rigid graphics working, or does it mean jobs are often late, or profit margins are non-existent?

* What media is currently being cut? How thick is it? How dense is it? Is a router or knife generally needed?

* Is speed or accuracy more important for most jobs?