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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.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Peggy Middendorf

* Based on the price of a new digital-cut system, how long would it take your shop to recoup the equipment costs? (See sidebar on ROI)

* Look into your company’s future and purchase cutting equipment that is flexible enough to be of use with your future equipment purchases and potential jobs.

Then, evaluate how such a system might serve to expand your company’s offerings and boost your bottom line. For instance, you could invest in a number of cutting blades and tools to expand your cutting options. You could train several current employees to use the machine and software rather than a single employee, which would allow for a broader use. The OEM or other vendors might be able to provide you with application ideas you had not previously considered (in fact, when approached with an idea or a new substrate your shop has not worked with before, check with your cutter OEM for the best way to handle finishing the product).

Be sure to test several different cutting systems before finalizing your decisions. Take a job file from your shop to the demo and try out the machine on a real job. Consider these questions in the evaluation stage:

* How long does system start-up take?

* How many people does it take to load/unload sheets?

* How fast can you load sheets-can several be loaded simultaneously? Are automatic loading/unloading options available?

* How easily does it change from cutting one material to another? How quickly can you change tools?

* Does the company provide a compatibility list, including suggested tools and speeds, based on types of specific rigid materials or applications?

* Ask about tech support and resources.

Making the cut

Keep in mind that the future of digital cutting with optical-registration is anything but stagnant. In fact, cutter OEMs report that they are working on a "wish list" of new features, including faster, larger, and more accurate systems; accounting integration; a lights-out operating system; and industrial-strength machines that can operate 24/7.

Whether you opt to wait for these future advances or choose to enter the wild-and-wooly world of contour cutting now, you’ll find that a digital contour cutter with an optical vision-registration system, when paired with a wide-format inkjet printer, will allow you to finish jobs with flair-exceeding customer expectations. In the end, you can enhance not only a customer’s marketing campaign with digitally cut 3-D graphics, but can also cement your relationship with print buyers by suggesting and delivering graphics that pop in every way.

Next time, listen carefully when one of your customers says, "Cut it out!" They don’t mean stop-they mean: "No, really-cut out that graphic!"