Print service providers are constantly seeking ways to increase their bottom lines by working faster and smarter. Because of this there is a great deal of effort being focused on increased productivity for increased profits. While much of the focus lies in choosing the appropriate digital presses, it cannot be overstated that shops wishing to increase their bottom line should investigate automated cutting systems for finishing products. Investing in semi-automated or fully automated system allows the PSP to increase productivity while providing a higher level of efficiency and accuracy. Our experts weigh in on the matter.
MultiCam, Inc. promotes CNC technology with this issue in mind. "With the price of large-format printers becoming more economical, the digital finishing industry has grown tremendously in recent years. Now smaller shops can afford to purchase roll-feed, flatbed and hybrid printers. But printing with these highly productive pieces of equipment is just half the job. Then printing companies must use another technically advanced machine to automate the cutting portion of their production," says Shawn Kirsch, tech support application specialist, MultiCam.
Automated Versus Semi-automated
Making the decision to choose between an automated or semi-automated system may be difficult, especially for the PSP that is new to the world of new technology. Digital cutters are not new to the printing scene but the technology is constantly being upgraded, providing new options and opportunities.
Reto Woodtli, general manager of Zund America, Inc., gives advice to those seeking to purchase an automated or semi-automated cutter.
"The first thing they have to look at with automation is the existing format. Are they running high volume, wide format? It's something that the print companies have to look at to make sure that they get the best return of investment, that they don't buy overkill that in the end will restrict them even more than actually help," says Woodtli.
"A fully automated system can maybe restrict some flexibility that you have with a semi-automated [system]. It does not always make sense. The semi-automated system, to me, is a good start for a small to mid-size company. The advantage of a semi-automated is that the cutter is given the piece of productivity and not the operator. Before the operator would control the output; with the semi-automated it's an inexpensive that allows the cutter to dictate the productivity."
James McNickle, director of marketing and customer service at the Fletcher-Terry Company, talks about the company's semi-automated platform. In McNickle's experience, choosing to upgrade to a semi-automated system just makes sense, particularly if one is focused on increasing productivity and profits. McNickle discusses a recent art show where the need for automated or semi-automated cutters was evident. There are many customers that continue to hurt themselves—financially and sometimes physically—by sticking to their old school ways.
"All people want to do is they want to cut cardboard but they want to use it as packing materials for their artwork. Right now they're cutting with a straight edge and a knife. They're not getting good cuts; they're having people getting injured. It's a very slow process," says McNickle.
"Cutting comes in a variety of different formats in terms of end usage for packing for finished signage for cutting down large pieces that need to be cut down to a usable size. There's a lot that goes along with that."
McNickle says Fletcher-Terry has developed a solution for this type of customer. "Fletcher-Terry is going to be coming out with an affordable entry level cutter that will get them from a straight edge and a knife into a cutter range."