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With many print firms running die-cutting machinery, Rob Fletcher casts an eye over some of the market’s latest technologies to find out how this kit can help

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The Rapida RDC 106, a rotary die-cutting solution from Koenig & Bauer based on the Rapida range of presses, has a top speed of 15,000 sheets per hour

Making the cut

While die-cutting may be seen as one of the more traditional methods in print finishing, there is plenty of exciting activity in this sector as manufacturers continue to utilise modern technologies to develop new solutions for this area of the wider market.

Many print-service-providers (PSPs) count die-cutting as a major part of their business, using this type of kit to produce a wide range of work for customers. And with the introduction of digital technologies in recent years, new kit is coming to market on a regular basis.

With this in mind, Print Monthly looks at some of the latest options available to PSPs and examine how this new kit is helping move die-cutting forwards into an exciting new era of production.

Added value

Intelligent Finishing Systems (IFS) is one of several distributors able to provide die-cutting solutions to the market, working in partnership with a number of manufacturers. Technical sales director Jason Seaber says investment in the right die-cutting system can help drive sales of new products and applications with improved levels of profit.

“Most popular die-cut applications are on paper or card substrates up to 500 micron thick and these thicker substrates require a high level of cutting pressure and accuracy to produce consistently high quality die-cut products,” Seaber says.

“As a result, it is important to select a die-cutting system that is suitable for both offset and short-run digital print with image tracking and automatic adjustment. It’s also important to select a die-cutting system that provides very fast and simple job changeovers and makereadies.

“We are seeing more operations investigating the value-added possibilities easy-to-use, innovative die-cutting machines open up. A flexible solution that can also crease, kiss-cut, emboss and perforate also makes it easy to create more comprehensive range of applications.”

We are seeing more operations investigating the value-added possibilities easy-to-use, innovative die-cutting machines open up

With this, Seaber draws attentions to one of the latest solutions available from IFS in the form of the Horizon RD-4055DMC rotary die-cutter with dual magnetic cylinder, which he says is suitable for offset and digital print applications. With the ability to run at speeds of up to 6,000 cycles per hour, Seaber says that the machine also features fast and simple job changeovers and job make-readies.

Available from Intelligent Finishing Systems, the Horizon RD-4055DMC rotary die-cutter with dual magnetic cylinder has a maximum sheet size 400 x 550 mm

In addition to die-cutting up to 500 microns thick, the Horizon RD-4055DMC can also crease, kiss-cut, emboss and perforate. A ‘Repeat Register’ function enables smaller flexible dies to be used for smaller products, while image tracking is also present to automatically track the image area on digitally printed jobs to provide high quality registration to the printed image.

Quality output

Next up, Koenig & Bauer also offers a number of solutions for die- cutting, and Neil Gaskin, sales manager for Koenig & Bauer Iberica, says that ensuring you have high quality kit in place is critical for PSPs as “efficiency is everything” in the post press department.

Gaskin expands: “Due to the processes involved, die-cutters tend to run around more slowly. For example, our IPress 106 Pro K has a top speed of 8,500 sheets per hour, but compared with a litho print press running at 18,000 or even 20,000 sheets per hour, bottle necks can occur very quickly even when multiple devices are operated. Therefore, a highly reliable and robust cut and crease solution is required to keep up.”

Koenig & Bauer’s IPress 106 Pro K has a maximum speed of 8,500 sheets per hour

Expanding on the Ipress 106 PRO series, Gaskin bills this as the latest in cutting technology. Koenig & Bauer has utilised the fastest and most versatile feeder in the industry from the Rapida series of printing machines, in addition to quick-lock tooling and fast-flow chase for the cutting forme.

Gaskin says: “With available optical registration, customers will enjoy defect free product every time. The VARIOPLAN System allows us to punch with 300 tonnes of pressure meaning that we can achieve a smooth cut with much finer nicks on the products which produces a higher quality product and ensure following processes can operate more smoothly.”

For higher speed applications such as in-mould labels and standard carton boards up to 0.6mm, Gaskin recommends the Rapida RDC 106, a rotary die-cutting solution based on the Rapida range of presses. The device has a top speed of 15,000 sheets per hour and can be made ready in minutes using magnetic dies mounted on the cylinders of the press.

Significant advantage

Elsewhere and Heidelberg also has a number of die-cutting solutions on offer, including the new Multimatrix 60FC that has only come to market this year. This small-format die-cutter has a sheet size of 600 x 450mm and can also be equipped with an optional hot foil unit.

Capabilities of the Multimatrix 60FC can be expanded further with the MasterSet optical sheet registration system. This alters the position of each sheet according to the sheet edge, print mark or the printed image without using mechanical front or side lays.

Paul Thompson, product manager for post-press packaging machinery at Heidelberg, comments: “A significant advantage of this system is the reduction of feeder trips associated with mechanical side and front lay adjustment. This system is also ideally suited to digital print, ensuring precise print-to-cut registration.”

In terms of MasterSet, this technology has been further refined for use with larger B1 machines, which Thompson says now offers the possibility to handle corrugated material as well as the option of underside reading.

Meanwhile, Heidelberg has noted wider interest in its Powermatrix 106CSB high performance machine, with the device having been installed with the increased facilities of the MasterSet. Elsewhere, the mid-range Promatrix has also gained a large-format edition when the first Promatrix 145CSB size 6 was installed into a European carton plant.

Expanding on the new Promatrix, Thompson says: “The larger-format model follows in the footsteps of the excellent performance and success of the B1, Promatrix 106CS, CSB and FC machines as they are cost effective and benefit from a very good price-performance balance, making them an attractive proposition for printers who want to upgrade their die-cutting department without excess outlay.”

In addition, Heidelberg has experienced success through its partnership with Masterwork, with Thompson citing the Easymatrix 106CS entry-level machine for carton printers as a key development.

Performance excellence

Another major name in die-cutting is Bobst, with Craig Moran, business director for Bobst UK and Ireland and Scandinavia, saying that the need for enhanced die-cutting performance has been influenced by several market trends.

Moran says: “As the market becomes more complex, driven by the competitive, fast-turnaround nature of the retail landscape, job runs have become faster and shorter, and products require more functionality and performance excellence.

“The breadth of materials coming to market has increased due to sustainability demands and greater innovation in substrates and processes. While in the main this has been positive, there has been an influx of lower-quality grade materials that has created added pressure along the supply chain in terms of processing and achieving the standards of quality demanded by brands and retailers today.”

With this, Moran says machine upgrades and preventive maintenance are crucial to operational productivity and capacity, adding that such investments extend the lifespan of any machine saving costly re-investment earlier than expected.

In terms of what is on offer from Bobst, Moran says one of the technologies it is focused on developing is integrating automatic functionality settings into die-cutting machines.

Bobst’s sampling device enables an automated intake of sheets from the line for quality inspection with minimal effect on production. This, according to Moran, can make a big difference for customers, maintaining quality and productivity, making life easier for the operator, and helping to make zero fault packaging a reality.

Also from Bobst is the Digital Inspection Table (DIT), a quality assurance centre that enables a paperless process and incorporates digital projection for proofing printed sheets and die-cut blanks.

Moran expands: “It provides real-time visual representations to match product with digital proofs. It uses HD projectors to illuminate the product sample with quality control imaging, enabling the operator to quickly and easily see if quality standards are matched or compromised.

Efficient production

Meanwhile, Duplo is known across the market for its finishing solutions, and Peter Dyson, product launch leader at Duplo International, highlights the PFI Di-Cut 300 as an effective solution for PSPs. The device is a rotary magnetic die-cutter typically for manufacturing companies with in-plant digital print shops, or digital print providers in need of a short-run die cutting solution for repetitive production.

Duplo’s PFI Di-Cut 300 can finish 3,600 sheets per hour and handle normal and coated paper, adhesive substrates, and synthetics of thickness between 106gsm to 400gsm

Dyson comments: “It can die-cut, kiss-cut, perforate, hole punch, and round corners all in one process for both digital and offset printed sheets.  Instead of conventional male/female creasing, a similar effect is created by making small kiss cuts that allows the media to fold. It consists of five different sections: an air suction feeding unit, X & Y sheet registration unit, die-cutter unit, separator unit and conveyor unit.

“For a die-cutter with such a small footprint, the PFI Di-Cut 300 can finish 3,600 sheets per hour and can handle normal and coated paper, adhesive substrates, and synthetics of thickness between 106gsm to 400gsm.”

O Factoid: Die-cutting was invented in the mid-1800s as a way of cutting through leathers in the shoe-making industry  O

As to why upgrading die-cutting equipment is so important, Dyson explains that with changes in the industry and the war on plastics – whether in the packaging or commercial print industries – upgrading a die-cutter is vital.
Dyson says: “Keeping your die-cutting machine on the edge of the technology curve means that you will always have the most economical and production orientated machine for your workflow. It keeps your production as efficient as possible, with shorter runs, reducing makereadies and change-over becomes paramount.

“The whole point of die-cutting is for consistent precision, and only high quality and expensive die-cutters have historically been able to produce these results.”

Open niche markets

Elsewhere in the market and Printers Superstore is the UK distributor for Hans Gronhi in the UK, including the LC 340S SRA3 sheetfed machine. This device will run at speeds of up to 2,500 sheets per hour, feeding stock up to 0.4mm, while it is also available as a roll-fed machine with 300mm roll width, in the form of the LC 330R.

Distributed in the UK by Printers Superstore, the Hans Gronhi LC 340S SRA3 sheetfed machine can run at speeds of up to 2,500 sheets per hour, feeding stock up to 0.4mm

Speaking about the benefits of this kit, Printers Superstore managing director Graham Moorby says that the ability to produce in greater volumes than ultra-short runs or one-off proofs is a major plus for the Hans Gronhi machines.

Moorby expands: “As well as the intricate jobs, simple day-to-day work can be handled more efficiently and instantly with set up in minutes or less. The LC machines can kiss-cut to create products such as adhesive labels, and they can crease, perforate and etch into a surprising variety of substrates. The potential to open up new niche markets for the LC user is huge.”

Other benefits of LC machinery, according to Moorby, includes twin lasers, which ensure the sharpest dot and keep cuts as perpendicular to the sheet as possible, as well as twin camera video camera capture that allows for quality registration whether sheets are printed litho or digitally.

Moorby adds: “We take delight in the reactions of printers who see it in action for the first time – to appreciate its potential you have to see it working.”

While die-cutting may not be a new concept of technology, new developments in this market mean fresh and innovative technologies are available to PSPs. And in a market where detail is of paramount importance to the customer, making sure you have the latest kit, with the ability to deliver quality output, could give you a major advantage over the competition.

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