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Back to Basics


An important part of the print finishing process, what guillotine options are available to the market and how can this staple technology improve the quality of the final product?

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Morgana's Aerocut X facilitates a range of cutting options

Cut to the point

A technique used in print finishing for hundreds of years, guillotines remain a staple part of the production process. Whether it is cutting large sheets of business cards to individual pieces, or finishing off brochures or leaflets, reliability and accuracy are of paramount importance when it comes to investment in this area.

With this in mind, what key features and qualities should you be looking for when taking on a new guillotine? What can help you achieve your accuracy and quality goals? Print Monthly speaks with a number of manufacturers and suppliers in this market to find out more.

Essential Equipment

A brand synonymous with print finishing equipment in general is Morgana Systems, which now operates as part of the Plockmatic Group. Ray Hillhouse, vice president of sales and marketing for the Offline Business Unit at Plockmatic Group, says a guillotine is an essential piece of equipment for the vast majority of businesses involved in print and there are a number of key features to seek for any printer.

“Firstly, from a health and safety aspect, the inclusion of a light beam guarding the front table area is a legally required feature in any modern machine,” Hillhouse says, adding: “If the beam is broken the cut either cannot be started, or will stop immediately if a cut is in process, thus preventing any nasty accidents.

“The ability of the machine’s operating system to store and retrieve multiple cutting programs is often a standard feature, and frequently desired from a time saving point of view. This allows for often used cutting sequences to be recalled at a moment’s notice, saving both time and, hopefully, errors. A cut in the wrong place could make the whole stack totally useless, and reprints are expensive!”

Other key features to keep an eye out for according to Hillhouse include a touchscreen interface, with this often seen as the preferred way for operators to interact with a product. He explains that tablet-style displays are becoming the norm with new guillotine equipment, offering an interface familiar to the younger operator.

“Ease of use is an important attribute, as in many print shops staff are expected to switch roles and be masters of many pieces of equipment – from pre-press through to the final cutting and even delivery of work,” he says.

Hillhouse goes on to say that the actual format of the machine might be considered a critical feature by many. He says larger guillotines might allow users the opportunity to buy their chosen substrate at the optimum price by buying larger-sized sheets and trimming them down to a preferred printing size – possibly cutting down from A2 to A4 sheets.

Beyond this basic cost-cutting exercise, Hillhouse says the guillotine opens up a whole raft of print work that might require an image to bleed off the edge of a sheet.

“This needs oversized sheets and an accurate trim to remove the excess paper after the printing process,” he says, adding: “With longer sheet printing now being a feature of some digital print engines, format is a very important thing to get right.”

So, what does Morgana have to offer? Hillhouse picks out the 55cm EBA 5260 as the most popular machine with customers, but adds that in recent years, the company has witnessed many more sales of its 66cm and 72cm machines, due to digital print manufacturers moving to larger sheet sizes and promoting long sheet applications.

The latest release from Morgana is ‘The 56’ from EBA, which features a 15.6” multi-touch control screen, and a cutting width of 56cm with a stack height of 8cm, which Hillhouse says provides for increased operator efficiency and productivity by working smarter from the tablet-like display. It also incorporates an electro-mechanical precision blade drive and hydraulic clamp drive along with an IR light beam safety curtain.

Supplied by Morgana, ‘The 56’ from EBA features a 15.6” multi-touch control screen

In addition to the EBA collection, Morgana also supplies the Mohr range of machines. Mohr devices are a heavier-duty hydraulic range of units in 56, 66, and 80cm cut sizes, with the most popular model being the 66cm.

“Although normally supplied as a three-phase unit, this machine can also be supplied as a single-phase machine – obviously making it popular in sites where a three-phase supply is unavailable, or seen as an unnecessary expense,” Hillhouse says.

All three sizes are supplied in either ECO or PLUS models: the ECO model is controlled by a 5.5” touchscreen, whereas the PLUS model is controlled by a colour 18.5” touchscreen that also shows job visualisation, taking the operator through each step in the cutting process.

The PLUS models can also be equipped with a barcode-reading capability, delivering the desired cutting program by reading from a barcode added within the trim of the printed job.

Digital Driving Development

Another specialist provider in this market is AfterPrint. Director Chris O’Brien says there are a number of key features to consider including power options, electro-mechanical or hydraulic power, and automated program functions.

“Digital print has opened up a far more diverse range of paper types to print on but often companies forget that not all paper media cuts the same,” O’Brien says, adding: “Often if you are cutting thick, heavy materials for digital production you need not only greater cutting power but also a higher level of clamping power in order to secure the stock as it is cut.

“This is where fully hydraulic power guillotines come into their own. Using hydraulics gives you far greater control over the clamping pressure but also gives you far more cutting power for the blade. Some electro-mechanically powered guillotines struggle when cutting full stacks of heavy-weight paper which leads to skewing or inaccuracies in the cut.”

Going further, O’Brien says that users should consider the addition of a program function, especially one that can store multiple jobs with full character naming for easy future recall. He explains these functions also often automate the cutting process, helping to improve accuracy and speed up production.

“Often, guillotines in a digital print, education, or copy shop environment are not used solely by one person,” O’Brien says, adding: “Therefore, being able to give a job a full descriptive name can mean the difference between a good job or a bad job which often also involves losing hours of valuable time reprinting work.”

Being able to give a job a full descriptive name can mean the difference between a good job or a bad job which often also involves losing hours of valuable time reprinting work

AfterPrint is the UK agent for Grafcut and will show a number of machines from its portfolio at The Print Show 2023 later this year. Included in this range are both fully hydraulic and high-powered electro-mechanical options, in a variety of cutting sizes from 520 to 730mm.

O Factoid: AfterPrint is the UK agent for Grafcut’s range of guillotine machines O

The latest development from Grafcut impacts the flagship Grafcut G73H and, according to O’Brien, allows for faster production. A new hydraulic power unit, which increases the clamp and knife speed by around 30% over the previous generation, has been added to the latest model.

Available from AfterPrint, the Grafcut G73H has been upgraded with a new hydraulic power unit

Alongside this, the back gauge drive has been upgraded using a servo motor, which offers speeds of 84mm/s and positioning with high accuracy. Finally, the back gauge adjustment has been upgraded to now incorporate an electronic crank, allowing for minute adjustment of the cut position, thus giving the operator more control.

“Grafcut as a manufacturer may not be as well known as some of the more established brands,” O’Brien says, adding: “However, their attention to detail and unrivalled build quality means they are quickly becoming the go-to company for guillotines and case-making machinery.