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Back to Basics

Die Cutting

One of the industry’s most tried and trusted finishing methods, Rob Fletcher takes a look at some of the latest developments in die cutting and speaks with manufacturers about their new solutions

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Cutting it right

Selecting the right sort of cutting equipment for a print finishing department is absolutely critical; choose wrong and you risk running into all sorts of issues when it comes to cutting and finishing off printed work.

Die cutting remains one of the most trusted forms of cutting in the print industry, having been around in some form since the mid-1800s. Modern die cutting machines offer all sorts of helpful features and options to make the cutting process even easier for print-service-providers (PSPs).

O Factoid: Die cutting was first introduced in the mid-1800s O

Here, we find out more about some of the latest die cutting machines available to the print market and take a closer look at how these solutions can help users improve the quality of their printed work.

Flexibility and reliability

Morgana Systems counts die cutting machines among its wide-ranging portfolio of print finishing solutions. Ray Hillhouse, vice president of sales and marketing for the Plockmatic Group Offline Business Unit, which includes Morgana, says that PSPs looking to invest in a die cutting machine should consider flexibility, reliability, and performance.

“These print companies should be keen to handle as many finishing tasks in-house as they can – the immediacy of digital printing can easily get lost when sending finishing tasks out to third parties,” Hillhouse says, adding: “They should be looking for a product that can bring as wide a range of functionality as possible – die cutting, including complex cutting, creasing, kiss-cutting, perforating, embossing and debossing are all available from Morgana kit.

“Issues can certainly arise from poorly maintained or aged equipment. We all know the printer which is still banging this type of work through a tired, dirty, old platen style of machine that was last serviced before the year 2000. When printers fail to invest in die cutting equipment they can miss out on a lucrative amount of business.”

As to why PSPs should consider die cutting over other technologies, Hillhouse explains die cutting is a service that is being demanded more and more as customers seek ways to differentiate their print and ensure it stands out from the crowd.

“It is an excellent option for a printer to use to go and win new business,” Hillhouse says, adding: “By increasing the services on offer, a printer has a greater chance of winning business because they have control of delivery times, rather than having to rely on third-party suppliers.”

With this, Hillhouse draws attention to the latest products available from Morgana. The first comes in the form of AeroDieCut, which, developed by Uchida, uses regular cutting and creasing forms, combined with a patented system of moving press rollers that provide the necessary pressure to cut through and score substrates.

Hillhouse says the product is ideal for short-to-medium-run work and can process complex cuts, creases, embossing, and perforations on printed materials in a single pass. It also has the ability to produce step-and-repeat work where just one cutting forme can be employed to step across a printed sheet up to five times.

The AeroDieCut can accommodate cutting formes of up to 350 x 550mm, with a die board thickness of up to 18mm, and a cutting rule height of 23.3mm to 23.8mm, as well as paper sizes of up to 365 x 515mm, with a maximum finished size of 310 x 485mm.

The new AeroDieCut from Morgana and Uchida can accommodate cutting formes of up to 350 x 550mm

For longer run work, Hillhouse points to the Rotary Die Cutter (RDC). The cutting system on the device is composed of an upper magnetic cylinder, holding the cutting matrix in place, and a lower counter cylinder. A pin register system on the magnetic cylinder helps the operator to install the cutting matrix accurately, while the side-alignment of sheets is managed by adjustable straps allowing the machine to maintain accurate sheet position.

Features include a top-sheet, air-suction deep pile feeder to help ensure reliable sheet feeding, with the ability to accommodate up to 400mm of printed sheets. In addition, an 8” touch screen user interface provides for fast and efficient job change overs.

Maximum sheet size for the RDC is 368mm x 508mm, while it offers a maximum die cutting area of 361mm x 472mm, can handle materials up to 400gsm thick and run at speeds of up to 6,000 sheets per hour.

Fresh approach

Next and Graham Moorby, joint managing director at Printers Superstore, explains that when it comes to investing in a new die cutting machine, print companies should make a fresh approach.

“Die cutting can add value to a sheet and is often worth more than the actual print these days,” Moorby says, adding: “While it’s easy to keep using the same old methods, smart printers will always check out the latest technologies, which can give them the edge over their competitors.

While it’s easy to keep using the same old methods, smart printers will always check out the latest technologies to give them the edge

“Laser die cutting can truly open up a world of unique new products and potential new markets. Machines such as our LC Series are amazing and enable a range of design options that would be impossible to achieve using traditional metal dies.

“As well as the ability to tackle jobs that would be impossible to finish conventionally, being all-digital means no forms or die are required, and make ready speed can be cut to minutes. Also repeat jobs can be stored and recalled in seconds. With our machine you can cut, crease, perf and etch in one pass.”

Expanding on the LC Series, Moorby highlights the LC 340S in particular. Available in the UK exclusively from Printers Superstore, the machine can kiss-cut to create products such as adhesive labels, as well as crease, perforate and etch into a variety of substrates.

The LC 340S is available in the UK exclusively from Printers Superstore

“The potential to open up new niche markets for the LC user is huge,” Moorby comments, adding: “Any new piece of kit can give businesses a lift and help refocus them but the laser die cutter is certainly top of that tree.

“Not future proofing your business and not remaining competitive is always a risk; the kit is your team and having a good team keeps you in the game. It can be expensive, so you need to do your homework and get the right kit for your business - but investing in the right products makes life easier, reduces production stress and increases profitability. The key is to make the right choices, but don’t keep still.”

Premium products

Elsewhere and Rob Thurston, head of sales at Duplo UK, says 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.

“Many of our customers who have purchased our die cutters had found that they were sending large amounts of revenue out the door since most commercial printers don’t have a die cutting service,” Thurston comments.

“Our customers found that with the purchase of the Duplo DI CUT range of rotary die cutters, they could keep the work in-house – controlling costs and the time frame for the jobs – keeping the quality of the products high.

“They have also been able to break through to different markets than their usual customer base and to support their existing customer base with more services. The end result is that more revenue is generated with a cost-effective solution.”

Thurston also issues a warning against underinvesting in die cutting, and explains that the whole point of the process of die cutting is consistency, and the only way to achieve this is to invest in quality equipment.

“Underinvesting in die-cutting can and will lead to lower quality machines that do not adjust skew or won’t include X & Y sheet registration,” Thurston says, adding: “This will mean that the print will not consistently match the shapes being cut.

“Die cutting is reserved for premium printed products, and these details noticeably stand out. Traditional die cutting is a very labour-intensive process to make the dies up, but with rotary die cutters job changes are a fraction of the time even if the dies are slightly more expensive.”

Duplo’s latest die cutter comes in the form of the PFi Di-Cut 310, which, launched in May 2020, replaced the existing 300 model. Running up to 4,000 sheets per hour, the high-speed rotary die cutter utilises a magnetic cylinder and flexible dies that process paper, laminates, self-adhesive and synthetic stocks up to 400gsm.

Duplo’s PFi Di-Cut 310 can run at speeds of up to 4,000 sheets per hour

A faster and slightly larger magnetic cylinder adds up to 30% more printed items per sheet, depending on the application, which Thurston says means that the cost per sheet is lower and margins are higher. The transport belt has also been improved to provide better grip, while the air blowers have been increased to improve sheet separation and the main motor and sensors have been improved to increase accuracy.

Unique features

Rounding up this overview is Vivid Laminating Technologies and its VeloBlade portfolio of systems, which are available in a range of sizes and can be fully operated remotely with minimum setup.

Veloblade models have the ability to process a whole host of materials, from media as thin as tissue paper and tracing paper, up to 10mm substrates. The Veloblade systems also have four separate heads, allowing them to perforate, crease, cut and kiss-cut all in one pass on the same sheet.