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Cutting Remarks

March 1999
Top finishing pros reveal their secrets on selecting the right paper cutting tool for the right job.

The cutter is often the last machine to touch the printed product before it goes to the customer, so it needs to cut cleanly, be easy to use and keep the work flowing. Though recent advancements in automation and computer control have made working on the machine easier, they've made choosing a cutter more difficult.

That complexity can be simplified, however, by deciding on three basic factors right from the start: the size, the type of blade, and how many optional features and types of paper handling equipment are needed.

The size of a cutter is dependent on the size of the largest press sheet. All stock should turn easily in the back of the cutter.

Determining Size
"Generally, the rule of thumb is to determine your largest sheet size, measure the diagonal and add a few inches," explains Rob Kuehl, manager of Polar Cutting Systems at Heidelberg USA. To find the diagonal, use this formula: C = square root (a2 + b2).

Rockie Zeigler, president of Original Smith Printing, in Bloomington, IL, agrees that a printer or binder should buy a cutter to accommodate the sheet size of his largest press.

"We have one small cutter among the several we utilize, but all of the rest are sized to accommodate our largest potential press sheet," says Zeigler, who does not recommend buying cutters of different sizes for different functions because that limits the scheduling possibilities.

Nick Adler, vice president of operations at Fort Dearborn Lithograph in Niles, IL, disagrees. "Generally speaking, one size fits all, but that doesn't preclude a mix," he contends, noting that Fort Dearborn runs cutters of different sizes to accommodate different workstations and cutting purposes.

The blade is, of course, the most important component of the cutting process. A blade needs to be durable and provide a clean cut. Today, a printer or binder has three types of blades to choose from: regular hardened steel, high speed steel (HSS) and carbide.

Choice of Blades
"Regular steel should not even be considered," says Kuehl. "HSS knives give you the quality and longer durability needed to meet desired needs, and carbide knives are very expensive and are usually reserved for specialty stock."

Adler agrees that HSS knives are the ones Fort Dearborn uses for most jobs. However, he believes the blade is "such a marginal cost of the cutter that you should buy what you think is the best. We have one of our divisions experimenting with carbide, but I think the jury's still out on it."



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