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Paper Cutters--Slicing Through the Competition

March 2000
Paper cutters do not advance as quickly as press and prepress systems, but competition for the cutting-edge is heating up.


In an age when high-tech gizmos have proliferated the commercial printing landscape, the paper cutter stands as a testament to meat-and-potatoes machinery, joining such luminaries as the internal combustion engine, the hammer and the light bulb.

Monitors and computer automation have managed to sneak their way onto the old school tool, but in the end the cutter remains what it was 25 years ago—a cutter. John Porter, division manager of LDR International, the distributor for Itoh in the United States, believes customers need to remember that the machine itself is the most important consideration when it comes time to "cut a check," so to speak.

"It is our firm belief that the most important feature of a paper cutter should be the construction of the cutter itself: the frame, the knife bar, the gear box and how the knife is drawn through the paper," Porter states. "Customers sometimes become enamored with the computer features and fail to look deeply into what is really needed to cut large volumes of paper accurately."

The Itoh is no lightweight; the unit has a one-piece cast iron frame and a heavy knife bar that is drawn through the paper with two arms—one at each end—and two gear boxes. This allows for the accurate cutting of large quantities of paper.

With CIP3 programming spreading throughout many plants, LDR/Itoh recognized the need to offer computer controls, along with a television monitor. It features increased storage memory and a floppy disk so that customers can upgrade software and download jobs for storage with job jackets.

Precision and Accuracy
Mark Hunt, director of marketing for Standard Finishing Systems, manufacturer of Standard Horizon cutters, concurs that accuracy is one of the highest priorities in the manufacture of cutters.

"A quality cutter is only as good as the accuracy of the cut it delivers," he states. "Several factors influence cut accuracy. The knife carriage needs to be housed in a perfectly rigid frame to ensure consistent knife travel. Horizon cutters have a unibody cast frame for maximum rigidity and strength.

"The next factor is the means of powering the knife, to ensure that knife pressure can be maintained consistently," he adds. "A mechanical knife system is inherently more accurate than a hydraulic system, which has the potential for slower knife speed and loss of power due to inconsistency of the hydraulic pressure. This, combined with maintaining a sharp cutting edge and sufficient clamping pressure, are the keys to cut accuracy."

Ty Adams, product manager for finishing systems at MAN Roland, believes that user-friendly controls and dependable computerization highlight the wants and needs of his company's customers. He feels it is important that the bindery operation is able to move product consistently through the system and sees more cutters being designed to work in-line with other pieces of equipment throughout the printing operation.

"Customers are moving toward more computerized operations and digitally linked systems," Adams says. "This is impacting cutter manufacturers, because they need to be able to communicate with these digitally linked systems."

Safety First
In terms of operational ease, Adams notes that many of his customers are in the short-run market and require cutters that have a large storage capacity and quick-changeover ability within the program. In response, MAN Roland is promoting "flowline"systems, the combination of its Wohlenberg guillotine cutters and Baumann paper handling equipment.

Most manufacturers/distributors agree that operator safety is a main concern on both sides of the sales floor. Mark Pellman, sales engineer for Baumfolder—which markets the 26.4—notes that all safety features, such as infrared light beams, are now standard on virtually all Baumfolder cutters. They also meet CE specifications, the latter of which are in the process of being revisited.

Safety is a primary concern for Perfecta USA, a division of Amatco. Len Rivett, division president, notes the Perfecta line boasts both CE and GS safety certification and features the HSCS high-security monitoring system that assures fail-safe software and cutting function. Rivett also points out that all cutters are equipped with a mechanical safety bolt to prevent the cutter from double cycling, and 16-channel infrared light guards with a self-monitoring electronic eye and shutoff mechanism to aid operator safety.

"Perfecta has developed the fastest and safest knife change— under five minutes without any risk of injury," he notes. "One of the biggest changes has been in the clamping requirements where the highest percentage of injuries on paper cutters have occurred. Previously, when clamping stock, the clamp would come down with full pressure. The industry requirements changed to a 'soft clamp' of approximately 60 lb. maximum clamping pressure, preventing any major damage should an operator carelessly have his or her hand under the clamp while mechanically bringing down the clamp by the foot pedal."

Safety issues also top the short list of Dexter Lawson Manufacturing. Terry Lee, vice president of marketing, notes that all covers and guards have been interlocked on the company's 60T and 70T models, to ensure safety. Should any covers be opened, the cutter shuts down automatically.

Cutting performance on thick reams of paper has been addressed recently as well, Lee notes. Dexter Lawson offerings now cut up to 63⁄4˝ in thickness, and converters find their ability to chomp down on 4˝ of lubricated aluminum plates a plus.

Accurate paper cutting is also a key goal for Swaneck Graphic Equipment, which markets the Pro-Cut series. Walter Gierlach, vice president of sales, notes that his company spent much of the past year concentrating on perfecting its products' cut accuracy, from sheet to sheet and lift to lift.

"By redesigning our clamp and clamp pressure, our knife and knife pressure, the backgauge mechanism and state-of-the-art hydraulic mechanisms, we have ensured a more precise cut in the industry than known before," Gierlach says. "The customer can now run the paper through the press a second time without worrying about the paper squareness causing problems."

Safety, quality and minimal down time are three compelling customer issues that are consistently being challenged at Heidelberg USA, according to Rob Kuehl, marketing director for Polar products. Heidelberg USA also views automatic waste removal, faster backgauge speed and fast, reliable knife change as top priorities.

"Not only has Polar responded to these needs, but it has always set the example by offering these benefits before they were in demand," Kuehl stresses. "One such example is Compucut, off-line programming with a direct connection to prepress via CIP3, which won the prestigious 1999 GATF InterTech Award."

Production and value join the safety focus for The Challenge Machinery Company. Several of the aforementioned manufacturers and distributors are active members of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)—which helps dictate manufacturer product designs—including Challenge Machinery's vice president of engineering, Mike Westra.

"What Mike brings back to Challenge from these meetings is invaluable to our customers," notes Robb Gould, vice president of marketing and sales. "In addition, Challenge has gone to the additional expense to have our cutters Underwriters Laboratories (UL) listed. UL is the leading third-party product safety certification organization in the United States and the UL mark provides the most widely accepted evidence of a product's compliance with recognized safety requirements nationwide. The UL listing provides the additional assurance to our customers that our components and designs meet the rigid standards of this independent evaluator."

Beyond the Price
Challenge cutters, such as the Champion and Titan, are also known for retaining their value, according to Gould. When it comes time for a customer to upgrade the bindery and make the switch to a cutter with an increased size and/or additional features, the mature Challenge model continues to command a significant percentage of its original cost, Gould contends.

Price concern is a necessary evil, and paper cutter suppliers are not blind to this reality. For example, Colter & Peterson markets both the SABER and PRISM paper cutters; the former is feature-laden while the latter boasts a lower price and can be upgraded. Both are backed by Colter & Peterson's expanded service and parts support—a nationwide network that provides local contacts for customers, according to Jeff Marr, vice president of sales.

By offering two price thresholds, Colter & Peterson is covering all bases. "Not everyone needs a loaded car to drive around," Marr relates. "For some people, a basic model is all they need."

Given the Option . . .

Printing Impressions asked paper cutter manufacturers and distributors to list what pieces of optional equipment are most sought after by their customers.

Walter Gierlach, Swaneck Graphic Equipment: Main air table. "We have designed a pattern of air holes that allows for smaller and larger sheets to turn easier and jog in place without dragging."

Jeff Marr, Colter & Peterson: Material handling equipment: oversized tables, lifts, joggers, unloaders.

Rob Kuehl, Heidelberg USA: Joggers, automatic palletizers, lifts, counting equipment, gripper transport systems. "This equipment increases productivity, automates the cutting process and reduces back injuries, as well as workman's compensation costs and production costs. Fringe benefits include heightened operator motivation, increased safety and increased workflow throughout the plant."

John Porter, LDR International: Peripheral handling equipment, electric lifts that maintain the correct height of a skid automatically. "Paper joggers allow the operator to build larger lifts and to move the lift on a film of air easily onto the cutter bed. Also unloading or stacking equipment, so that the operator can handle large lifts easily, once the cutting operation is completed. Handling equipment can increase cutter production as much as 300 percent to 400 percent."

Ty Adams, MAN Roland: Paper handling equipment. "We are seeing a higher demand for joggers, pile hoists, unloaders and pile turners."

Robb Gould, The Challenge Machinery Company: Air on the cutting table and side tables. "This one feature can make a huge difference in the operator's productivity over the course of the day. In fact, Challenge believes in this feature to such a degree that all Champion 301⁄2˝ and 37˝ cutters now offer optional air side tables, along with providing air as standard equipment on the main table."

Terry Lee, Dexter Lawson Manufacturing: Customers are seeking cheaper and more simplified loading and unloading systems.

Mark Pellman, Baumfolder: Airbeds for sheet sizes of 20x26˝ and bigger, with 4˝ of paper. "Customers are realizing it's easier to get the job done if they have an airbed."

Mark Hunt, Standard Finishing Systems: Easy-to-use and productive operator interfaces. "Standard Horizon cutters are equipped with simple, but powerful, programming features that allow operators to memorize frequent job setups and to easily build cut routines with push-outs built into the program. That makes the operator's job easier and increases shop productivity."

Len Rivett, Perfecta USA: Handling and peripheral equipment to increase throughput of the paper cutter while eliminating lifting and bending, thus reducing back injuries and expensive insurance claims.


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