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Paper Cutters -- Slicing Time, Not Fingers

August 2003
By Erik Cagle


KISS is the word that best describes the modern day movement in regard to the manufacture of paper cutting systems: Keep It Simple and Safe.

Safety may be to cutting what flour is to baking—an essential ingredient—but automation considerations cannot be ignored when weighing the purchase of a standalone cutter or complete system. In fact, with manufacturers adhering to U.S. and international safety guidelines, ease-of-use may spell the difference between products A, B and C.

"Automating the backgauge movement on a cutter helps improve efficiency, makeready times, consistency and accuracy of the cut," points out Don Dubuque, marketing manager for Standard Finishing Systems. "Automated, shortened job setup times translate into higher profits, more productivity and the possibility to free up an operator to run another piece of equipment."

Cutter manufacturers are also mindful of programming, Dubuque notes, as clients seek to program and store multiple and often complex jobs on a cutter. Consequent benefits include improved setup times and efficiency rates.

Automation and programming are part of an industry-wide trend to simplify setup and operation of print finishing equipment, he says. "This has been influenced by heavy turnover in shops, which leads companies to want faster operator training and the ability to cross-train easily.

Multi-tasking Employees

"We see fewer equipment specialists dedicated to one piece of equipment, so owners require employees who are cross-trained on different pieces of equipment," Dubuque continues. "This is made easier with the advent of simple, yet powerful, programming and automation features. Customers are looking for equipment that is simplified through the use of control panels and touchscreens that are similar from one piece of finishing equipment to the other."

Along similar lines is the issue of CIP3/4 compatibility, adds Tyrone Adams, manager of postpress sales for MAN Roland. "It enables the cutter to be programmed automatically from prepress or MIS data. That speeds setup, reduces the chance of operator error and plugs the bindery into all of the advantages of Computer-Integrated Manufacturing (CIM)."

In terms of optional equipment, MAN Roland's ASE cutter (with automatic waste removal system) allows scrap to fall through an opening as the front bed table opens. Anther critical peripheral is the auto clamp stop function, which allows the clamp to move only a fraction of an inch off the stock after making the cut. The backgauge moves forward and positions the stock for the next cut, and the clamp goes down for full pressure and cuts.

"Because the clamp does not have to travel the total distance back to the top of the knife beam, it actually increases the cutting cycle speed of the cutter," Adams explains.

A subset of operator safety is ergonomics and the elimination of repetitive-motion injuries. Employee safety and comfort are parlayed into productivity and efficiency, according to Robb Gould, vice president of marketing and sales for Challenge Machinery.

"Considerations such as the shape and position of the cut buttons, height of the table and access to devices that will ease the loading and unloading of stock, are all crucial to a well-run operation," Gould says. "The elimination of back and arm strain are significant factors in reducing potential worker's compensation issues and subsequent lost manhours. These issues are an important prerequisite in the design of quality machines."

Air on the main table is a standard feature on Champion cutters, with optional air side tables. Key material handling equipment includes stack lifters. Champion's PowerLift can be positioned on each side of the cutter, which helps prevent constant turning, bending and lifting, thus reducing operator injury.

It behooves printers and trade binders to carefully examine the complete design of the paper cutter, says Walter Gierlach, vice president of Pro-Cut Manufacturer.

"The widths may be the same between different brands, but the designs and features do not even compare," he says. "It is like comparing apples to oranges. Be prepared to ask questions about the weight of the frame and table, backgauge speed and accuracy, clamp and knife force consistency, dealer reliability and the warranty."

The latest safety feature to adorn the Pro-Cut line of cutters is a full-length safety beam. Pro-Cut covers the rear table with a metal shield and uses a soft clamp foot pedal to enhance operator safety.

Safety is the No. 1 reason customers should look beyond the price tags of competing products and concentrate on the safeguards that are offered, stresses Rob Kuehl, director of postpress packaging and cutting systems for Heidelberg USA. Reliability, quality and automation are other hallmarks for consideration when purchasing a cutter.

Considering the vested time and money in the printed product, quality of cut is greatly underscored. "Typically, 80 percent to 90 percent of all costs are already in the printed sheets before it is to be cut," Kuehl notes. "This includes estimator and customer service costs, prepress time, press time, ink, paper, etc. It is imperative to have a high-quality cutter and a good operator who does not have to do too much physical work to ensure precision cutting and handling so the job doesn't have to be reprinted.

"A high-quality cutter may cost a bit more in the initial purchase cycle, but it is such a tiny cost compared to the 20 years that the cutter will last. Just one reprinted job often can be the difference in cost between higher quality and lesser quality cutters."

Plenty of Add-ons

Accessories such as joggers, stacklifts, counting scales, palletizers, banders, pile turners, turning grippers and system configurations each help move paper to and from the paper cutter quickly and efficiently without bending or lifting. That means operators can actually go home refreshed after their shifts," Kuehl says.

Mark Pellman, marketing manager for Baum Corp., notes that the Baumcut paper cutter line has included the infrared safety beam as standard equipment prior to the latest ANSI safety standard mandate. Maintenance is another variable to consider, according to Pellman.

"Easy knife change using a knife holder tool that covers the entire sharp edge of the knife provides higher safety and easier changing on the Baumcut line. Waxing of the table creates more maintenance. Baumcut cutters have maintenance-free table surfaces that don't rust or require waxing."

Pellman adds that a stacklift or jogger can increase productivity by removing the stress on the operator. "Lifting large sheets from a pallet can be cumbersome and cause fatigue," he says. "Jogging the sheets on an automatic jogger provides better quality cutting and less damage to the lift of paper."

Safety is paramount to the end user, according to Lisa Hutchinson, marketing coordinator for MBM Corp., who notes that the Triumph line of cutters manufactured by Ideal fully addresses the issue. All Triumph models feature true two-hand operation, safety lock with key, and safety guards/devices on front and rear tables.

With automation a high priority, many customers are opting for the systems approach, adds Brett Stowe, managing director for Perfecta USA. Many Perfecta cutters are accompanied by a jogger and stacklift, or an unloader.

Among the standards on the Perfecta cutter is a Smart Clamp for increased productivity. Its backgauge uses a servo drive that provides optimum speed and accuracy.

Getting Smarter

While the mechanics of the actual machine haven't varied much in recent years, the brain behind it certainly has enjoyed significant advances, according to Jeff Marr, vice president of sales for Colter & Peterson. "We've geared our equipment to be more user-friendly," he says. "All of our machines are made in America with U.S. computer systems, which makes them simple to understand and easy to operate.

"At the same time, we're adding more and more of the features customers are seeking." Again, material handling equipment such as lifters, joggers and unloaders are the most sought-after complementary pieces, reveals Marr. "Some of the systems are more geared toward certain work," the industry veteran says.

"Run lengths have gotten shorter, so customers are looking for systems that are quick and easy to set up. With stacklifts and joggers, you can go from one job to the next with minimal adjustments."


Standard Finishing Systems offers the Standard Horizon APC-M61 automatic hydraulic cutter. Designed for commercial, quick and in-plant printers and binderies, it offers rugged monoblock construction, precise cutting accuracy, maximum reliability and programming simplicity.

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Perfecta USA offers the 115 model, a 45˝ TVC, touch flat screen computer system and is CIP compatible. Offers a PC Cut, which is an external system where users can program off-line, then load it into a CIP or a PC Cut system. Available in the following sizes: 30˝, 36˝, 45˝, 52˝, 66˝ and 88˝.

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Colter & Peterson offers both Prism and Saber cutters. Prism cutters are available in the following sizes: 30˝, 36˝, 45˝ and 54˝. Saber comes in 37˝ (38˝ deep table) with a 6˝ clamp opening. For the half-size market, it offers a machine that has all the features of a larger machine, including the clamp opening.

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The 37˝ Champion 370 from Challenge Machinery is available as either the XG model (dual-screen LCD) or XT model (touchscreen color display with a floppy disk port). Both of these UL-listed machines have, as standard, a holder for the storage of the false clamp plate when it is not in use on the cutter. A sensor tells the unit that the false clamp plate has been removed from the clamp and allows the backgauge to move to a closer forward limit in relation to the knife.

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The Wohlenberg/Baumann curve gripper system is being offered by MAN Roland. This innovation allows a printer's bindery to prepare a total of five lifts that have been jogged, aerated and counted in a small work area with either one or two operators. The pre-jogged lifts are brought to the operator via the curve gripper so that the operator will spend less time handling the stock and more time cutting, thereby maximizing productivity. The system can reportedly increase productivity by upwards of 25 to 40 percent over a conventional cutting system.

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The Triumph 430-EP tabletop model, from MBM Corp., has all the advantages of EP accuracy along with the durability of the larger cutters—all in a compact package. It is very popular for cutting checks, business cards, etc. With over 15˝ behind the knife, this cutter is perfectly suited for small cutting jobs, which makes it ideal for quick printing and franchise shops.

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The Pro-Cut 320 MPSII from Pro-Cut Manufacturer has been upgraded to a 10hp phase motor with larger, stronger hoses and a larger pump. These features allow more clamp and knife force along with a 33 percent faster knife cycle compared to last year's 320MPS version. This creates better accuracy from sheet to sheet comparisons. Full-length safety beams are standard.

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Polar cutters, from Heidelberg, feature clean profiles, integration of sub-assemblies and smooth surfaces that make them safer, more accessible and ergonomic. Polar 92 through 176 models work faster with knife action up to 45 cuts per minute. Rapid cycling is optimized by a backgauge that speeds the positioning of material at the knife.

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The Baum SC-2 scale counter can be used with the B2 jogger to weigh-count each cutting job for easy, yet precise, measurement of job materials. Simple two-button operation for weighing and counting.

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Wohlenberg Cut-Tec high-speed guillotines from MBO America are CIP3 compatible, off-line and in-line. Basic equipment includes large color LCD display with high resolution and radiation-free alpha-numeric keyboard, disk drive, safety light barrier, stand-by function, electronic log book, auto-programmer, air table with blower, clamp plate (90mm), slot closing device, two knives, operating tools, automatic paper ejection and feed correction.

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Schneider Senator cutters are available in 30.71˝, 36.22˝, 45.28˝, 53.94˝, 61.02˝, 72.84˝ and 102.36˝ widths. All models come standard with fully programmable color monitors, mechanical or hydraulic knife drives, hydraulic clamps, stainless steel air tables, IR safety curtains and two independent verifying microprocessors.

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Vijuk Equipment's Multicut Unit is an automatic, programmable cutter that makes 20 guillotine cuts per cycle within a 23.5˝ span. Stores up to 30 jobs for recall. Can be used to cut adhesive bound booklets from perfect binders or DocuTech machines.

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