Paper Cutters — Honing a Competitive Edge
BY MARK SMITH
Cut, knife, blade, guillotine—the terminology alone explains why safety is a must when it comes to paper cutters. Two-handed cut activation, non-repeat knife cycles and auto-stop infrared light curtains are just some of the safety features that have been mandated by law or become standard due to market demand. Neither the equipment manufacturers nor buyers are willing to compromise much in this area.
While safety still is an important factor in the decision to buy a new cutter, it is an advantage more or less shared by all state-of-the-art models compared to older machines. It is in the area of productivity where the real points of product differentiation can be found, both in terms of the features offered and the capabilities in which buyers are looking to invest. Competitive advantages can be gained from the capabilities of the cutter itself, and/or by building a broader system that may integrate a jogger, stack lift, unloader, bundler, etc.
Programmability and integration of material handling peripherals are not exactly new trends, but they are seeing broader application. Solutions are being offered for a wider range of cutters, and more printers and trade finishers are finding that the ROI adds up.
Running by the Numbers
One particularly active area of product development is in the sophistication of the programming features offered. The base level of computerization—a keypad or touchscreen and visual display—has become the standard, even for smaller cutters. The next step up is the ability to download (from another cutter or computer) job setups via floppy disk or network connection. The current apex of cutter control technology is integration of the CIP4/JDF specification, which some manufacturers have started offering.
The CIP4 (International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press and Postpress) organization is working to develop the Job Definition Format (JDF) specification as a way to digitally integrate the entire print production process. The goal is to have job parameters digitally captured once at the front end of the process, then pass that data along the production chain to speed makeready at every stage and eliminate communication errors. Prepress and press operations have been making the biggest push for CIP4/JDF adoption, but its full benefit can only be realized by also tying in postpress.