Paper Cutters -- The Winning Edge
By Erik Cagle
What makes Jeff Gordon such a great driver on NASCAR's top stock car driving circuit?
Sure, when he drives into Victory Lane, Gordon is deemed the race's fastest driver. But speed alone is hardly the reason Gordon gets to spray his pit crew with champagne. It is a confluence of variables that enable him to emerge victorious, namely the makeup of his car. Luck and patience play a role, as does tactical positioning on the track, but even the slightest flaw in the No. 24 car's mechanical composition can mean the difference between success and a short day at the track.
Similarly, a paper cutting system can, like Gordon, slice right through a straightaway. But precision handling is even more important around a tricky corner or bend, and the slightest miscalculation can spell disaster for a printed product that's been completed, for the most part.
"Cutting is one of the most critical operations in the print production workflow," notes Tyrone Adams, manager of postpress sales for MAN Roland, which sells Wohlenberg cutters. "It's a function that requires both precision and speed. Plus, by the time the job arrives at the knife, it has considerable value because it has already been printed. So any mistakes at the cutting stage can be costly."
Among the questions Adams suggests that end users ask manufacturers while on the prowl for a cutting system: How fast are the knife changes? What are the safety features, and how easy is it to use? Printing and bindery professionals need to be on the lookout for automation, he says.
"Reliability is a big factor," Adams says. "So self-diagnostic features and the support of a field service force are other requisites to consider. You also want to make sure that a complete and dependable spare parts and consumables source is part of the package."
Jeff Marr, vice president of sales for Colter & Peterson, underscores the importance of three cutter characteristics: how well the system fits the customer's requirements; the quality of construction and level of support; and the amount of technology in the system.
"Will the machine stand up to rigorous workflow demands and, if service is required, can the vendor respond quickly with the required items needed to make repairs?" Marr poses. "And does the system incorporate the latest in both operator controls and operating elements?"
In addition to marketing Wohlenberg cutters and Baumann paper handling equipment, Colter & Peterson also sells the Saber and Prism brands of paper cutters. The newest Wohlenberg cutter and Baumann unloader debuted at Drupa last month. The latest model enables operators to go from job to job more efficiently. Its new computerized control system walks users through the setup process step-by-step.
Other features include touchscreen, improved graphics and a new self-diagnosis mode that enhances ease-of-use. A new unloader from Baumann, which also debuted at Drupa, can unload up to four different piles automatically to accelerate the cutting workflow.
Heidelberg unveiled its updated line of Polar cutters at Drupa: the basic Polar 78 XS, followed by the mid-range 78 X and 78 XT, with and without touchscreen operation. The new design features a longer front table for more working space in front of the knife. Optimized knife beams and guides allow for adjusting to the cutting performance of larger machines, especially for hard-to-cut materials and for industrial applications. The P-net is a communication interface between prepress, order preparation and production, which organizes and manages the data flow between all Polar components.
Users need to keep in mind the largest press or imaging size at its disposal, according to Mark Pellman, marketing manager for Baum Corp. The cutter should have the table width and depth to accommodate largest current and future requirements. Other considerations include:
* The varieties of stock and how often they are used. Substrate varieties are constantly growing, so cutting time factors into the equation. For example, a light-duty, electric powered knife and clamp is not suitable for a printer that relies on the cutter on a daily basis with a steady volume of work. The varieties of stock being cut must be matched to the proper cutting blade material and rake angle.
* The user's electrical power and floor space requirements.
* The finishing/trimming applications. If the user produces perfect bound or saddlestitched books, three-side and face trimming capabilities must be considered.
* Are an air bed and/or workflow systems needed? An air bed can greatly increase productivity by reducing the amount of effort required to move large lifts of stock through the cutter.
Baum programmable cutters are easy to program with "block programming" features. All Baum cutters include infrared light beams as standard equipment for enhanced safety. They have an exclusive knife change from the front of the cutter. In addition, all knives are high-speed steel as standard equipment and the cutter table surfaces do not require waxing.
While the width, size and appearance of a paper cutter may be similar to others, it is what's inside the cutter that makes the difference, according to Walter Gierlach, president of Pro-Graphics Network.
"You need to look specifically at individual areas such as the backgauge design and where and how it is driven," he says. "Pay close attention to the sturdiness of the frame, table, blade beam and clamp. Finally, check the hp of the motor and how the cutter is powered and driven. You can also learn and view the specific features of the computer and how it operates. Don't forget to check the warranty in detail."
Pro-Graphics Network recently introduced the Pro-Cut 320MPSIII cutter, which weighs more than 3,500 lbs. using a solid steel frame and table. It is driven by a 10-hp motor. Standard features include main air table, 20x26˝ side tables, new duel computer screen, new overhead backgauge system, high-speed steel knives and a two-year "bumper-to-bumper" warranty.
The industry demands innovation that allows the customer to do more with lower overhead costs, according to Britt Cary, director of sales and marketing for Challenge Machinery. Cary notes that the pool of skilled bindery journeymen has been decreasing to the degree that small- to mid-sized shops must utilize less experienced labor. Thus, the equipment they operate must be safer and more user-friendly.
Have to Be Accurate
Distinguishing characteristics, notes Cary, include programming ease for the backgauge controller. Backgauge positioning accuracy is another key factor.
"Having all the bells and whistles of the most advanced controller will not increase productivity if the operator does not understand how to program the machine," Cary says. "With modern computer operated backgauge controllers, position accuracy and repeatability should be self-checking. If the backgauge is knocked out of location by jogging the stock, the computer should automatically correct the error. The computer should have the ability to detect the loss of accuracy of the positioning system and notify the operator of a problem. On all but lower cost machines the backgauge position should be derived from some device other than the lead screw so position accuracy will not be affected by wear of the lead screw."
The 301⁄2˝ Champion 305 X-series paper cutters are available as either the manual backgauge X model, or programmable as the XD (single screen LCD), the XG model (dual screen LCD), or XT model (touchscreen color display with a floppy disk port). All of these UL- listed machines have as standard a holder for the storage of the false clamp plate (FCP) when it is not in use on the cutter. A sensor tells the unit that the FCP has been removed from the clamp and therefore allows the backgauge to move to a closer forward limit in relation to the knife. A slot closure device covers the opening in the table for the movement of the backgauge.
Technology allows for pinpoint cutting precision, less operator handling and fast changeover of cutting sizes, notes Hans Max, president and CEO of MBO America. Those features, alone or combined, can translate into a bindery operating at higher productivity, as well as delivering quality and consistency to the customer with greater bindery safety, he says.
"State-of-the-art software and hardware have almost limitless storage capacity that can eliminate operator error and generate the cutting programs displayed graphically on a screen," Max remarks. "New software updates always keep the guillotine up to date with the latest standard. Monitors that constantly display machine functions, as well as instructions for operation, diagnosis and maintenance, enhance operation and productivity. Technology and design replace the human error factor that can become a casualty of the speed demanded to meet today's schedules and market conditions."
MBO is also a distributor of the Wohlenberg cutter line and offers service and support.
Don Dubuque, marketing manager for Standard Finishing Systems, sees programming as a defining characteristic of a quality cutting system. Users should look for the ability to program and store multiple jobs on a cutter, with the capability of instant recall of complicated jobs.
"Programming also helps improve setup times and efficiency rates of a job," Dubuque notes. "Customers can easily compare the programming features of various cutters, including how many steps are involved in inputting a job into memory, how easy it is to recall the job and how many different jobs can be stored. As with automation, programming can help to eliminate costly mistakes and reprinting of jobs."
Dubuque says that the Standard Horizon APC-M61 automatic hydraulic cutter offers rugged monoblock construction, quality engineering for cutting accuracy and programming simplicity. Up to nine programs with six steps each can be stored in memory.
Cutting Looks Bright
The APC-M61 features a chrome-plated table with a maximum cutting width of 24˝ and a maximum lift height of 3.9.˝ The highly polished, rust-free work table virtually eliminates paper marking and provides a smooth, friction-free surface for lift travel. A high-performance backgauge screw and forged linear raceway accurately positions the lift.
New for 2004 from Perfecta USA is the 225 (88˝) system. The heart of the system contains the 225 TVC. This cutter features a 88.5˝-wide throat (with a 6.5˝ height), and a rear useful table length of 102.375˝. Coupled with the optional turning device, an operator doesn't even have to spin the heavy lifts of stock that this machine is capable of cutting.
The Triumph 430-EP tabletop model from MBM Corp. has all the advantages of EP accuracy along with the durability of the larger cutters, in a compact package. Some of its leading applications include cutting checks and business cards. With over 15˝ behind the knife, the 430-EP is designed for small cutting jobs, which makes it ideal for quick printing and franchise shops.
So while speed may bring fans to their feet, precision and accuracy can lead to Victory Lane—and followup jobs.