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Getting to the Cutting Edge

(April 2012) posted on Tue Apr 17, 2012

Getting the most out of digital finishing sometimes requires hardware and software decisions.

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By Bill Hartman

No need to place and pick up
With the introduction of faster large-format digital printers, there is a strong demand for a higher capacity automatic finishing solution for printed packaging and display materials. If table speeds are increasing in smaller increments, how do you deal with the workload? The real change in speed comes from automation. Higher volume projects benefit from automated material handling.
Some of the more sophisticated machines offer the ability to automatically load, cut, unload, and neatly stack large printed sheets of paperboards, foam board and many other materials. Users can now offer their customers on-demand production with just-in time-delivery. The machines can run without the continuous supervision of an operator, thus saving considerable labor costs.

Getting a better look and
cut at the graphics
So where is the rest of the real improvement in finishing tables? It’s in the supporting software applications and workflow automation.
Finishing mistakes are costly. It means that printed pieces—many times quite expensive—must be tossed away. How many times has a print shop had front to back misregistration? Or, how can it be assured that any misregistration due to print or media registration is compensated for, when it gets to the cutting table? A good workflow will provide coordination between the artwork and the printer and cutting tools. All of this is done with a coordinated communication effort between what the printer prints and what the cutter cuts.
Vision control is necessary for digital finishing systems, because all printed materials contain some size, rotation and scaling distortions that can produce inaccurate digital die cutting, if not corrected—even more crucial with difficult, contour cuts. A good cutting table offers distortion compensation enabling digital cutting systems to produce error free results.
Vision control systems seem to get better every year. A camera reads register marks on each individual image placed on the finishing system, for extremely accurate registration that compensates for local or overall distortion of the material, even handling non-linear distortions. Some systems even have the ability to register sheets with the print side facing down, most useful for processing corrugated board.


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