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The Slice is Right: A Guide to Cutting-Equipment Selection

(August 2002) posted on Tue Sep 03, 2002

Learn about the types of cutting systems that are available, the capabilities each variety provides, and the production issues you need to consider before selecting a system for your operation.

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By Tom Kleeman

For high-volume production with flatbed, rotary, and gap diecutting presses, the best option is to incorporate automated material-handling systems that feed and unload materials as well as remove the cut parts (Figure 2). Parts collection and batching can also be automated.

Trying to accommodate every application with its own sheet size to optimize material usage is not an effective approach to diecutting. Sheet (or roll) size variations lead to excessive tooling adjustments and require other modifications in prepress and printing, all of which increase downtime and reduce productivity. A better route is to gear all of the plant's production for a minimum number of standard sheet or roll sizes and to plan production so that you are changing from one material size to another as few times as possible. The reduced down-time this approach provides will far off-set any resulting increase in scrap costs.

Production bottlenecks can be avoided further if you plan diecutting jobs with all of your facility's cutting equipment in mind. This means that all printed materials must contain correct registration marks that correspond to all the diecutting presses in your operation. With this sort of standardization, you always have the option of running jobs on two or more machines to meet delivery schedules. Such standards also let you optimize capacity or simply make switches to find diecutting machines that work better for special job requirements.

Art departments also need to know how to gang images and otherwise create designs that keep scrap to a minimum on all the shop's equipment. Standard design layouts should accommodate the minimum scrap-area requirements around the perimeter of a sheet and between pieces for all the cutting equipment in the shop, not just for specific machines. Since art departments are generally not aware of which diecutting machine will be used for any given job, artists need to design graphics so that they accomodate the largest scrap areas required by their equipment.

Managing die inventory

Few high-volume printers can support their cutting needs solely with lasers and/or cutting plotters, and most have some form of diecutting solution at their disposal. Those that do employ diecutting face a common challenge in making sure that the right dies are on hand when they're needed.


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