Innovative developments in print and cut technologies have given sign shops a number of options they look at when it comes to purchasing new equipment. These options include all-in-one printer/cutter units, roll printer to vinyl cutters as well as flatbed printer to flatbed cutter solutions.
Adding the right printer and cutter system to your workflow requires a bit of research plus a thorough analysis of your production processes, from the materials being used to the types of applications you are currently producing as well as other new jobs that you would like to take on in the future.
Advances in Equipment
“Print and cut has been a major technique in most sign shops for years. Advances in media and inks has resulted in the horizontal expansion of this method from just traditional vinyl to more unique applications such as packaging and foil decals,” says Mark Rugen, director of product marketing and education at Mutoh America, Phoenix. “As printer technologies advance along with media and inks, no doubt print and cut applications will continue to rise in markets other than signage. In addition, the common trend in customizing and personalizing just about anything will result in further advancements in print and cut far into the future,” he says.
Rugen points out that printers and cutters are changing the digital finishing workflow. “Short-runs are the key phrase or term here. Digital finishing must accommodate the finishing of smaller runs of product. That being said, some printers, such as UV-LED, may actually have finishing inks, varnish that is used to coat the final product or parts of it. On the other hand, more traditional finishing such as laminates may have to be smaller in width since many print and cut applications are smaller in size as well. Finally, the cost of finishing is important and is influencing the development of simpler ways to finish a print and cut product.”
Daniel Valade, Roland DGA’s product manager of Digital Print, Irvine, California, notes that inkjets with integrated print and cut capabilities are ideal for print service providers (PSPs) looking to grow their businesses, and for those just entering the industry who want to be able to do as many applications as possible with a single device. “While the term ‘one-stop shop’ has been around for a long time, it continues to fuel the demand for wide-format printer/cutters. For applications like Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) for apparel, and other types of print jobs that don’t require lamination prior to contour cutting, being able to send a job and walk away from the device while both printing and contour cutting are performed is a big advantage,” he says. “Because there’s no need to remove the media that has been printed on and load it into a separate device, advanced integrated printer/cutters, such as those within Roland’s TrueVIS series, allow for increased productivity and profitability. Because they allow for unattended printing—and are capable of printing and contour cutting even the most complex designs in one seamless workflow—these devices enable smaller PSPs to maximize efficiency and output while keeping labor costs down,” he explains.
Valade adds that the industry is always asking for production level print speeds without sacrificing image quality, as well as the fastest outgassing times possible.
Keeping Up With Demand
Michael Maxwell, senior manager at Mimaki USA in Suwanee, Georgia, reports that like many businesses today, print service providers are having some difficulty keeping up with the ever-demanding needs of the consumer. “Delivery times have shrunk significantly, and business owners are forced to multitask and ask their employees to do the same. All-in-one devices offer a functional workflow that reduces the stress of manual interaction and also reduces the stress caused by human error when moving to another device.”
More Customized Products
Gary Buck, vice president, sales and marketing for Summa America, Beverly, Massachusetts, says one of the trends he is seeing is more of a demand for creative and custom designs rather than mass production. “Personalization creates a sense of uniqueness. Although mass production will still exist, we see a clear trend toward creative and custom designs; that will make customers stand out from the crowd and be ahead of competition with solutions tailored to their specific needs. In line with that, we also see a tendency towards personalization and the need to create a sense of uniqueness. More and more people want to identify themselves with the product; they want to feel extraordinary, express their personality, so sign makers need to respond to this trend with more experimental, out-of-the-box, emotional and playful designs.”
He states that dedicated flatbed cutting systems with integrated print and cut workflow instead of an all-in-one printer/flatbed cutter provide a major advantage of precision and efficiency you get from a dedicated flatbed system. “While the printer is working on a job, the cutter can finish another job, ensuring continuous workflows. Advantages of the flatbed cutters in general are their versatility, enabling users to process a wide range of materials, always with the same high accuracy; modular tooling system and better print and cut workflow integration.”
Buck says that the need for sustainable workflow solutions is another trend in the sign and digital industries. “A company who takes itself seriously can no longer turn a blind eye and has to find ways to utilizing printing and cutting technologies that automate the entire process and find the most efficient method to print, cut and finish with a minimum of waste. So, optimizing entire workflows and process to minimize waste is becoming more and more important.”
He adds that automated systems are key. “Smart functionalities are requested to ensure higher accuracy and boost efficiency. Also, strong software is needed to control the machine and to make optimum use of it.”
Sharp Solutions from Summa
Buck explains that dedicated flatbed cutters are suited also for mass production for higher precision and higher productivity.
He says that roll cutters are ideal for stickers, paper cutting and patterns for fashion drawings.
Buck suggests that if a shop is looking for versatility, a flatbed cutter processes almost any material you can think of. “The F1612 is a great entry-level cutter with a small footprint, yet it has the versatility of the larger flatbed cutters in the series. This is a great starting point to expand business to new areas. For roll cutters, the S2 with tangential technology is at the top of the game.”
Buck adds that the company has also recently introduced their new large-format laser cutter, the L3214.
Valade points out that integrated printer/cutters have become the standard, and over time, users have figured out ways to shorten their post-production processes with them. “The strongest example of this has been how the perforated cut functionality, in addition to normal contour cut, has made the digital printing process simpler and easier. Instead of users having to rely on ‘tricks of the trade’ to accomplish this type of streamlined workflow, Roland makes it all possible by incorporating a simple one-button addition in its VersaWorks 6 RIP software. This allows users to have both precision contour cutting and a perforated cut in one quick and easy workflow. An example would be a long run of print and cut decals with contour cuts as well as perforated boundaries. With a state-of-the-art printer/cutter like a Roland TrueVIS VG2 or SG2, the decals are all ready to be popped out for individual sale. There’s no need to move the job over to an X/Y trimmer in post-production—the job is already done.”
运用到实践中，一种既需要轮廓切割也需要穿孔切割的贴花纸，如果通过传统工艺制作，就要在印刷后将其移到X/Y修边器上进行后期制作。但放在Roland True VG2或SG2这样一体化的印刷与喷切设备上，这些贴花纸就可以随时生产并出售。
He says that integrated printer/cutter units offer a number of advantages such as being able to complete jobs that require both printing and cutting—without having to transfer the job from the printer to a separate cutting device—frees up time and helps maximize productivity. “Operators can design, prep and print other jobs while the integrated printer runs unattended. Jobs can be sent at night, when the shop is closed, and when the shop opens in the morning, an entire roll of print and cut decals (or other applications) can be ready to go.”
Potential Growth Areas
Valade says that with such a wide variety of applications available, and so many media types designed specifically for eco-solvent print-and-cut jobs, the biggest area for growth is to tap into any application the PSP is not currently offering. “Many smaller shops will turn down tougher applications like vehicle wraps due to the complexity of applying the material. The downside to that is the customer will go to a shop that does offer vehicle wraps, and the original PSP ends up losing business to a shop that’s able to accommodate all of the customer-requested applications. Think of a business that has a fleet of vehicles that need branding—the opportunity to produce the decals, posters, and apparel that can all go along with that same request can be lost. To help businesses add vehicle wraps to their product offerings, Roland offers Born-to-Wrap workshops throughout the year in many locations across the country. These workshops take the mystery out of design, printing, application, and even job costing, to give attendees the confidence to bring this application in house.”
Vehicle wrap produced on the Roland TrueVIS VG2-640 printer-cutter. Image courtesy of Roland DGA.Roland True VIS VG2设备制作出的汽车包装。
Software is Key
Maxwell points out that each print-and-cut workflow essentially offers the same result. “Where the benefits lie is the interoperability of these units through software of partnerships. Enhanced workflow features such as Mimaki ID Cut reduce potential alignment or loading errors when moving from a print-only device to a cut-only device.”
从本质上来说，印刷与切割的工作，不论用什么机器做，都会产出相同的结果。但是对于一体化设备来说，每个单元都可以通过软件增强协调能力，比如Mimaki ID Cut，就减少了从印刷设备转移至喷切设备时出现的对齐或加载错误。
Maxwell says that print-and-cut functionality is almost a necessity in any print facility due to increased customization demands from consumers. Items including decals, labels, POP, POS, and custom signage are common and each one is unique, which creates a challenge for PSPs.
Maxwell adds that Mimaki offers a highly integrated and seamless print-and-cut workflow solution. “The company’s popular CJV and UCJV Series offer advanced unattended operation for roll-to- roll goods and are a great addition to any traditional print shop.
Recently, the company has added laser and rotary engraving/cutting functionality to suit certain application needs. This opens up a print-then-cut workflow to customers using Mimaki JFX and UJF Series products, giving them the ability to easily expand their offerings.”
Plenty of Options Available
Rugen says that due to the rising and continuous popularity of print and cut applications, there is no “right” combination of printer and cutter equipment. “Some choose to combine both printer and cutter into one device, some separate them. Some devices are roll-to-roll, others flatbed. The choice of equipment and methods depends much on the applications anticipated and maybe even the experience of the operators. As an example, if print and cut is to be used for the packaging market, a flatbed cutter may be needed. In addition, combination printer/cutter equipment is by far easier for the newer user but has two possible drawbacks. One, if the media must be finished with a laminate it will have to be removed from the printer/cutter anyway and reinserted for cutting, and two, if there is a maintenance issue with either printer or cutter, the entire device may be inoperable. A separate printer and cutter combination is more versatile in most cases,” he says.