By Olivia Cahoon
Finishing is an essential aspect of any print environment including commercial print providers, ecommerce print retailers, and trade printers. Die, laser, and flatbed cutting technologies target digital printing environments for a range of applications. These devices offer finishing functions including die cutting, slitting, scoring, and perforations that replace separate, traditional devices. Depending on application and volume, cutting needs vary.
Here we profile four print providers that consider cutting an essential element of their production workflows. The first is a retailer that creates promotional items for its clothing brand. The second is a full-service print provider. The third is a well-known eCommerce provider that was able to downsize its equipment line up with strategic investments in digital printing and finishing technologies. Finally, we profile one wholesale finishing provider. Each business benefits from the ability to produce detailed cuts, on demand.
Above: AccuLink operates a range of printing and finishing devices out of its 78,000 square foot facility in addition to a 12,000 square foot warehouse.
Shop Dress Up
A variety of businesses outsource print work. For example, clothing brands and retailers require printed tags, coupons, and in-store signage. As digital printing and finishing equipment target shorter production runs, businesses consider bringing the capabilities in house.
Dress Up, established in August 2009 in Dahlonega, GA is a clothing business that started with the intention to offer new, affordable, and on trend styles. Over the last eight years, the retailer expanded into 20 locations in four states with a large online presence. Today, the average retail location is 2,500 square feet.
To gain control of its printing needs, Dress Up invested in digital printing and finishing technology. “We were outsourcing too many print jobs and wanted to have control over the process and turnover time,” says Monica Juarez, graphic designer, Dress Up.
The applications the retailer produces in house include tags for jewelry and clothing, coupons, business cards, in-store signage needs, flyers, and packaging cards.
The company prints these support materials for its brand with Ricoh Pro L4160 wide format printer and Ricoh Pro C7100 digital printing presses. The Ricoh Pro C7100 includes a fifth station for clear or white toner applications.
A Duplo UD-300 die cutter is used to perform multiple cuts, slits, slit-scores, kiss cuts, perforations, and window punches for single and multiple-up pieces on paper stock up to 14×20 inches at 3,000 sheets per hour.
These tools provide flexibility and helps them reduce waste from overproducing previous outsourced print jobs. “We are also able to turnaround marketing needs faster with everything in house,” explains Juarez.
Dress Up prints between 40,000 and 50,000 tags per month and roughly 6,000 packaging cards per month. All designs and customized features are created in house with the company’s graphic team using Adobe Creative Suite.
At first, Juarez says it was a challenge to produce tags and labels since the company offers such a variety. “Our cutter helps us stay organized and in control,” she shares.
Adapting to Digital
As print moves toward shorter runs, traditional print providers adapt to remain competitive. This often means investing in solutions for commercial output.
Founded in 1998, JP Graphics, Inc. started with two employees in a 2,400 square foot workspace in Santa Clara, CA. The company originally offered B&W and two-color offset printing capabilities. A majority of its output included user guides and stationary projects.
The company utilizes both digital and offset printing technologies as well as bindery, die cutting, and in-house gluing capabilities. Operating out of a 36,000 square foot facility with 45 employees, it offers full-service, professional printing including marketing collateral, manuals, stationary, forms, and packaging. Specialty services include foil, Esko ArtiosCAD box design, stamping and embossing, lamination, large format, letter press, promotional items, rubber stamps, and t-shirts.
The print provider uses a range of digital printing equipment, including the Canon imageRUNNER Advance C5035 digital color press, HP Indigo 10000 digital color press, MGI DP8700 XL press, Xerox 700i digital color press, and Xerox 1000i with metallic silver, gold, and spot clear effects.
For finishing, JP Graphics started cutting with a Heidelberg Windmill for door hangers and rounded corner business cards. “Shortly after I purchased a Heidelberg Cylinder die cutter with a bent cylinder, my outsourcing partner was bought out by another company and I was forced to jump into die cutting and gluing by myself,” reveals Joan Escover, president, JP Graphics.
The company fixed the cylinder and purchased a folder and gluer followed by a Moll Brothers Marathon Regal Pocket Folder Gluer with Versa Fold and Auto Bottom. Other finishing equipment includes a C.P. Bourg Perfect Binder, GBC Automatic Punch & Wire-O, Standard Horizon CRF-362 creaser/folder, 35-inch MBO folder, and six-pocket Muller Martini Stitcher.
The company also operates a Zünd S3 M-800 digital multifunction cutter, which includes a robotic arm and feeder.
JP Graphics often pairs the Zünd S3 M-800 with its HP Indigo 10000. “I purchased the Zünd digital cutter when I got the HP Indigo 10000, which expanded my abilities greatly to digitally cut prototypes, magnets, and kiss-cut labels,” shares Escover.
The size and intricacy of dies determines if the company creates a die or digitally cuts on the Zünd. “It’s about 100 sheets to break even. It’s really a math equation involving quantity and turn time that determines what we do. But, it’s nice because we are like a funnel, and I can put it to whatever machinery will get it done.”
Aside from die cutting, embellishments are another offering. For digital foil and laminations the company invested in a Nobelus Sleeker. Combined with the Zünd, Escover says production is “truly amazing” with total customization achievable in hours. “The Zünd cutter is a true differentiating factor for us. It enables us to be quicker without dies, and it’s precise so we can prototype, check our work, then upsell our capabilities.”
Along with its multifunction cutter, JP Graphics uses an MBM Aerocut. The device is programmed to cut cards, cut and score folding cards, or score covers and similar projects.
Its software lineup includes Adobe Creative Suite, Kodak Preps Imposition, Kodak Prinergy Promo Workflow, and Quark XPress 7.2.
New technologies are often adopted by businesses to replace a variety of separate, traditional finishing devices. One print provider was able to downsize its finishing equipment by investing in digital technology.
Founded in 2005 in a small garage with a handful of employees, Zazzle originally offered one-up custom t-shirts and large format prints. Today, the company is comprised of hundreds of employees across multiple locations, including its headquarters in Redwood City, CA. Its marketplace includes a range of custom products from invitations and smartphone cases to pillows and skateboards.
Initially, the company’s finishing department operated with traditional die cutting equipment. In 2016, it expanded and modernized its cutting capabilities by acquiring a range of Horizon finishing solutions including the Horizon RD-4055 die cutter from Standard Finishing Systems. It includes the ability to die cut, crease, perforate, slit, hole punch, and round corner in one process. The Horizon RD-4055 also handles sheets up to 15.74×21.65 inches with a maximum thickness of 400 gsm. They use a Horizon SmartStacker slitting solution for long-run, high-volume product lines.
“Rotary die cutting technology enabled us to yield a range of shapes, which include any number of slits, kiss cut, scoring, and perforation combinations,” says Alfredo Calvillo, research and development, Zazzle. With this flexibility, the company remains at the forefront in a competitive market.
Today, roughly 30 to 40 percent of the company’s digital press output is completed on the Horizon RD-4055. According to Calvillo, its installation has a positive impact on workflow by consolidating multiple finishing lines to a singular process. “In addition to efficiency gains, this technology has unlocked new potential product opportunities in Zazzle’s marketplace.”
The Horizon RD-4055 is primarily used to produce business cards, greeting cards, and invitations across various shapes, sizes, and media.
While every cutting technology has its advantages and disadvantages, Calvillo believes the primary benefits of die cutting include throughput speeds, substrate flexibility, quality, and the potential for various simultaneous finishing passes like crease and cut.
Today, Zazzle’s workflow has improved, in part due to its investment in digital die cutting. “The implementation of this technology was undoubtedly a complement to our workflow and enhanced our overall finishing capabilities,” offers Calvillo.
He sees a progression of rotary die-cutting technology. Specifically, he says there has been a clear effort in improving accuracy through implementation of registration marks and sensors.
Trade printers offer printed and finished materials to a variety of print-related industries at wholesale rates. These businesses often invest in a suite of equipment to handle everything from business cards to invitations and golf towels.
Established in 1980, AccuLink began as a retail copy shop with two employees in Greenville, NC. The company offered copy services, laminating, and comb binding from its 600 square foot workspace.
Today, AccuLink is a trade printer for print brokers and distributors as well as a finishing partner for business to consumer web portals selling cards, invitations, and photo gifts. Its services include digital printing, dye-sublimation, spot and UV flood coating, index tab laminating and die cutting, perfect binding, coil and wire-o binding, and foil stamping. With 90 employees, AccuLink operates in a 78,000 square foot facility in addition to a 12,000 square foot warehouse.
In 1985, the company invested in digital printing with a Sharp color copier. As digital technology advanced, AccuLink quickly realized the need for advanced finishing capabilities. “We added the HP Indigo 10000 and HP Indigo 12000 and the ability to finish B2-plus sheet sizes became much more important,” shares Tom O’Brien, president, AccuLink.
In 2017, the company purchased the Standard Horizon RD-4055 for die cutting capabilities, targeting run lengths from less than 100 to several thousand. With the Horizon RD-4055 rotary cylinder and flexible dies, O’Brien says setup and changeover are only a matter of minutes. “The separator is invaluable because we can die cut without nicks and it strips the matrix away from the finished product and diverts it into a collection bin—saving hours in breaking finished product out of the matrix by hand.”
The device allows AccuLink to die cut several hundred to over a thousand business card orders per day with seven different available shapes and sizes. “The Horizon RD-4055 die cutters have been a great fit in our plant,” offers O’Brien. In addition to the Horizon RD-4055, the company operates several Standard Horizon devices including the CRF-362 Creaser/Folder, collators, folding machines, perfect binding and book trimming equipment, and SmartStacker.
AccuLink’s success with the Horizon RD-4055 led the company to invest in an additional device, installed in May 2018. This new investment will help it move work off of its two 45-inch Polar guillotines and onto the SmartStacker and RD-4055 devices for improved workflow.
In addition to its Standard Horizon finishing equipment, AccuLink uses the Duplo 476 Slitter/Cutter/Creaser, Morgana Creaser, and Therm-O-Type SFX. Digital printers include two HP Indigo 7900 presses, an HP Indigo 12000, four Kodak Digimaster B&W presses, and several Xanté envelope presses.
AccuLink operates EPMS MIS software Enterprise 32, the HP SmartStream digital front end, and Pageflex storefront workflow. “We also architected, engineered, built, and support our own proprietary workflow for our print and dye-sublimation contract fulfillment work,” shares O’Brien.
Finishing functions like trimming, cutting, and die cutting are commonplace in nearly every print operation. The latest finishing tools on the market enable these businesses to take advantage of growing short runs and meet demands for faster turnarounds. dps
Jul2018, DPS Magazine