By Melissa Donovan
Digital print providers look for ways to add new services that fit into their existing workflow. Sometimes it is as easy as adding a finishing component. Die-cutting solutions make applications such as packaging as well as greeting cards, stationary, door hangers, and mailers with unique shapes possible.
While some businesses choose to outsource die-cutting capabilities, newer solutions make it cost effective to bring the service in house. A major inhibitor to adding die cutting may be how a die is procured, however it isn’t as difficult as some think.
Demand from digital print shops makes die cutting a lucrative option. These users recognize the benefits of handling this service internally and continue to push for solutions that offer both efficiency and quality.
Whether you are a traditional print provider or digital is your sole offering, there are multiple benefits to bringing die cutting in house. Better control of the overall process from project submittal to inventory enables cost savings. A print provider is able to grow its die cutting knowledge to offer customers unique, competitive capabilities.
Influencing a job request from end to end allows a print provider to gain ownership and ensure deadlines are met. Bob Flinn, director of business development, Standard, says this results in quicker turnaround and better quality control. “In general, maintaining jobs in house allows for greater flexibility in the production process in terms of the types of jobs that can be accepted and the way they are produced. Owning this equipment also increases the opportunities for higher end work, as many jobs that are die cut are usually done on higher end substrates with high color,” he continues.
“The reason for in-house converting or valuable finishing is to keep control of the process and quality, and to speed up the service. Taking finishing applications in house increases value creation and moneymaking. It also allows a print provider to remove itself from hard price competition in the print markets,” agrees Marcus Tralau, CEO, Kama GmbH.
Specifically for die-cutting equipment, owning these solutions within the company increases a print provider’s knowledge of the subject and allows for even more creativity. “Converters can then differentiate within a very competitive environment. They add important functionality—zipper perforations or window cuts, and increase value—texturing or embossing,” suggests Ulrich Kretzschmar, product and business development manager, RotoMetrics.
With today’s trend of unique print orders expected in a fast turnaround, control is a must. “Jobs are becoming increasingly personalized and unique. The ability to offer the standard 5×7-inch greeting card in a variety of shapes with rounded edges or scalloped corners is what sets certain print providers apart from others. Adding uniqueness to a job but still being able to process and complete the job at a competitive price point is key, and in the on demand timeframe that today’s market has evolved into is crucial,” explains Kevin Corwin, product manager, Rollem International.
Inventory levels are also positively effected when a service is no longer outsourced. “When outsourcing applications such as custom-shaped brochures, direct mailers, stationary, retail packages, labels, and folded boxes, the minimum order can be around 30,000 and this results in having to store any remaining inventory, which takes up space,” says Kevin Chen, product manager, Duplo USA. Bringing die-cutting capabilities in house means quantities as small as one are cost-effectively produced.
To Die For
Print providers may be hesitant to bring die-cutting solutions in house because they incorrectly assume that purchasing and accumulating various dies will be problematic. However, procuring dies is not a limitation.
The turnaround time for ordering a die is short. According to Tralau, it takes around two to three days and admittedly this is the same amount of time needed to order paper or any other consumable.
Lance Martin, director of sales, North America, MBO America, explains that a fairly standard die pattern can be ready in as little as eight hours, while a more complicated custom die may take several days.
Vendors are also quick to point out that while the ordering and creation of a die occurs quickly, this is not something that necessarily needs to happen often because print providers typically work with/offer a few different die patterns at a time.
“90 percent of the jobs in the folding carton industry are repeat orders, so the dies are kept in stock and ready to handle in minutes,” adds Tralau.
Chen suggests that the average print shop has only four to five primary job applications. “Customers are encouraged to keep a catalog of their most popular application and run those jobs.”
Some die-cutting equipment vendors may order the dies. At Therm-O-Type Corporation, the company usually orders the first few dies for its customers. “After that first order, customers understand what is required and they normally purchase dies directly from the suppliers. Many flexible die-cutting equipment manufacturers provide customers with a die specification sheet that shows all of the die sizes, heights, blade angles, and registration holes required,” explains Chris Van Pelt, president, Therm-O-Type.
Flinn says that when ordering a die, all that is usually required is a PDF vector file and specifications of the intended substrate. “That die can then be saved and stored for repeat jobs and depending upon the material and care, can last up to one million impressions,” he recommends.
Differentiate with Ease
Print providers decide to bring die-cutting capabilities in house because of technology advancements and new equipment features. Digital print users demand products that differentiate their business from the competition.
Machines are designed to handle short runs quickly. “While the digital print portion of a job can happen on demand, converters expect a quick turnaround for die cutting too,” shares Kretzschmar.
“Print providers do not want to keep inventory and prefer to print and ship products out on demand,” says Chen.
“In digital printing plants, the requirements are typically for products to be printed and finished in small quantities each day. Using a die cutter, an operator can mount a die, recall a stored program—adjusting side and lead edge registration automatically, snap in a waste stripping assembly, and adjust the delivery in less than two minutes without tools. The ease of setup and operation, combined with high throughput speed, make a die cutter an ideal finishing and enhancement machine for almost any digital printing plant,” adds Van Pelt.
User-intuitive features and elimination of human touch points are a must as both help minimize the potential for error. This avoids an increase in make goods, unnecessary costs, and degrading the reputation of the print provider.
For example, job programming and adjustments made through user-friendly touchscreen panels are important to Duplo’s customers.
“The ability to store jobs in memory and recall them at the touch of a button is also useful when there are many jobs that return on a regular basis. This allows customers to easily request die-cut work on demand,” explains Flinn.
At MBO, its die cutters combine with an inline process for stripping and blanking, which drops the product directly to the folding/gluing table and eliminates that extra touch. “For short-run work, the return on investment is very short, the labor requirement is less, and the throughput generally goes up at the same time,” says Martin.
Die Cutting in Digital
The following finishing vendors target the digital space with die-cut offerings. Some devices employ additional functions including cutting, creasing, scoring, or slitting.
B&R Moll offers its Moll rotary die cutter. In addition to die cutting, it folds, glues, kiss cuts, and cut scores substrates up to 24 pt. thick. Common applications created include CD wallets, boxes, labels, business cards, shelf talkers, and greeting cards. Made in the U.S., it runs at speeds of up to 7,000 pages per hour. It is equipped with a top suction air feeder with four adjustable suction heads.
Duplo’s UD-300 Die Cutter is available to work with sheets at a maximum size of 14×20 inches and 400 gsm thickness. It features a production capacity of 3,000 sheets per hour and in addition to die cutting can crease, perforate, and score. At $85,000, with a stacking conveyor, it is ideal for short-run digital environments.
Kama offers a range of flatbed die cutters under the ProCut and DC lines that work with sheet sizes from A3 to B2 and thicknesses of 100 to 1,000 gsm and more. The products are rated with speeds of up to 6,000 sheets per hour. Price points range depending on application, size, and equipment. In addition to die cutting, Kama devices perform scoring and embossing. 75 percent of the machines are also equipped with hot foil stamping, hologram devices, or plastic cutting and creasing functions. They are targeted towards commercial printers, Web to print facilities, trade finishers, and folding carton producers in pharmaceutical and cosmetics.
The MBO BSR 550 Servo rotary die cutter is compatible with a maximum sheet size of 21 5/8 by 29.5 inches. It handles a thickness range of 24 lb. to 19 pt. and production speeds clock in at 12,000 cycles per hour. In addition to die cutting, it offers scoring, slitting, perforation, micro-perforation, kiss cutting, embossing, debossing, and cutting. Its target output includes cosmetics and luxury packaging, digital folding cartons, direct mail, pharma booklets, tags and labels, greeting cards, playing cards, bottle hangers, and presentation folders.
Rollem provides its Insignia die-cutter series in several configurations and sizes. The largest sheet size is 30×24 inches and the rotary process enables run speeds of up to 5,000 sheets per hour. In addition to die cutting, it can perform kiss cutting and offers an inline option with folder/gluer unit for a complete production line. The devices are designed to offer printers the means to finish hundreds of applications or enter new markets including labels, folded cartons, and packaging.
RotoMetrics offers a dedicated flexible die for digital pressure-sensitive label applications referred to as AccuSmart and for folding carton converting AccuPrime. All of its flexible dies can be configured with cutting, creasing, and scoring blades; perforations; window cut outs; texturing/embossing; and slitting for kiss-cut, multi-level, or metal-to-metal cutting. The products support press widths of 13 inches for pressure-sensitive labels and up to 30 inches for folding cartons. RotoMetrics manufactures over 1,100 flexible dies and its dedicated manufacturing services allow same or next day shipment when required.
The Standard Horizon line of rotary die cutters contains two models—RD-4055 and RD-3346. Both can die cut, kiss cut, crease, perforate, slit, hole punch, and round corner. The RD-4055 produces sheet sizes up to 15.74×21.65 inches at .019-inch thicknesses at up to 6,000 cycles per hour. The RD-3346 runs at 3,000 cycles per hour on sheet sizes up to 13×18 inches at .013 inches thick. Both systems feature easy change over and simple operation with intuitive touchscreen controls and a vacuum belt feed with a powerful air separation for consistent feeding performance.
Therm-O-Type’s RDC-Flex rotary die cutter features a maximum sheet size of 14.33×20.5 inches and a production capacity of up to 4,000 sheets per hour. At $110,000 the rotary die cutter can score, perforate, and kiss cut in addition to die cutting. Target environments include digital and/or offset, sheet-fed printing plants producing packaging, decorative die-cut flat and/or folded products, kiss-cut labels, tags, door hangers, table tents, playing cards, and CD/DVD cases.
Expand to Grow
Die-cutting solutions designed for digital print providers offer the ability to achieve success within a short-run environment. Users of these technologies require products that can satisfy on demand requests efficiently and cost effectively. Vendors comply with die cutters equipped to handle limited runs, which alleviate inventory issues while enabling print providers to differentiate themselves from the competition. dps
Mar2016, DPS Magazine