By Cassandra Balentine
Part one of two
Finishing is a core component of any print environment. For those that want to go beyond straight cuts, die cutters are an option. Modern die cutters are automated and targeted to digital print environments.
In part one of this two-part series on automated die cutting we look at the benefits of bringing die cutting services in house and discuss the trends driving the demand.
Bringing it In
There are several methods for custom cutting in print environments. Legacy die cutting equipment often becomes cost prohibitive for short runs, as does outsourcing. Therefore, modern automated die cutting solutions present an option to bring this service in house.
David McLaughlin, regional sales manager – South East and Shawn Paul, regional sales manager – South Central, Kocher + Beck, point out that when an end-user orders a print job and hears it will be printed digitally, the first thought is fast turnaround. “This is the world we live in and it does not look like that will change going forward. For digital print environment to keep up with these times they often add digital finishing to the arsenal,” they comment. The newest die cutters are designed and built to compliment a wide range of digital presses. “This often means the introduction of flexible dies that will wrap around a magnetic cylinder. Flexible dies can be installed within a few minutes versus 30-plus minutes for setting up steel rule dies in older analog sheet-fed die cutters. The decreased set up times alone on the die new die cutters will allow printers to get more jobs through production to maintain the fast-digital turnaround times,” they offer.
Chris Raney, VP of Postpress, Heidelberg USA Inc., agrees, noting that the investment in a die cutter by someone in a digital print environment opens up a multitude of possibilities for enhanced finishing. “The ability to die cut a printed piece to create an attractive shape or add complete cut outs can add tremendous value added to a piece. Of course, with a die cutter you can then go as far as creating customized folding cartons or other promotional three-dimensional structures.”
In addition, die cut products provide higher profit potential compared to square/rectangular finished products with square corners. “Basically printers with die cutting capabilities can produce a wider product offering and have less competition and higher value products,” offers Chris Van Pelt, president, Therm-O-Type.
Juan Kim, CEO, Valloy Incorporation, feels an analog cutting process loses the benefit of digital printing because of the media lost and minimum order volume necessary to compensate the cost of knife die production.
Before investing in an automated die cutter, Don Dubuque, director of marketing, Standard Finishing Systems, suggests print providers evaluate whether they can justify the investment through increased profitability, and the ability to take in new work and create new revenue streams.
Many factors are driving demand for automated die cutters in digital print environments.
“The demand is being driven by the marketing opportunities that combining the personalization of digital print and attractive die cut pieces offer. The ability to stand out from the crowd and offer a unique solution is compelling,” shares Raney.
Van Pelt sees a necessity to bring die cutting in-house to reduce cost and production delays. The desire to increase the value and profitability of each printed sheet, expand and enhance the products that can be produced in-house, and to compete with competitors who have die cutting capabilities or to gain a competitive advantage over competitors who don’t have die cutting capabilities are also driving factors.
Dubuque notes an increasing focus on short-run printing and finishing, especially as many shops begin to position themselves as full-service solution providers for their customers. “Printers are also finding that die cutters open up opportunities for higher-value products. Many jobs that are die cut are usually done on higher end substrates with lots of color, and these types of specialty finished pieces allow a printer to charge a premium which can lead to increased revenue and profitability. Combined with the advances in inkjet and digital print technologies, there is a whole new market in short run and specialty printing, packaging, and labeling.”
Russell Carter, Director of Marketing and Product Development, Martin Yale, says it is the fact that each customer is able to get the exact shape/size piece they are looking for and no longer have to select from predetermined cookie cutter pieces is driving the demand for die cutters in digital print environments. “The design options are truly limitless.”
Kevin Chen, product manager, Duplo USA, Corp., agrees, point out that die cutting equipment offers the ability to cut irregular shapes as opposed to only straight line. “Die Cutting fits into almost all digital print fields and produces all types of applications including cards, bookmarks, photos, labels, product tags, and small size packaging. No longer are shops labeled as, just printers, many shops are positioning themselves as a full-service solution provider for their customers,” he shares.
Christin Park, marketing manager, Valloy Incorporation, comments that automated die cutters help save on the consumable cost. The analogue cutters are not suitable to for small batch production due to consumable costs, especially, if the die-line design is various or complicated, the blade cost goes higher. and requires preparation time.
“The printing industry is constantly evolving, and all support equipment has done the same including die cutters,” say McLaughlin and Paul. “The newer die cutters have a relative low cost—for the ROI—but what has people talking is the ease of use, extremely fast set up times, short to medium runs, and increase throughput.”
“The two main markets for digital printing is the offset and consumer label industry,” offer McLaughlin and Paul. They explain that most offset/digital sheetfed printers cutdown sheets with a guillotine cutter or an analog die cutter. “This type of printer has been making the move to the newer die cutters to be more competitive in the digital market. The consumer label industry is a little different. When getting into roll-to-roll digital printing of pressure sensitive labels 95 percent of the time a digital finishing machine—or die cutter—is required.”
In terms of labels, Kim points out that the average label order is getting smaller and smaller. “Product differentiation and customization is an irrevocable mega trend and we need thousands times more kinds of labels than before,” he notes. “Variety of label design drives new digital way of die cutting as well as printing. For example, in Korea, after pandemic crisis like factory shut-down and isolated workers, there are more interest in digital production solution, to minimize space and manpower. Also they want to be as flexible as possible for production volume, to minimize the risk. It really means. Isn’t it? Demand of digital printing and die cutting will increase a lot in post-corona era.”
Modern die cutters offer a way for print providers to offer more high-value products. At a time where it is essential to offer a one-stop-shop to remain competitive, these solutions are worth investigating. Next week we highlight modern die cutters on the market today.
Oct2020, DPS Magazine