Whichever way you slice it, automated flatbed cutting tables are at the leading edge of finishing technology. With a range of companies all taking a stab at being the sharpest knife in the drawer, it can be hard to carve through the hype to make the right choice — so Jake Nelson asked manufacturers some incisive questions to shave away the confusion.
Automated flatbed cutters are getting smarter by the year, and manufacturers such as Zünd, Esko, Aristo, Summa, and Océ are constantly finetuning and updating their products to keep up with the demands of customers and their clients. Each has its own selling point to offer the market, meaning printers looking for a flatbed finishing solution have plenty of options on the table.
Zünd cost savings
Flexibility can be a key concern when looking for a new cutting table – it is no good investing in expensive new kit if, six to 12 months down the line, it cannot do the jobs you need it to. Zünd cutters, supplied in Australia by Starleaton, help overcome this problem with a modular design which means you can upgrade your cutter without breaking the bank, according to Ian Cleary, industrial sales manager at Starleaton.
“It is not a new table or a new model – it is an upgrade path for customers, new or current, that allows them to be assured that their investment is protected,” says Cleary. “Tomorrow, when someone comes in with a weird and wonderful application that hasn’t been addressed before, they don’t have to invest in a new table – they can buy a new module knowing Zünd is behind them.”
One new development in Zünd cutters is the addition of the overcut camera, which aids in registration of unusual cutting projects, says Cleary.
“When you’re cutting a job on any machine you need a registration point, and when you have more speciality jobs or special substrates such as fabrics or expensive media, you need more dots to register and get an accurate cut. “The camera sits above the bed and drags all that data in a single snapshot, as opposed to having a camera on the cutting head which needs to register every single dot.
This essentially halves your cutting and processing time,” he says. The Swiss manufacturer has also released a new version of its Cut Centre software with data analytics, which Cleary says will boost efficiency and flexibility for users. “You can log into it remotely via any web browser, which allows you not only to monitor the current jobs and arrange your workflow on a day to day basis, but view analytics such as how many boards are being cut with one blade, is it the right blade, am I keeping enough stock on the floor to make sure that there’s no downtime on the machines,” he says.
End-to-end with Esko
Graphic arts solutions provider Esko offers more than just its range of Kongsberg cutting tables: it creates end-to-end solutions with advanced automation, says Scott Thompson, regional marketing and channels manager. “With the depth and breadth of the Esko software and hardware solutions, Esko is positioned as the only provider of a complete end-toend solution for all your design and finishing requirements,” he says. The manufacturer’s robotic material handler couples with its Kongsberg cutting tables to load and unload directly from the pallet, cutting out the need for intermediate loading and unloading, says Thompson. “With the introduction of the robotic material handler, the Kongsberg platform now offers a highly productive pallet to pallet automated digital finishing solution,” he says. “To gain maximum benefit from this solution we offer today a complete production cell which includes the Kongsberg C66R platform, the robot arm/gripper, and a sophisticated safety system.”
Each step can be run through Esko’s Automation Engine software suite from start to finish, which Thompson says makes for a turnkey solution. “Starting at project initiation, you can use the Esko workflows to move through steps such as pre-press, colour, structure, task approval, and layout, to then drive efficient and automated digital finishing on the Kongsberg tables.”
Neopost distributes Aristo’s TL and GL series of flatbed cutting tables in Australia, as well as the LFC series, which are designed for cutting largeformat rolls and sheets. The manufacturer will soon release new roll feeders, including heavy-duty unwinding systems for finishing of oversized rolls of media, and new software integration tools featuring QR code scanning using an inbuilt camera system. These tools will help boost output, says Morgan Quinn, national sales manager for wide format at Neopost. “This enables cut jobs to be automatically selected based on the QR code, which improves the overall workflow, can reduce potential operation mistakes, and helps speed up overall production,” says Quinn. Neopost will exhibit these new developments, as well as a laser option for textiles, at Fespa in May.
Summa tailor made
Pozitive last year became the Australian distributor for Summa’s F-Series of flatbed cutters, which are available in sizes from 160cm x 120cm up to 320cm x 320cm, and offer features such as a multifunctional head with space for up to three modules, automatic barcode recognition, and automated depth control. The company has released two new bed sizes over the past 12 months: one 3.2x3.2 metre machine and one 3.2 x 2 metre, which are available now, and will be officially launched at Fespa in May. Summa bills the F-Series as “the most versatile flatbed cutting system ever”, suitable for applications including signage, displays, samples, and packaging. One high-tech highlight is its axis control software, which uses a wireless controller to enable operators to make changes to basic settings without having to stay Wide Format: Finishing 55 in one place.
Cutting performance has also been improved through a feature called F-Performance, which speeds up machine movement between cuts. According to Alfred David from national equipment sales at Pozitive, the F-Series is tailored for the sign and display market. “This makes it more user-friendly for operators looking for a print and cut workflow, as the Summa offers features such as auto depth control as standard,” said David. “It’s a seamless print to cut workflow, and simple to use. That’s the key.”
Océ can see your print
Though the Océ range of ProCut tables are essentially rebadged Zünd devices, the manufacturer has added its own enhancements which set them apart from the rest: mainly its proprietary ProCut Vision and ProCut Prepress software, and its Auto Pilot camera system, says Garry Muratore, product manager for graphic arts at Océ. “We make production enhancements using some pretty intuitive software. In the last twelve months, we’ve automated the process by putting an integrated camera on the system, called AutoPilot.
An operator can drop a job on the bed and the camera will pick it up and read the fiduciaries, and automatically set the correct tools and job parameters with no further intervention,” he says. “We hang our hat on the integration with workflow and the automation via the AutoPilot camera system.” For existing Océ Arizona and Colorado users, ProCut is a logical choice, says Muratore, as it can work natively with the wide-format printers. “The ProCut Vision and ProCut Prepress software also enables seamless integration with the Océ Arizona and Colorado series – so when you set up a job for the printer, you’re also setting it up for the cutter. It’s basically press print and the automation commences,” he says. Océ is also teaming up with Dutch company Rolan Robotics to introduce industrial robots into the Arizona and ProCut ecosystem, and is working to make the high-volume Arizona 6170 compliant with end-toend systems that include ProCut. With so many different cutting tables on the market, printers are spoilt for choice when it comes to finding a finishing solution that meets their needs – but finding the right one to cleave to can make all the difference.