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NOVEMBER 2012




Global Dealer Summit Presentations



Digital Cutting Systems: A Strong Opportunity In Wide-Format Digital


by Dan Marx, SGIA


The recent rise in the use of flatbed inkjet printers within wide-format graphics markets has brought about a resultant rise in the acquisition (and use) of certain automated finishing technologies. Of particular interest are cutting systems - using either blades, routers or lasers to both streamline and improve the quality of cutting activities, and to expand toward new opportunities by offering shapes that fall outside the norm. By adopting these technologies - which are quickly becoming a necessity for many serving wide-format digital markets - companies have successfully differentiated themselves, even in crowded product/market areas.

The basic reasons many companies begin to use automated cutting systems are quality and productivity. Cutting printed pieces by hand is a time-consuming and difficult task, where the expected results are not always assured. Cutting systems often beat these human efforts hands-down by delivering expected results even when working on thick plastics and other materials. Simply put, quality goes up and spoilage goes down - resulting in a measurable bottom-line benefit. Cutting systems also increase productivity: finishing is no longer the slowest step in the process chain. Further, automated cutting can offer benefits in reduced labor costs. In fact, in some wide-format shops with high-end systems - the printer and cutter can both be loaded and operated by the same person. Again, the bottom line benefits.

Innovative imaging companies have also used their cutting systems to expand outside of the traditional squares and rectangles that have been "par for the course" in graphics for many years. In so doing, they are able to offer novel and eye-catching graphics that serve to increase visibility of the graphic, add fun and excitement to the finished piece, and draw a higher price point than traditionally-shaped graphics. Further, some companies have used cutting systems to create end products as exotic as complex, interlocking displays; short-run packaging and labeling; prototyping; and close-tolerance cutting for digitally printed textiles.

At the recent SGIA Expo in Las Vegas, a wide range of cutting systems, some integrated into printing devices and others as stand alone units that can be incorporated into a process workflow, was on display. With many choices on the market today, it is critical that printing companies understand how to make the best choice for their facility. Three critical considerations are size (the cutter should be large or wide enough to match or exceed the width or flatbed dimensions of their printer), material capability (the cutter should be able to handle all of the media materials used in the wide-format operation), and speed (the cutter should be able to operate fast enough to keep up with the company's wide-format printer, unless highly-complex shapes are specified). By carefully balancing these consideration points, companies will be able to narrow their search. DC

Dan Marx is the Vice President, Markets and Technologies for the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association. In his more than two decades at SGIA, he has served as an enthusiastic evangelist for wide-format digital technologies and associated market opportunities. dan@sgia.org
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