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A Cut Above: An Overview of Flatbed Finishing Systems

(August 2010) posted on Wed Jul 28, 2010

Looking to slice through the competition in a crowded graphics market? The finishing systems described here could give you the edge you need.


By Ben P. Rosenfield

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Flatbed cutting tables are designed to give graphics specialists the ability to finish prints on a wide range of materials quickly and accurately in a variety of ways. These systems, also referred to as digital cutting tables, are engineered to handle run lengths from one piece to mass quantities and can accommodate prints produced on screen presses, inkjet printers, and other equipment.

This overview highlights of some of the flatbed cutting tables on the market. Among the key features listed are bed size, material holddown, tooling options, and speed. Let’s examine each briefly.

Generally speaking, the larger the bed size, the larger the work area (the space in which the printed substrate is ultimately placed for finishing). Material holddown refers to the way in which materials are secured to the work area. Vacuum is commonly used to keep substrates in place, though some models call for electrostatic adhesion. Some manufacturers offer zoned beds with independent vacuum pumps to facilitate finishing several prints or different jobs at once.

Tooling comes in the form of kiss-cutters, tangential knives, oscillating knives, creasing attachments, routers, fixed blades, pen plotters, drag knives, and more. Each is engineered to accomplish certain tasks or process particular materials. Some digital cutting tables also feature optical registration systems that read fiducials (printed targets) on substrates and automatically compensate for skew and distortion. A system’s operating or cutting speed typically refers to the fastest rate at which the tool head moves while at work.

You have plenty of options from which to choose when selecting a flatbed cutting table. Be sure to consult with manufacturers about the kind of materials you intend to finish so that you select a system that has the tools and other performance specifications that meet your requirements.


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