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The Slice is Right: A Guide to Cutting-Equipment Selection

(August 2002) posted on Tue Sep 03, 2002

Learn about the types of cutting systems that are available, the capabilities each variety provides, and the production issues you need to consider before selecting a system for your operation.


By Tom Kleeman

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For many screen printers, the decision to invest in substrate-cutting equipment is inspired by the desire to add new products and attract new customers. But far too often, printers purchase cutting machinery with only their current or short-term needs in mind and don't consider how this equipment will fit in with their future products and production goals.

While simple cutting equipment may be all that some screen-printing companies ever require, other shops need equipment that is flexible enough to take on a broad range of applications and fast enough to keep pace if production demands should increase. To ensure that the right machine is selected for the applications and the production environment, it's important to understand the pros and cons of the various cutting machines available today. Finding the right piece of equipment is a key step in streamlining finishing operations and realizing the greatest efficiency--and profitability--from the cutting process.

Available cutting equipment

The term diecutting applies to systems that use a steel-rule or hard-tooled die to cut materials, but other cutting systems are also available that screen printers may consider. The various cutting machinery offered today falls into six general categories:

* clamshell diecutting presses

* flatbed diecutting presses

* rotary diecutting presses

* gap diecutting presses

* cutting plotters

* laser cutting systems

For jobs with relatively loose requirements for cut-to-print registration, clamshell diecutting presses are still quite popular. These presses are generally hand-fed, so high-tonnage presses are most desirable. The high tonnage makes it possible to cut more pieces per press cycle, which helps offset the labor time associated with manually loading and unloading substrates on the press.

Like clamshell presses, flatbed diecutting presses are also good for situations where you need high output but have relatively low requirements for cut-to-print registration. These machines, some of which support automated material-feeding systems, usually use wide-format steel-rule dies and can cut a large number of parts simultaneously. Specific job requirements (the type of material to be cut, internal features such as creases or perforations, part perimeters, etc.) determine if low- or high-tonnage flat-bed presses are required.


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