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Now cut that out!

Jun 1, 2005 12:00 AM

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Cutters are the Jude Law of most printers’ postpress operations: They’re extremely busy and essential to advancing the action. Like the ubiquitous actor, many cutters also boast a versatile supporting cast—modular material handling equipment that eliminates operator fatigue as well as process bottlenecks.

How much automation does a cutter need? "It really depends on many factors, such as type of work, job size, how many cuts per lift, percentage of trimouts, budget, employee physical condition as well as management style and knowledge of cutting equipment and processes," says Rob Kuehl, Heidelberg’s (Kennesaw, GA) director of postpress packaging and cutting systems. "Even the owner’s philosophical approach is a key factor."

Bret Stow, secretary/treasurer and part owner, Perfecta USA (Indianapolis), says labor costs as well as operator ergonomic issues such as back injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome also influence automation decisions. "Companies are looking for more automation," he says. "We’ve put in machines where one system has replaced three guillotines."

Nonetheless, Tyrone Adams, national product manager, finishing systems for MAN Roland (Westmont, IL), says although cutter automation can be a cost-efficient investment, it remains a tough sell. "The bindery is one place where most commercial printers aren’t quick to spend money," he says. "They will buy a jogger, for example, and put it next to a cutter, but they might not buy an unloader."

According to Adams, it’s often the case that one cutting system could outperform three standalone cutters, "But the printer would rather have the cutting capacity as opposed to the automation."

Jeff Marr, vice president of sales, Colter & Peterson (Paramus, NJ), stresses versatility. "We give printers what they need and can use," he says. "If you’re doing the same job day in and day out, it’s a lot easier to automate. A lot of people are doing a variety of things, so [they need] systems that are flexible and economical. It’s really about fitting the volume, type and variety of work."

We asked Kuehl, Stow, Adams and Marr to detail their companies’ cutter highlights. Where possible, we’ve included PRINT 05 news—see for more show information.

From quick printers to Quad/Graphics
Heidelberg distributes the Polar line of cutters which are offered in modular configurations for quick printers, midrange and high-volume commercial and publication printers.

Kuehl says commercial printers ranging from $1 million to $5 million in annual revenue typically opt for entry-level automation, such as stacklifts, conveyor tables and joggers. Printers in the $5 million and larger range generally will consider a complete system such as the Polar System 2 (recently renamed L-R-137-T) or System 6 (L-R-P-137-T). High-volume installations require an interconnected system of machines, such as Quad/Graphic’s Martinsburg, WV, plant. Its fully automated postpress line can cut, load and unload tens of millions of finished sheets around the clock—without human assistance. (See "Look Ma, no hands," Oct. 2003.)

Because all Polar equipment is modular, a system can expand to suit a buyer’s needs. "The cutter is always the heart of the system," notes Kuehl. "Adding modular paper handling equipment around it allows for more efficient flow of paper to and from the knife. We find that some printers will first add to the loading end with stacklifts, joggers, counting scales, or a loading palletizer such as the Transomat B. Later, they’ll add on to the unloading end with palletizers such as the Transomat E, banders, tables, stacklifts."

Kuehl says the vendor is doing a brisk business in material handling equipment. "We are selling more cutter accessories especially to commercial printers doing a considerable amount of cutting," he says. "Cutting often is a major bottleneck that can be reduced to virtually zero just by adding modular units such as conveyor tables, Autotrim for automatic waste removal, stacklifts, joggers, scales, Transomats, banders, pile turners, etc. When the knife is cutting, the cutting system produces and makes money!"

Generation X
Polar can claim several cutter-related computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) bragging rights. Its Compucut software, which supports the off-line digital programming and central control of cutter information, won a GATF Intertech award in 1999. Cutting jobs can be programmed and executed simultaneously according to parameters derived from the prepress department. With 500 installations worldwide (150 in the United States), Compucut reportedly is the most popular CIP3/CIP4 application for cutting systems. (See "How Daily Printing got the binding edge," Sept. 2004.)

Polar cutters are offered in two versions: "X," a base model in all cutting lengths, and "XT," a high-performance version. These new cutters feature an optimized machine frame for greater stabilization; improved operating height and centralized operator panel; 15-inch color display for the XT touchscreen models; a uniform knife change feature, Optiknife, said to enable fine knife adjustment from the front; greater cutting capability, even for tougher materials more suited to industrial printing applications; and more safety features. Longer front tables for the Polar 78 and 92 models also offer more working space in front of the knife.

New Ethernet networking software, P-Net, operates as an interface between prepress, order preparation and production. It organizes and manages the data flow between all Polar components.

What to look for in September
According to Kuehl, cutter-related highlights on display at Print 05 will include P-Net as well as:

  • The new BT bander inline to the Polar system 115XT Autotrim cutter.
  • Autojog, an automated jogging system.
  • Polar Automated Cutting for Efficiency (PACE) cutting system for four-side trim and bust cut that eliminates manual cutting/jogging.
  • Polar Pile Turner PW-4ABV and the Polar cutting system L-R-P-137-T (formerly known as System 6) with automated rear loading via gripper systems.
  • Polar 66 (26-inch) and Polar 78X (30-inch) standalone cutters for quick printers.
Home of the 165-inch cutter
Colter & Peterson covers a wide swath of cutter territory. New machines range in size from 30 to 165 inches; used and reconditioned cutters go from 20 to 112 inches. "We sell the widest range of any [vendor]," declares Jeff Marr, vice president of sales. "Nobody else has a 165-inch cutter."

In addition to cutters for commercial printers, Colter & Peterson also offers models for screen and grand-format digital printers. "A lot of people doing extremely large format work aren’t doing big quantities," explains Marr. "Their whole job might be one inch high. It’s a different market, so we offer a range of machines from heavy-duty double gear box machines to a lighter weight, fully hydraulic machine."

"We also sell used machines, because not everybody needs a new one," says Marr. Unlike prepress technology, cutters enjoy a slow obsolescence rate. "A 20- or 50-year-old paper cutter is going to perform the same basic function as a new machine," claims Marr. "Maybe [the new ones] are a little more automated, maybe they’re a little faster, but it’s not revolutionary. It’s not like using a typewriter rather than a computer."

Colter & Peterson can automate older cutters via Microcut, which it acquired from Graphic Machinery and Systems in 2003. In 2003, the company also acquired the assets of Dexter Lawson, a company best known for its drills and large cutters. Colter & Peterson has since sold the drill business, but it offers service and support for Dexter Lawson cutters.

At Drupa 2004, the company showcased its Baumann BASA automatic jogging system connected to Wohlenberg pro-tec paper cutters. The Baumann BASA system reportedly is the first commercially available system that automatically jogs material prior to cutting.

Automatic jogging
MAN Roland (Westmont, IL) offers CIP3/CIP4 compatible Wolhenberg guillotine cutters. "We have a product range from a 30-inch to a 73-inch cutter," says Adams. "They come equipped with standard safety features such as an infrared light barrier and two-hand cut options as well as central lubrication, knife-change from the front, a USB interface, touchscreen controls and unlimited storage capacity."

For moving paper to and from the cutter, MAN Roland offers a full range of Baumann peripherals including powerhoists, joggers, unloaders, gripper systems, power turners and air tables. Adams says most customers opt for standard systems that might include a power hoist, jogger and unloader.

At PRINT, MAN Roland also plans to work with Colter & Peterson to showcase the Baumann BASA jogger. "It’s fully automatic," explains Adams. "It’s pretty amazing to be able to take a whole pile of printed material and put it on this device, then have it jog, aerate, separate and deliver it through it a cutter, without an operator."

XXL cutting and handling According to Stow, Perfecta USA manufactures 30-inch to 88-inch paper cutters as well as three-knife trimmers, perfect binders, pile turners and material handling equipment. It also offers the Cut-o-Drill, a combination paper cutter and drill. "We’re one of the few companies that can offer XXL cutting and handling," Stow claims.

Printers with XXL presses such as KBA’s Rapida 182 need complete material handling to move the output from the 82-inch press. "We put together machines that will automatically load paper, turn it prior to cutting, and automate cutting, jogging, unloading and restacking," says Stow.

Large and in charge
If a 40-inch press isn’t quite big enough, you can opt for a 56-, 64- 73- or even an 82-inch press. The XXL format, as some call the widest of these presses, had essentially lain dormant since the mid-1970s when Harris Corp. discontinued its Lithotronic 78. Although some of these behemoths are still in use today, one pundit says the best word to describe the vintage iron’s makeready process is "painful."

As we noted in our March issue ("Supersize it!," pg. 22), automation and growing point-of-purchase and packaging markets have prompted something of an XXL revival, most notably with MAN’s 73-inch 900 XXL and KBA’s 82-inch Rapida 182. Cutting and material handling won’t be a problem for those replacing older presses. But newcomers will have to expand their postpress departments.

"It you’re doing a point-of-purchase type of product, you’re going to need a large cutter," notes MAN Roland’s Tyrone Adams. "But [some of] the MAN presses have slitters that are cutting the sheet into two 40-inch sheets. So even though you’re starting off with a huge sheet, by the time you finish printing it, you end up with two 40-inch piles."

Perfecta’s Brett Stow says his company is getting more inquiries for XXL cutters: "For anything above 60 inches ,we’re pretty much seeing full automation. When you get into XXL cutting, you have to have complete material handling—[the sheets] are just too heavy."

Colter & Peterson’s Jeff Marr notes that some large-format jobs lack the cutting volume to justify full automation. "A lot of times in large format, you’re not cutting as much. Posters, point-of-purchase and packaging materials don’t always require the same cutting as smaller pieces."

Thanks to its silkscreen customers, Colter & Peterson is no stranger to big cutters. "We’ve been in large format machines for a long time," says Jeff Marr. "At Print 01 we showed a 126-inch paper cutter. That was the largest paper cutter ever shown at a U.S. show and it still holds the record."

The great cutter challenge
When was the paper cutter invented? Challenge Machinery opened its first cutter factory in 1887, while Perfecta traces its roots to 1896. But as the accompanying letter from the AMERICAN PRINTER archive indicates, the cutter debate is ongoing.

In February 1980, reader B.L. Bond of Richmond, IN, describes his Dooley cutter: "It states on the nameplate Pat. May 28, 1872. It is both power [or manually operated] and can be hand wheel turned by crank. It has power wheels and works fine." We hope our readers have long since entered the modern cutter era. But we’re curious—who’s got the oldest cutter out there? Send us the details and a photo, if possible, to

Solid oak jogging block

The Printers Shopper (TPS) (Kirkland, WA) has introduced an ergonomic jogging block that can be flipped and held in two working positions. Made from heavy, solid oak with a contoured white pine handle, the device is balanced for ideal "inertia weight." The block has two 12-inch-wide working faces. One face is 0.125 inches high, the flip side face is 2.25 inches high.
Circle 160 or visit

Tabletop, low-volume cutting
Challenge Machinery Co.’s (Norton Shores, MI) Spartan 15.75-inch tabletop cutter series is suitable for offices, copy centers, in-plants and on-demand printers. Challenge will introduce an 18.5-inch Spartan soon.
Circle 161 or visit

Hydraulic cutter
Both high-volume offset and digital printers can use MBM Corp.’s (Charleston, SC) Triumph 5551-EP 21-inch programmable hydraulic cutter. Hydraulic operation for both the blade and clamp provides power and mark-free cutting. Safety features include light beams and dual push-button controls.
Circle 162 or visit

Safety first
The Baumcut 31.5 programmable cutter from Baumfolder Corp. (Sidney, OH) offers high-productivity precision cutting. Infrared safety beams, two-hand timed cut release and a covered rear table help ensure operator safety. This heavy-duty, fully hydraulic cutter features push-button programming and stores up to 99 programs with 6464 cut steps.

Programming is automatic. Cuts can be stored after an operator cuts the first ream manually. A large central LCD display indicates data in the selected language. Knife changes reportedly are easy with a front adjustment. A built-in table light and optical cutting line indicator yield more precise cutting.
Circle 163 or visit

Basic and high-speed cutters
According to Heidelberg, Polar cutters increasingly automate the entire production cycle. The newest generation of Polar high-speed cutters is manufactured in two versions: basic high-speed X and high-performance XT with an ergonomically designed 15-inch color touch-screen display. Designed for safe and easy operation, the Polar X and XT models are guaranteed to last 15 years.
Circle 164 or visit

Fully-automatic jogging
The Baumann BASA—distributed by Colter & Peterson (Paterson, NJ)—reportedly is the first fully automatic jogging system. BASA can form layers of printed sheets automatically, align them and then convey the layer to the subsequent cutting process. Component units include a hoisting unit, a destacking device, large rollers for airation, gripper transfer, jogging table and pressing roller. BASA is appropriate for paper, cardboard foils and plasticized materials. It also can be operated manually.
Circle 165 or visit

Cutting digital prints
Standard Finishing Systems (Andover, MA) APC-45 electric programmable paper cutter offers up to 30 programs of 99 steps each, automatic pushout, repeat cut-cycle and clamp-cycle-only operation. This 17.7-inch cutter can be used for bleed trims and basic cutting of digitally imprinted stocks. In addition to its 30 program capability, the APC-45 features three quick access memory buttons for the most frequently used programs.
Circle 166 or visit

Specialized cutting
Vijuk’s (Elmhurst, IL) Multicut automatic programmable cutter makes 20 guillotine cuts per cycle within a 23.5 inch span. Applications include cutting adhesive-bound booklets. A stitching and taping unit is available for making checkbooks, raffle tickets, coupon books and swatch books. A MultiCut Duo unit enables fore and rear edge trimming—for three-edge trimming, it can be combined at a right angle with the MultiCut unit.
Circle 167 or visit

Reduce wear and tear
Schneider Senator’s (Rochester, NY) S-Line H has validated the benefits of a hydraulic-driven machine. Unlike conventional cutters equipped with electro-mechanical drives, the hydraulic-driven S-Line H eliminates gearboxes, crank drives and knife draw rods, increasing machine uptime with fewer parts to wear out or lubricate. Two precision linear guides ensure the knife’s accuracy. The S-Line H is available with three different computer controls (C, CP and CT) with TFT-color monitor. The Senator S-Line 137 high-speed cutter equipped has a front table ("Trimm-Master") that automatically opens for waste removal. It also has a gripper system with turning device for fully automatic four-side trimming. For unloading, the company offers SR 1053-M, a restacker designed for a maximum paper size of 890 x 1260 mm.
Circle 168 or visit

Katherine O’Brien is the editor of AMERICAN PRINTER and Carrie Cleaveland is the assistant editor. Contact them at