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Cutting time

Jul 1, 2006 12:00 AM

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As satisfying as it might have been to hand-crank a manual guillotine cutter’s clamp down, swing the lever and make the cut, most postpress operators were delighted when power-driven cutters came into widespread use, particularly for their ergonomic benefits. Bindery managers appreciated their increased speed and accuracy.

The latest cutters to hit the shop floor are highly automated to further boost productivity. Many new cutters can take electronic job data from prepress and set up automatically using servo motors. Another now-common feature is an air table, which makes moving the stack across the work surface nearly effortless. Adding some of the latest peripheral material handling equipment, such as automatic joggers and stackers, takes cutting efficiency to a new level.

Pepper Printing, a 30-employee commercial printer in Cincinnati, and The Hennegan Co. (Florence, KY), a 120-year-old shop with more than 400 employees, recently installed new automated Polar cutters from Heidelberg (Kennesaw, GA). As a result, these two very different companies have gained similar benefits: decreased costs; less physical toll on cutter operators; and better postpress productivity. Cutter automation is helping ease the bottleneck between increasingly efficient pressroom operations and the loading dock.

Pepper Printing kicks it up a notch
When Hank Danks, plant manager for Pepper Printing, needed a larger cutter, he turned to Heidelberg for an upgrade on his existing Polar equipment. In March 2006, a second Polar 115 XT with Autotrim replaced the shop’s Polar 92 (92-cm maximum sheet length) cutter. “We like all the Autotrim functions,” Danks notes, “and we also put Compucut on the new system. It’s a computer program that allows us to lay out programs according to the step procedures established in prepress. The cutter operator has programs already written for him.” CIP4 data is transmitted from prepress, and operators access the cutter’s controls via a 15-inch touchscreen and keyboard. The cutter stores 198 programs, or 12,928 steps.

In business since 1991, Pepper Printing’s 35,000-sq.-ft. facility in Cincinnati has 30 employees. The offset shop uses the Polar 115s for all of its work; Pepper also runs narrow-web flexo, a separate operation from its sheetfed printing and finishing. (See

“The 92 didn’t have Autotrim [automatic scrap removal], and we really like it,” says Danks. “It saves a lot of time.” The most efficient model of the Polar 115 line, the XT with Autotrim reportedly increases productivity by 30 percent.

Danks has one operator running each machine, and the shop runs two shifts per day. He estimates the new system saves 90 minutes per day on an average of two cutter setups.

The Polar 115’s automated, frequency-controlled backgauge helps ensure the cutter is set up properly, yet it allows the operator to make adjustments on the fly. “You can program it to tilt or swivel,” says Danks. “If you’re having problems with draw on specific cuts, you can compensate for that with the machine.”

The Polar 115 XT can be combined with a stack lift, an automatic jogger, a buffer, a gripper-loading system, and loading and unloading systems. It cuts paper, cardstock, paperboard, plastic foils and other substrates with a maximum 115-cm (451/4-inch) sheet length and an advance speed of 30 cm/sec.

Says Danks, “It’s just more finished sheets through the bindery.”

Hennegan expands again
“Our cutters were getting quite old, but they still were functional and ran fine,” says Bruce Hart, director of finishing operations for The Hennegan Co., a large commercial printing operation founded in 1886. (See Prior to installing three Polar 137 XT cutters in May 2006, the shop ran three Polar cutters that had manual jogging tables and lacked automatic loaders and unloaders.

“The biggest reason [for the upgrade] was the automation,” says Hart. “In doing the research before getting this equipment, people who use these machines were telling me that one of these new systems produces as much as two and a half of the older systems, in actual production. It does look like that’s very likely to happen here after we get all of our workflow going.”

Hart says the prepress department is in the process of integrating the new cutters, but the plan is to utilize CIP4 data throughout postpress, including the shop’s CIP4-compliant Stahlfolders from Heidelberg. “We are taking data from one cutter to another. We want to utilize it everywhere we can throughout the postpress operations, because if it’s available, it saves you a lot on your makeready time when you can just download a program and make tweaks to it, and not have to think it through yourself.”

The shop runs Heidelberg sheetfed and Goss web offset presses, including a new Sunday gapless press, and also has a digital operation running a Kodak NexPress 2500. “We are expecting to add another web press,” says Hart. “With the advent of doing that, we definitely would need all three cutters to be automated, to keep up with that type of work. I believe two systems would have handled what I needed, but they wouldn’t have allowed me any room for the expansion as we add on new presses.” Two of the new cutters are kept busy 100 percent of the time, while the third currently runs 80 percent of the time. Says Hart, “Before, when I had the three manual cutters, we did have to send cutting work out. I really don’t see that happening, now, because of the faster throughput with the automated system.”

This month, Hart is keeping busy with a new perfect binder installation from Kolbus (Cleveland).

In addition to cutting and trimming all of its offset work on the new Polar 137 XTs, which take a maximum sheet length of 137 cm. (5315/16 inches), Hennegan is precutting rolls into sheets for its NexPress until the digital printing area gets its own bindery equipment, according to Hart. “We backtrim everything because the sheets all need to be very accurate in size,” he notes.

One feature Hennegan didn’t opt to add to the Polar 137 XTs is the automatic loader with a carousel that allows the operator to stack down on several skids. “It would have been nice, but we just changed our operation in our folding department to [optimize] skid handling and product flow through our folding area,” says Hart. “We do have to watch that a little bit more closely than we did before.”

A maintenance benefit Hart appreciates is the new cutters’ speedy knife changes. “Traditionally, it used to take up to an hour to change a knife blade,” he says. “They’ve got that down to right around 10 or 11 minutes.” Normally, he would change knives every seven to nine days, depending on the type of stock being cut. “A carbide knife would last about three times longer between changes, but that’s not been necessary, now.”

Hennegan runs two 12-hour shifts per day, six days a week (plus Sundays, 70 to 80 percent of the time), and the new automation has allowed Hart to move two cutting helpers to other bindery tasks. Now, each cutter has one operator, and only one helper is needed to assist all three units. A new jogging unit from German manufacturer Automaton Inc. enables the helper to jog an entire skid, rather than one lift or handful of stock at a time. “Using the manual tables, it might have taken him anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to jog a load of stock. On this unit, taking between five and 10 minutes to jog a whole load,” says Hart.

Hart cites the Transomat unit as the greatest benefit to Hennegan’s new cutters. “My manual labor is down because of these automatic Transomat units that load and unload the product,” he says. “And then the Autotrim saves me cutting time because the operators are continually pushing the buttons for processing to work through the cutter, instead of taking their hands off of the cutting buttons and having to remove the excess trim or turn around and stack down product.” He estimates Autotrim saves about two hours per shift.

“My cutter operator, instead of trying to take and stack down a lift of stock on a different skid, is able to just slide it over to the side and push a button, and it unloads to the skid itself,” Hart adds. “That is probably increasing my productivity, at least two, two and a half times per cutter compared to what I did before.”

For more information about Heidelberg’s Polar cutters, see Circle 170 or visit

MOR performance
MOR Printing (Tamarac, FL) co-owners Mark Goldstein, Owen Luttinger and Richard Luttinger recently opted to take their two-piece cutting system to four with the acquisition of an automated system from Colter & Peterson (Paterson, NJ). Run by one operator, it includes the Baumann BASA automatic sheet jogger followed by a BFS1 gripper system, which moves the stack from the jogger table to the cutter infeed. The cutter is a 72-inch Wohlenberg cut-tec 185 ptc, which outputs to a Baumann auto-unloader BA6 stacker. According to Luttinger, it’s greatly improved the shop’s finishing productivity since ramping up to full operation in May. The $14 million, 18-year-old firm has 85 employees. See

The Wohlenberg cut-tec 185 ptc (1850-mm cutting length) is CIP3/PPF- and CIP4/JDF-compliant, and stores more than 10,000 programs. It can be programmed automatically and controlled via a 12-inch touchscreen and keypad. The servo motor-equipped backgauge is positioned by joystick.
Circle 171 or visit

Additional cutter innovations
By Carrie Cleaveland

A cutter without automated features is like a Thanksgiving turkey without the cranberry sauce. Joggers, aerators, loaders and unloaders all amount to an easier job for the cutter operator, as well as improved productivity and efficiency. Here are some more cutters and accessories.

Quick pile turning
Woodward (East Rutherford, NJ) pile turners turn loads 180 degrees in seconds. In addition, its jogger aerators clean, jog, align and aerate paper, paperboard, corrugated and slip sheets. Damaged sheets can be removed from loads, and hand repiling is eliminated.

Circle 171 or visit

Load and unload XXL sheets
Perfecta USA (Indianapolis) offers the BB10 loader and BA10 unloader for use on its 225 HTVC 88-inch cutter, designed for cutting extra-large-format sheets on presses such as the KBA Rapida 205 and MAN Roland 900XXL. The fully automated BB10 loader features a BFS curved transport gripper system that moves the ream to one of the buffer spaces beside the rear table of the cutter. Retractable side gauges come down and a BTE pushing unit moves the stock onto the cutting table, while the transport gripper system moves back to the automatic loader.

The BA10 unloader also offers a special feature to handle material semi-automatically via the front table of the cutter. This allows job interruption, to run a higher priority job without changing the whole setup.
Circle 171 or visit

Cutters for large-format, labels and more
Schneider Senator’s (Rochester, NY) range includes cutters for XXL presses, such as MAN Roland’s 900 series and KBA’s 205, as well as integrated pile hoists, joggers and restackers. The Senator E-Line 102-inch model accepts a maximum 80-inch x 61-ft. diagonal format.

Ellerhold, Germany’s largest poster producer, now has five Schneider Senator cutting lines. The most recent is a Schneider Senator E-Line 260 (102 inches). The U-shaped system comprises a high-speed cutter and a jogger, a movable transfer table line and a restacker.

Several European bond/banknote printers use the fully automated TS-Sprintcut line. It consists of three cutters connected via an integrated conveyor line. Feeding, stock turning, cutting and optional banding do not require operator intervention.

Schneider Senator’s cutters are CIP4-compatible and comprise a cut optimizer, correction module, touchscreen monitor and digitally adjustable clamp pressure. Automated options include feeding, waste removal, four-side trimming and restacking to several pallets.
Circle 171 or visit

Jogging and stacking can be combined
The Baum B2 jogger from Baumfolder (Sidney, OH) features automatic, tiltable gauges on both sides with chrome-plated table surfaces to provide corrosion resistance. The table can be inclined to the right or left with four angular adjustments on each side. Jogging intensity can be adjusted and air supply can be activated as needed. The Baum B2 jogger can be operated offline or can be integrated as a complete cutting system with the entire BaumCut line of cutters and the Baum L2 stack lift.

The Baum L2 and L4 stack lifts provide an ergonomically correct working position. Features include an automatic lifting/lowering mechanism, fast pallet changes due to high lowering speed, and a hydraulic drive with safety shutoff.
Circle 171 or visit

Denise Kapel is the managing editor of AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at