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Having begun the move from traditional screen-printing to digital printing over a year ago with the purchase of a large-format VUTEk UV printer, Whiteghill was confronted with the same issues about finishing as other owners of these versatile printers. The main problem was how to accurately cut out prints that had been created using rigid materials like foamed board, acrylic and medium-density fibreboard (MDF).
At first, this was not perceived as too much of a problem since the company already owned two CNC routers from AXYZ International. A Pacer 3020HDS installed in 2004 and an AXYZ 4008 purchased in 2006 were already proving their worth in the plastics fabrication and woodworking departments. Foamed board like FOAMEX and acrylic panels printed on the VUTEk were easily cut on the Pacer machine that can machine acrylic up to 15mm thick in a single pass with an outstanding quality of edge finish. The remaining problems, however, concerned registration (namely, how to position the printed sheet in order to cut out in exactly the right place on the router), with a further complication arising as a result of non-linear distortion (stretching) of the material. This was caused not necessarily by the printer but more likely by changes in the material due to temperature and humidity variations.
These problems contributed to significant material wastage caused by misaligned cutting and were further exacerbated by product damage and increased labour costs incurred by moving materials between production departments. Furthermore, in spite of running three 24/7 shifts there were problems over capacity due to the increased workload and to the absence of a knife-cutting facility on either of the routers. This meant certain jobs involving, for example, foamed board had to still be outsourced.
Senior Project Manager at Whitegyll, Richard Egan commented: ‘The time came for us to look at purchasing an additional machine and one that would need to be capable of both routing and knife cutting as well as providing a registration system for accurate cut-to-print alignment. We looked at some of the conventional knife-cutting machines used within the graphics industry and found that although these provided a fast knife-cutting capability and camera registration they were also expensive, relatively lightweight and struggled with our primary requirement to cut solid rigid substrates. Having been very pleased with the performance of our existing routers from AXYZ International, we decided to evaluate the company's latest machine that provided integrated heavy-duty routing, an oscillating knife-cutting capability and camera registration in one very economical package.'
The AXYZ machine can be fitted with a choice of routing spindle (three, five or 10hp), enabling it to cope easily with the toughest materials. The tangential oscillating knife unit cuts lighter materials like cardboard, foamed board and rubber, while the camera registration system that works with both the router and the knife is based on the industry-leading I-Cut software and is the only system that can compensate for both linear and non-linear distortions of printed sheets. Richard Egan added: ‘We were confident about the performance of the AXYZ products installed and the service and support provided by AXYZ International over the years at such a competitive price and felt we could not fail with this latest solution.'
Since installation, the new machine frequently runs continuously throughout the three shifts. With an effective processing area of 2,440 x 1,524mm, it handles everything that the VUTEk platform can print. Significantly, it has also solved all of the previous cut-to-print problems by virtually eliminating waste caused by misaligned cutting and by reducing labour costs incurred as a result sub-contractual outsourcing. There is also less damage to materials due to a reduced materials handling requirement.
For further information on AXYZ cut-to-print solutions, visit www.axyz.co.uk or telephone 01902 375 600.