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Flatbed Vinyl Cutters

Quality cutting is critical to the final look of both wide-format print and signage applications. Here, we take a look at some of the latest flatbed vinyl cutters available to the market and the core benefits they offer to users

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The Graphtec FCX4000-60 is one of several flatbed cutters available from Granthams GT

A Cut Above the Rest

While investment in a quality wide-format printer is obviously crucial for sign-makers, the same must also be said when it comes to purchasing finishing equipment. To put it simply, companies that skimp on finishing technology put the quality of the final application in jeopardy, and this in turn could cost valuable clients and repeat business.
For example, you may have printed a vibrant, eye-catching set of window graphics, but if the cut on the graphics is not up to scratch, this could undo all the hard work you did during the printing process. The same applies to floor graphics, with poor quality cutting leading to untidy edges that take the shine off the print job and, potentially, even trip hazards for those walking over the graphics.

One way to ensure first class finishing is to invest in a quality flatbed vinyl cutter. SignLink speaks with manufacturers and suppliers in this market to learn more about some of the latest advancements in this technology and how it can help sign-makers further improve the quality of their output.

Opening up Opportunities

Up first is ArtSystems, which offers a range of flatbed vinyl cutters from Summa. John Draycott, who oversees marketing at ArtSystems, says flatbed cutters offer both greater productivity with their ability to automate and manage larger sizes of varied materials.

“This is not limited just to vinyl, but also covers corrugated boards, foamboards, MDF boards, PVC, acrylic, magnetic materials, aluminium composite media, roll material, and textiles like mesh fabrics, flags, and banners,” Draycott says.

“The ability to automate large print finishing jobs and to take on jobs that use a wide range of substrates allows sign-makers to expand their portfolio of applications. The Summa F1612 for example has helped hundreds of sign-makers take their business to new levels with the greater output they can take on. Larger volume jobs and the ability to print and cut on exotic substrates means they can offer different solutions to clients. Closer integration between print software, the printer, and the cutter mean they get a full managed workflow.”

The Summa F1612, the first model launched as part of the Summa F Series several years ago, remains a popular choice with customers

Draycott goes on to say that depending on the business type and size, then a flatbed cutter may not be the most suitable choice. However, for those companies looking to expand, take on new work, and bolster production, they are often the ideal solution.

“If a sign-maker is reliant on manual print finishing and is using just a roll cutter or a printer/cutter, then the question is really one of what do they want to do with their business,” Draycott asks.

“If their current set up is doing what they want, then fine, but do they ever have to turn jobs down or outsource? Again, it is a business question of whether this works for them, and whether their margins are what they want. But if there is a bottleneck it tends to be print finishing, which uses time and people and is often prone to error when under pressure, that can be the pain point.

“A flatbed cutter allows them to do all the classic vinyl signage applications but at much greater speed. The Summa F series has a range of add-on tools for routing, cutting, and creasing and all these give options to take on different types of rigid signage both printed and engraved. The limits really are those set by the sign-maker. The fact that so much cutting can be pre-set means easier operation and much greater accuracy. Rip software like Onyx is designed to work with flatbed cutters and this again means automated processes that save time and media.”

Opening up on the Summa F Series, which has been in the market for several years now, the first model in this range was the F1612. The machine has been updated several times over the years in response to changing demands and requirements and remains among the most popular models. Draycott says this is because it offers a straightforward route into flatbed cutting with an affordable price and a well-established reputation for reliability.

While the Summa F Series seemingly speaks for itself, Draycott does offer some additional words of wisdom to help sign-makers when looking for new cutting equipment.

“Sign-makers that want to grow in a significant way would be advised to look at how they can improve their print finishing with a view to automating some or all of it,” Draycott says, adding: “Some key questions to help would be: What is your core business, and do you focus on specific applications or as many as possible? How flexible would you like to be in offering new applications/solutions? Which material sizes do you process most frequently? How much do you want to invest? And how much space do you have for a flatbed cutter?”

Unparalleled Precision

Elsewhere, Granthams GT supplies the market with a range of equipment, including flatbed vinyl cutters. The company says while sign-makers’ workshops will have a CAD vinyl cutter in place as the go-to solution, for vehicle graphics, sign letters, and plot-cut self-adhesive shapes, flatbed cutters are the next step up.

“As the name suggests, the flatbed is designed to take a sheet or panel instead of a roll of media,” Granthams GT says, adding: “The sheet is placed on top of the bed and a vacuum keeps it stable and in place. The cutter’s software selects the trim path, and by utilising the correct tool for the intended end purpose, the machine moves its way around the registration marks working away at the task in hand.”

But what value does a flatbed cutter really offer? Granthams GT says the main benefit of a flatbed cutter is in its “unparalleled” precision. The company explains that the substrate being trimmed never moves as the build-in vacuum holds it securely in place. Only the computer controlled cutting head travels across the sheet, and as the ‘eye’ routes along the cut-path, it is as accurate with the hundredth board as it was with the first.

“It is also incredibly quick,” Granthams GT explains, continuing: “If you’re always trimming similarly sized panels out by hand using something like a bench cutter or cutter bar, having a flatbed cutter will greatly increase your throughput. Its ease of use once set up makes any cutting task a much more efficient and effective process.

“A flatbed vinyl cutter is a master of many applications. Available for each one is a wide variety of tools dedicated to time saving and making production simpler. These machines can not only cut the vinyl letters for vans and signs, but they can also crease and score card, cut perforations, and half-cut and die-cut their way through a varied selection of media types and thicknesses.

O Factoid: Granthams GT offers flatbed cutters ranging in size from 26” x 20” up to more than 2m x 3m O

“Summing up, from prototyping production panels to creating contour cut signage and displays, a flatbed vinyl cutter makes substrate or vinyl production fast, simple, consistent, and reliable.”

So, what does Granthams GT have in stock? Flatbed cutter units range in size from the Graphtec FCX4000 at 26” x 20”, designed to cut two sheets of A3+ side by side, through to machines at over 2m x 3m.

Some flatbed cutters use electrostatic technology to firmly hold media to the table, while other, smaller cutters in the collection such as the Graphtec FCX2000-60 are suited to prototyping and small production runs of rigid materials without the use of a cutting die.

Granthams GT says the Graphtec FCX2000-60 is ideally suited to prototyping and small production runs of rigid materials

“Features of many flatbed cutters include user-friendly functions, a vacuum bed, an optical eye for print and cut registration, offset start and end points, tangential and reciprocal heads, and pressure compensation,” Granthams GT says, adding: “They are ideal for a broad variety of signage, displays, samples, packaging applications, and more.

“The world of sign and display is broad and versatile. Flatbed cutting solutions can optimise your print and cut workflow, meet your customers’ deadlines and deliver perfectly finished end-products.”

A Flawless Finish

Casting the net further still and Canon, known for its high-quality printing solutions, is also able to support companies with cutting products. Sav Jeyendran, a specialist for Canon’s large-format graphics solutions, says that a high-quality flatbed cutter is a key tool in any production workflow to ensure a flawless finish and meet every customer’s advertising needs.

“Today, a flatbed cutter can be integrated into a fully automated print and cut workflow,” Jeyendran explains, continuing: “By investing in a modern, high-quality machine with an open interface, sign-makers can truly optimise their production processes. 

Sav Jeyendran, a specialist for Canon’s large-format graphics solutions, says that a high-quality flatbed cutter is a key tool in any production workflow
“Sign-makers can rely on flatbed cutters to achieve a professional finish on a variety of flexible and rigid media, including letters, banners, posters, and other advertising materials across a range of industries.

Sign-makers can rely on flatbed cutters to achieve a professional finish on a variety of flexible and rigid media

“Updated flatbed cutters can also help sign-makers overcome challenges that they have previously faced when dealing with media that cannot be lasered, such as acrylic or PVC. This variety and flexibility is crucial as customers are demanding ever more creative advertising.”

Jeyendran goes on to say that Canon is focused on providing sign-makers with the right technology to upgrade their machinery and improve their customer offering. With this, Jeyendran draws attention to the fully automated Zünd S-Series, which he says offers customers a finishing solution that fits seamlessly with the Canon Arizona flatbed and Colorado roll-to-roll printer solutions.

“With maintenance-free components and non-stop performance, our flatbed cutters are well equipped for short and efficient runs, unlocking opportunities for more targeted and personalised marketing material,” Jeyendran explains.

“Businesses and sign-makers that already invest in workflow optimisation are proactively ahead of the challenges in the market, ensuring they are set up for success as customers flex their demands and push the boundaries in their creative output.”

Jeyendran’s closing comments offer an apt conclusion to this discussion. Investment in high-quality cutting equipment can open doors to all sorts of opportunities and new work for those businesses within both the sign-making and wide-format print markets. Failure to invest properly in this area could limit your capabilities and the quality of work that you are able to produce.

Speaking and working with manufacturers and suppliers such as those mentioned here will allow you to identify the most suitable and effective solution for your business, setting you up to take on all manner of work and projects from customers across a range of markets.

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