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Flatbed Vinyl Cutters

The latest innovations around the core technology of flatbed vinyl cutters highlight their versatility across a range of media for different markets. Jane Allardice finds out what is on offer

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The increased capabilities of flatbed vinyl cutters means that they are now a more versatile piece of kit

The cutting edge of flatbed vinyl technology 

Innovations in cutters, tools, and software mean that flatbed vinyl cutters have transitioned into a more versatile piece of kit able to handle a greater range of materials. Increased capabilities have, in turn, led to market diversification, and manufacturers and suppliers are responding to market demand for multifunctional, accurate, and profitable applications.
Secabo is one such company, which includes two flatbed cutters in its range. Fabian Franke, Secabo’s CEO and chief marketing officer, explains: “In the past, small operations had to outsource design and prototype samples due to the prohibitive cost of flatbed cutters. Our FC50 flatbed cutter, a tabletop unit with a maximum work surface of 35cm x 52cm suitable for samples and short-runs, is the ideal solution for small companies taking production in-house.”

Both Secabo’s FC50 and FC100 flatbed cutter, which has a maximum working area of 78cm x 108cm, are equipped with a vacuum bed, cutting and creasing tools, multilingual cutting software DrawCut PRO for Windows, and LAPOS Q, a sequential multi-register mark recognition system, enabling fast and precise contour cutting of a range of materials.

Secabo’s FC50 tabletop flatbed cutter is suitable for small companies taking production in-house

Franke notes: “DrawCut PRO is particularly useful for businesses such as quick print copy shops as it stores design and cutting tasks. Job IDs are printed as barcodes on the artwork that are read by a sensor enabling the cutter to identify the job on the flatbed, without human intervention, saving time, and reducing errors.”

Secabo currently supplies its FC series flatbed cutters to UK customers directly from Germany but is seeking an exclusive UK dealership to provide customers with on-site support.

With a heritage in sign and graphics hardware that stretches back to the last century, Mimaki’s flatbed cutters continue to be an important element of the manufacturer’s substantial range of printing, cutting, and software solutions.

Mimaki’s latest flatbed cutter is the recently launched CF22-1225 that handles materials as large as 1,220 x 2,440mm and complements the Mimaki JFX200-2513 flatbed LED UV printer, making it ideal for on-demand production of point-of-sale displays or exhibition components.

According to Brett Newman, chief operations manager at Mimaki’s UK and Irish distributor, Hybrid Services, demand from a number of industries has prompted development by Mimaki. The latest CF22 has been delivered on the back of the significant ongoing uptake of the JFX200 8’ x 4’ flatbed LED UV printers that now define the grand format graphics sector. He enthuses: “It’s an elegant and complete solution for companies working in the domain, be it for retail, exhibition or decorative clients.

The combination of the new flatbed cutter and the popular printer make a complete print-and-cut workflow.

Together, these components can set sign and display graphics professionals on the path to delivering more profitable short-run, rigid and semi-rigid print-and-cut jobs.

Newman says: “Through Mimaki’s extensive experience in delivering integrated print and cut workflows for many years, this system offers a scaled-up solution for on-demand grand format work.”

Aimed at sign-makers and graphics companies producing retail display work, packaging prototypes and short runs of bespoke cartons, boxes and rigid graphics, the new Mimaki CF22-1225 sports many innovative features. These are designed to ensure a combination of highly accurate output across a broad range of materials, coupled to ease of use and reduced potential for error or waste.

“Mimaki’s new ‘ID Cut’ function prints job-specific cutting and media rotation information as a barcode that’s then scanned at the outset of the cutting process,” explains Newman. “Principally designed to remove the potential for human error when positioning the board on the cutting table, this speeds up working time, greatly reduces the likelihood of mistakes and simplifies the whole workflow.”

The CF22-1225 features tangential and reciprocating heads and a cutting pressure of up to 5,000g. A vacuum bed holds materials stable and a sensor detects registration marks and compensates for positioning of the substrate.

Mimaki’s suite of cutting software, that also includes the latest version of the company’s FineCut plug-in for industry standard vector design packages paired with internet connectivity, enables a seamless workflow from design through printing and cutting to be achieved.

The company also includes a compact flatbed cutter in its stable; the CFL-605RT pairs up perfectly with one of the company’s flatbed LED UV printers. With its substantial feature set and high build quality, the CFL-605RT offers a solution that is scaled down in size only for graphics producers looking to quickly and cost effectively prototype products.

The enduring popularity of the small format UJF Series printers prompted the launch of Mimaki’s 600 x 500mm flatbed cutter as a powerful and feature-rich solution for packaging companies seeking to print to the production substrate, crease, cut and deliver either bespoke packaging or highly realistic samples.

Another company, Graphtec GB, a leading provider of cutting solutions to the sign and graphics and digital printing industries, has made two important additions to its range of flatbed vinyl cutters. They are the FCX4000 and more recently the FCX2000 series of machines, both of which are supplied with Graphtec’s own-brand dedicated Pro Studio and the optional Cutting Master 4 design and production software programs, with the latter providing compatibility with other popular third-party software such as CorelDRAW and Adobe Illustrator.

Phil Kneale, director of Graphtec GB, says: “The FCX2000 features a specially configured cutting head that provides a dual cutting and creasing function. It is available in a choice of three sizes (920 x 610, 920 x 1,200 and 920 x 1,800mm) to accommodate different applications and with either a vacuum-suction or electrostatic material hold-down facility, depending on the materials to be processed. Both the FCX4000 and the FCX2000 have a maximum cutting speed of 750mm/sec and a maximum cutting force of 600gf.

“Apart from the dual-purpose cutting/creasing head, key design features of the FCX2000 include a USB port to allow offline operation and the storage of files that can be retrieved remotely. There is also a barcode function that enables relevant cutting data to be recalled from memory and cut.”

Replacing the previous FC4500 cutter, the FCX4000 incorporates many of the advanced features of the FCX2000 machine but is a smaller and lighter version. Available in two sizes (FCX4000-50ES and FCX4000-60ES), they offer respective processing areas of 660 x 488 and 976 x 660mm. In common with the FCX2000 machine, the FCX4000 also features a dual cutting/creasing function.

Key design features of the FCX4000 include a high-quality steel cutting blade, water-based fibre-tipped plotting pen, and a creasing/scoring tool that enables jobs to be cut and creased from the reverse of the sheet of the material being processed to avoid damage to the printed surface. There is also a facility to monitor cutting blade wear and a sensor that scans for and manages cut data using the barcode function.

The FCX2000 and the FCX4000 cutters incorporate Graphtec’s latest Version 6 of the proprietary ARMS (Advanced Registration Mark Sensing) system that ensures optimum material alignment and cutting accuracy. Both machines are supplied with a range of special-purpose cutting tools and comply with all relevant CE safety and performance standards.

Versatility is key

The challenges of working with clients looking for short-run, on-demand products with a difference means companies have to invest in equipment that gives them both high levels of functional capability and the opportunity to create new products. 

Companies also need to handle greater capacity. To do that, they have to look at automating all processes to remove bottlenecks, reduce waste, and streamline production

“To grow your business today you need to add value,” asserts Russell Weller, product manager for digital finishing at Esko. “Companies also need to handle greater capacity. To do that, they have to look at automating all processes to remove bottlenecks, reduce waste, and streamline production. Esko has introduced a number of automated devices that provide unattended operation at very high throughput levels.  The continuous production flow benefits the more complicated jobs such as POP displays.”

O Factoid: In 1872, Eugen Baumann, a German chemist, discovered PVC, a synthetic polymer but it was too brittle to be used as a material. It was not until the 1920s that vinyl as we know it today was invented by Waldo Semon, an American chemical engineer, who experimented by introducing additives to PVC, making it flexible and able to be processed. O

 When it comes to versatility, Esko cutting tables come with a wide range of tools and gadgets. Multi-cut tooling options can process almost any substrate: folding carton for short-run packaging and samples, wood veneer for furniture, foam materials for protective packaging and sign-making, plexiglass and acrylics for engraving, metals for gaskets and rubber for promotional products, vinyl for car and building wraps, adhesives for short-run labels plus textiles, aluminium and carpets and of course honeycomb, rigid and fluted board and plastics, PVC and acrylic panels for multiple product lines.

NEC Graph-fix in Walsall is using Esko’s multi-functional and versatile Kongsberg C64 cutting table equipped with new Feeder and Stacker.  A new option on this is Esko’s innovative Flip-Side Camera for cutting and creasing with perfect registration. Geared for large-format in-store displays and POS applications, NEC Graph-fix is using Esko equipment to minimise set-up time, reduce waste and bottlenecks, and achieve continuous, automated 24/7 production.

Boosting productivity - Esko Kongsberg C66 cutting table with robotic material handler, designed for automated, multi-zone production

Summa had an immediate market success with the F612, its first flatbed cutter launched in 2011. Initially installed with a basic configuration of drag, kiss-cut, and cut-out knives, customer demand and the potential to enter new markets led to further developments.

Its F series flatbeds have optional add-ons and tools with different capabilities to cut a range of materials in different widths, including vinyl, hard foam, PVC, technical textiles, acrylic, leather, and MDF. All the tools are compatible with the different sized flatbeds, making the F series versatile, multifunctional, and user-friendly.

Our technical innovations are developed in
response to our customers’ requirements

Geert Pierloot, Summa’s marketing and business development manager, stresses: “Our technical innovations are developed in response to our customers’ requirements. The included features and add-ons, such as the continuous sheet feed, barcode scanning, poster trim, automated depth control (ADC), and operator zone contribute to remarkable boosts in productivity, smoother workflows, and added automation.”

Hampshire-based Kayospruce’s use of a flatbed cutter has enabled it to expand into new and evolving markets. A leading supplier in the marine industry, it uses a Blackman and White Genesis 2100 flatbed cutter equipped with a plotter and drag knife to design and cut technical fabrics for use in many different industries including marine, hotels, and filmsets as well as the growing outdoor leisure market.

Alison Essex, Kayospruce’s operations manager, says: “Nest Fab is the software used for fabric cutting, which nests shapes in the most cost-effective way. We also use a fully integrated barcode system, Mertex, within our main warehouse operating system, which enables batch traceability so the correct material to be cut is selected and fully traceable in any aftersales queries.”

Smooth operator

With an arsenal of cutting tools, add-ons, and plug-ins, the versatility of today’s flatbed vinyl cutters not only enable sign-makers and graphics companies to expand into new markets by being able to handle a range of materials, but also help streamline workflows, enable unattended operation, increase accuracy, reduce waste, and boost productivity.


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