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Hands off

Jul 1, 2007 12:00 AM

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Picture this: An automated jogger aligns whole skids of paper in one turn. Lifts are loaded, a gripper loading system brings lifts to and from the knife, paper is cut, a turning gripper turns and positions lifts for cutting, waste is removed, gripper systems transfer the finished cut lift and the finished product is palletized onto a skid — and the operator has nothing to do but watch and load skids.

If this sounds a little like a special effect in a sci-fi film, you're not far off. Heidelberg's (Kennesaw, GA) new PACE (Polar Automated Cutting for Efficiency) system builds on the technology of Polar's System 2, but with one very big difference: minimal operator intervention is required.

According to Rob Kuehl, director of postpress packaging and cutting systems for Heidelberg, “Previous versions needed two people to run the system with the same amount of productivity the PACE can achieve with just one person. You basically save a helper, which, over a two-shift period, gives you a return on investment of under three years.” The operator still needs to load skids in and out, so the cutting operator becomes a jogging operator, he says.

Keeping up the PACE

Like its predecessor, the System 2, the PACE consists of a stack lift, a jogger, a scale, the cutter itself and a Transomat offloader. The PACE, however, has a special jogger, the RAH, which acts as a pusher after jogging, pushing the paper onto the back of the jogger where the gripper can pull it into the rear of the cutter. The PACE also has a turning gripper system on the rear of the machine that allows the user to “achieve five more cuts for free.” Handling the four-side trim normally would be a very manual process, says Kuehl. “You have to grab the lift, turn it, make the cut, turn it again, make the cut, turn it again — all by hand. With PACE, you do that automatically.”

Heidelberg distributes Polar cutting systems — the Polar 66, 78, 92, 115, 137, 155 and 176 — which range from 26- to 69-inch formats. It still will offer the System 2 for customers that don't have sufficient volume to justify investing in PACE.

The seed for PACE's highly automated approach was planted in 2001 as a project for Quad/Graphics (Sussex, WI). National Geographic wanted to streamline the cutting process for four-side trim cutting the maps in the magazine. Heidelberg and the Polar team rose to the challenge. “We enjoy pushing the limits of our equipment and creating unique, customized machines for our customers — and it has become another way to learn from our customers,” says Kuehl. The system was installed in 2002 at Quad/Graphics' Martinsburg, WV, facility and was running 100 percent in 2003. “Then,” says Kuehl, “we realized we have a potential here for the future to really automate a complete process for commercial printers as well as industrial printers.”

The PACE system installed at Quad/Graphics boasts 100 percent automation, but it can be converted to manual operation, if necessary. (See “Look Ma, no hands!”, October 2003.)

A vision of things to come

Kuehl believes the PACE system is a portent for the future of cutting: no manual labor at all. “Cutting is a necessary evil,” he says. “Nobody really wants to cut. What people look for when they turn on a cutter is that it works, it is safe, it is durable and it does what it is supposed to do over a long period of time. All it does is cut paper. Once you get past that, then you start looking into automation [surrounding the cutter].”

Smaller commercial printers in the $3-5 million range, he says, usually only need a standalone cutter, sometimes with basic automation such as stack lifts and joggers, sometimes a Transomat offloader. Larger shops with revenues of $5-10 million will look at a System 2. Larger commercial or industrial printers upwards of $10 million, where cutting is a round-the-clock business, will look at PACE systems.

“Unfortunately, we're not yet able to turn the modern bindery into the paper processing version of the Spacely Sprockets assembly line on ‘The Jetsons’; the jobs are too varied and the work is too exacting,” says Kuehl. “But streamlining the flow of processes involved in postpress is most definitely a doable objective.”

Heidelberg also recently introduced several features and accessories to make life a little easier for the cutting operator. A swivel tilt backgauge helps in cutting squarely. “Sometimes the print is not 100 percent square to where the cut marks are,” says Kuehl, “so we have something where the backgauge actually turns a bit. There's no [one else who] does that.” Another example is a hold down on the backgauge that holds the sheets down, which is especially useful in label printing where the sheets tend to curl. Heidelberg also has a hold down on the front for cutting business cards.

Users also can streamline their cutting operations with AutoTrim. This trim removal system is now offered with an optional air knife that whisks away a problem typically encountered when cutting films and plastic stocks. The air knife takes the strips out automatically while ensuring the waste goes down by blasting off any waste stuck to the knife.

Heidelberg's postpress department is well prepared for the Drupa debut of the company's 56- and 64-inch very large-format (VLF) presses. “We already have [the cutting systems to handle the VLF presses],” Kuhel says. “Our cutters go all the way up to 69½ inches.”

Heidelberg now also offers a comprehensive range of die cutters and folder/gluers for packaging applications. (See “Package deal,” January 2007.)

Every size and shape

Bruce Peterson, president of Colter & Peterson (Paterson, NJ), likens purchasing a cutter to purchasing a car: “Every car has four tires and an engine, just as every paper cutter has a knife, table and backgauge. But that doesn't mean the same model is the best fit for everyone. Factors such as price and specific features influence the decision to select one brand over another.”

Colter & Peterson offers six lines of new paper cutters: Prism, Saber, Wohlenberg, Maxima Plus, Inpro and the upcoming Prism-PC (formerly Pro-Cut).

Prism paper cutters feature a computer control system that automates most of the set-up of each machine. The hardware and software of the Prism computer control system was engineered by Colter & Peterson's C&P Microsystems division for ease-of-use and longevity. It can store cutting sequences and have the backgauge automatically position itself for each cut. Prism paper cutters also use a worm gear to drive the knife and a hydraulic clutch to transmit the energy from the flywheels to the knife drive. This clutch system is designed for minimal wear and reduced maintenance. The line is available in 30.75-, 36-, 45- and 54-inch formats.

The Saber line of heavy-duty precision paper cutters also takes advantage of C&P developed microcut computer control modules that offer a wide array of programming options and features. Real-time data collection, network-ready interface and a USB connection for on-site data input and retrieval all are standard. Mechanically, the knife bar is drawn through the pile from both ends for precise cutting. A ball bearing leadscrew and linear guide are integral to accurate adjustment of the back gauge control. Saber paper cutters are available in 37-, 45-, 54- and 62-inch formats.

Just after Graph Expo 2003, Colter & Peterson acquired the rights to Wohlenberg's line of paper cutters, perfect binders and three-knife trimmers. Wohlenberg cutters are CIP3/CIP4 compatible and have stainless steel tables. They feature flexible clamp plates for compensating different heights of cutting material or wavy paper stocks. A protective device at the rear table prevents contact with the knife from the rear of the machine.

Colter & Peterson also offers paper cutters to complement the trend toward larger presses. Its Maxima Plus cutter line is capable of cutting up to 80-inch sheets — easily handling work for the KBA Rapida 205. The Maxima Plus features a dual gear box drive for knife operation, variable clamp pressure regulation to accommodate soft and hard stocks, air cushion tables and a dual linear back gauge guiding system. The company also offers Baumann lifts, joggers, grippers and offloaders to handle large sheets. Half a dozen systems have been installed, the most recent at Schawk in Los Angeles.

Recently, Colter & Peterson purchased the rights to the Pro-Cut paper cutter line and will introduce a line of completely redesigned machines at the end of the year that is being renamed the Prism-PC line. Each machine will contain Colter & Peterson's microcut computer system for automated setup. These small-format paper cutters, designed for the digital and variable-data markets, will be available in 20-, 26½- and 32-inch formats.

“Until now, the smallest machine we had available was the 30-inch Prism,” says Peterson. “You don't need a machine of that size to cut a 14 × 20-inch, digitally-printed sheet, which is the market that will benefit the most from these machines. In the world of click charges, it costs the same amount of money to print an 11 × 17-inch sheet as it does to print an 8 ½ × 11-inch sheet. With the right cutting equipment, you can double the productivity of your digital press by printing on an 11 × 17-inch sheet and cutting it in half.”

More than cutters

“The mechanics of cutting paper hasn't changed in 100 years,” says Peterson. “The bells and whistles on a paper cutter itself make it a little easier and faster to use. But there are huge efficiencies to be realized in the tools that people use to load and unload sheets from their paper cutters.” This is where automation becomes a hot issue. Hiring operators is more expensive and work injuries can happen more frequently as those operators lift heavy stacks of paper. Investing in the paper handling tools “just makes sense”, according to Peterson.

He notes that the United States just now is catching up with the technology that has been standard in Europe for five to 10 years. As an example, he cites pile turners, which have become frequent purchases among U.S. printers of late, but are standard equipment in almost every printing and binding company in Germany.

On average, Peterson notes, a typical paper cutter will only be cutting paper about one-third of the time; the additional two-thirds is spent moving paper to and from the machine and conditioning it for the cutting process.

Colter & Peterson offers paper handling equipment from Baumann and Schneider Engineering. Among the most advanced solution is the Baumann BASA system displayed last year at Graph Expo. The BASA system automatically jogs, aerates and unloads paper lifts, minimizing operator fatigue and maximizing cutter throughput.

“The whole purpose of automation is to allow the operator to get sheets into and out of the machine faster,” Peterson says. “If you have the right equipment to load and unload, you can double or triple the amount of work you do on a machine.”

Carrie Cleaveland is associate editor for AMERCIAN PRINTER. Contact her at

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 6,464 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.


Keep your eyes peeled for Colter & Peterson

Colter & Peterson is gearing up for Graph Expo 2007, where it will once again share a booth with MBO America, displaying cutting and folding machines side-by-side. This year it also will display a new City e 6000 Wohlenberg perfect binder together with a new Wohlenberg 60i three-knife trimmer.

C&P will also display a new Horauf three- knife trimmer. The Horauf three-knife trimmer is a digital, on-demand machine designed and built in Germany. “As the on-demand market continues to grow, more and more companies are clamoring for solutions that allow them to efficiently print and bind short runs of perfect bound books,” says Colter & Peterson president Bruce Peterson.

“An appropriate cutting solution is an under-recognized but vital aspect of that business. You can easily ruin a short run of books with poor cutting if you're using the wrong equipment.” A perfect bound book always will fare better when cut in a three-knife trimmer, he says. Colter & Peterson recently installed the seven Horauf three-knife trimmers for Lightning Source and will have one on display at the show in October.

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 electromechanical 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 × 1260 mm.


Read more online

Cutting time

In July 2006, AMERICAN PINTER checked in with Pepper Printing and The Hennegan Co. in “Cutting time.” 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.

Now cut that out!

How much automation does a cutter need? Executives at Heidelberg, Perfecta, MAN Roland and Colter & Peterson weighed in on this and other cutting issues in “Now cut that out!” (June 2005). We asked Rob Kuehl, Bret Stow, Tyrone Adams and Jeff Marr to detail their companies' cutter highlights. We also put together a sampling of available cutters and cutting-related accessories available today.