Good quality die-cutting needs pin point accuracy and razor sharp edges, but what happens when global material shortages play havoc with the substrates being used.

It is often pointed out that each component of the flexo print process is irrelevant in isolation, and must work in tandem with each part of the chain. The flexo industry has discovered recently that ‘no man is an island’ and what happens in the wider world can have direct consequnces on the press itslef.

For die-cutting equipment manufacturers, their customers are battling against a multiude of global issues, which must be dealt with head on.

Keith Laakko, vice president global marketing, Maxcess, described what his customers are facing, ‘The labour market is tight globaly, so getting the talent that you need to operate a press effectively has been hard to do, so we ourselves and customers are looking at incentives to get the right people into the right organisation.

‘Prices and costs are rising, so really the onus is on companies to bring down the waste while factoring in more efficiency and more productivity. Speaking of the labour market again, how do we help our customers to automate the process, and we’re looking at ways to do that going forward, we learnt that from 2021, how can we take this forward to 2022. We need to find more ways to create versatility with our dies and performance.

Supply chain issues Mr Laako continued, ‘The variability in supply is having a huge impact on our customers in a variety of ways, 10-15% of variability in material you can handle, the paper supply has to change to entirely new material, and this impacts die-cutting in lots of ways, blade type, angle etc, so we have to customise how we manufactuer our dies, one die does not fit all. ‘When a customer goes to use a different material entirely, just because of what is available their die inventory may struggle to perform, but if you have an adjustalble anvil, you can adjust the cutting depth to use our mag cyclinder complimentary to our dies, it helps to manage the variablilty in the process. We know how the press works from rewind to unwind, with new systems launched now from point A to point Z, we have the whole chain covered.’

Mark Laurence, sales manager at Daco Solutions, spoke about the problems his customers have been facing with supply chains. He said,

‘The quality of the liners coming through have not been great and so tech support requests has gone up 30%. It has been a very poor and from a die-cutting point of view, unless you’re one of the lucky few with an adjustable anvil there’s little you can do to help the customer. Some have being using different plate heights as a solution to the downgraded material, but it costs them a lot of money, and then the next batch of paper could be just as difficult, so you go through it again as you can’t send the paper back as you don’t know when you’ll get any more.’

Sometimes in the flexo industry we can get caught up with how important speed is. Yes a fast print speed is important, but if your finishing is half the speed, then what’s the point? So for die-cutting speed is king. Mr Laurence continued, ‘Speed is getting more and more important. The printer pays the same amount for the paper, the only advantage they have against their competition is to get the roll of paper out of the unwind as quick as possible and in the hand of the customer as cheap as possible. That roll comes in from whomever, as a white roll, go on the presses will get by 4x6s in a box and out the door, the roll of paper will only touch one machine, so getting it through quickly is paramount.’

Mr Laako added, ‘Speed certainly comes into it, people want to run faster, whether they are running 10,000 or 100,000 metres they want the material to go through the press faster than before. But it has its challenges, when you’re running on wide presses at high speeds its important that everything all works together at one point of contact.’ ‘Where we are at in 2022, variability is the biggest issue to deal with, and this requires getting people with the right skill level to operate the press and part of that goes to how fast it can operate; because shutting the press down will cost you and that could be $100 – $500 an hour. When you start looking at the variability of material it all impacts speeds and productivity, at a time when printers want to run faster and better than they have in the past.

‘One of the ways we can help is to get the dies to run longer, there’s really only one way to do so and that is to chrome coat it which allows the dies to run longer on more abraisive materials. This stops press shut downs.’

Flatbed die-cutting is a well-known and important process step in the production of high-quality flexible packaging. Flatbed die-cutting (dieplate/punches) is characterised by high quality, flexibility, and ease of operation. During further development in the upstream printing industry, die-cutting machines have also become more and more advanced and efficient, and the importance of economical processing machines has increased.Waste reduction with intelligent die-cutting tools and the best possible arrangement of cavities significantly reduces further cost.

Today, machines such as Berhalter Swiss Die-Cutting systems are capable of processing printed material of all printing methods. As so-called ‘offline’ solutions, today’s high-performance die-cutting machines are operated independently of the preceding printing machines.

Die-cutting speed is certainly an important parameter when talking about efficiency and output. The Berhalter B6 die-cutting machine is running up to 500 strokes per minute. However, avoiding down-time via increased reliability, perfect print-todie registration, easy handling, and packaging is just as important. In addition, what is becoming increasingly important in these times is connectivity. With Berhalter CUTcontrol, a digital platform created to monitor the productivity and efficiency of the die-cutting machines. CUTcontrol assumes the role of support system and uses diagnostic tools for data analysis to increase the production performance.

Target-oriented service in combination with good spare parts management improves machine usage rates. It also provides the infrastructure for collecting and managing data streams. These data streams come from machines, accessories, and die-cutting tools. The software paves the way to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and is characterised by smart integration and a clear focus on die-cutting machines and their key performance indicators (KPI).

Predictive and preventive maintenance planning finally allows to schedule maintenance and to avoid unpredicted down-times.

In today’s environment, where efficiency is the key to success, every minute the machine is productive counts. To reach this goal, Berhalter Swiss Die-Cutting approaches on different levels. Apart from the diecutting machine, the use of highprecision die-cutting tools that are optimally tailored for every job is crucial. Small to large die-cutting jobs, simple to very complex diecutting geometries, single-row, and double-row die-cutting tools, single or multi-station die-cutting tools for deep drawing, perforation, creasing, diecutting, doming and embossing.

What is receiving more and more attention, is the handling of the die-cut product. Berhlater Swiss Die-Cutting offers standard and tailor-made stacking magazines that are easy to handle and very ergonomic. For long runs, Berhalter Swiss Die-Cutting offers also a solution for improved handling of the die-cut lids with the automatic counting and handling system BEAMstack. The demand for automation is driven by the need for more performance, efficiency, and sustainability. This applies to high-wage countries that need to ensure their competitiveness through increased automation, but also to emerging markets, which rely on robots in production due to difficultto-plan staff turnover. Our modern automation concepts impress with a high degree of modularity and flexibility. The future therefore belongs to the symbiosis of human creativity and technological intelligence.