Author: Brendan Perring, IPIA
Cut a path to opportunity with a perfect blade
Print businesses across the UK are growing, and they are doing so by tapping into rapidly evolving growth markets for creative print and packaging that creates a visual impact and engages the senses. You too can cut through the competitive jungle and discover new opportunity…with the right blade.
For decades there was a perception, prevalent across the UK print industry, that the primary way to growth was through the pursuit of ever-greater efficiencies – rather than the generation of new revenue streams and diversification into growth markets.
That strategy was a sound one at a time when the market for print long-runs was significantly more sizeable than it is today and finding new work that played to your core strengths was a much easier task.
As the long-run market began to contract, the profitable work migrated towards short-runs that featured a higher degree of complexity in their finish and levels of embellishment. It then became clear to technology developers such as Duplo International that an answer from them was needed to support customers with this rapidly shifting demand landscape.
Neil Scott, Showroom Manager at Duplo International – and one of its all-round technological gurus – explains how the organisation has responded: “The market is very broad now and printers are having to expand their products and services portfolio so they can keep saying ‘yes’ to customers. And while the number of overall orders continues to increase in this area, the volume of those orders has reduced on average over the last few years.
“There is market growth without doubt, but being able to harness demand requires the right technology that can cost-effectively manage short-runs and create added value elements to the print. This includes embellishments with foil, varnish and shape cutting.” For evidence of the trends explained by Neil, go no further than well-respected print business BCA Group. Its Managing Director, Mark Cottee, explains that the evolution of the market, which was accelerated by the Pandemic, has led them towards diversification into the packaging sector and cross selling to their existing customer base and beyond. As he explains below, it was Duplo’s intense focus on technology development that helped BCA Group realise its ambitions and potential.
Neil continues: “That is why we developed the DuSense Sensory Coater, which transformed from being seen as a digital spot UV coater into an embellishment solution. As a result, the demand that was continuously coming from our customers was having a machine that could shape cut and that could produce small quantities without a dye? To answer this demand we embarked on a significant research programme into this technology sector. The result was the PFi Blade digital cutting table series.”
The PFi Blade B3+ in particular has hit a sweet note in the market and has enabled print businesses across the UK and Europe to not just adapt to shifts in demand for the market, but actually get ahead of it and generate new print volumes through creative consultation with clients.
A precise instrument
Just some of its bells and whistles are an advanced CCD camera registration system, a QR code module that automates and accelerates production setup, a feeder capacity of 100mm and a cutting depth of 1.5mm across a vast array of substrates. It is also no slouch, with a cutting speed of 800mm per second and a sheet processing rate of 30 to 45 seconds – depending on the complexity of the task at hand. Mark continues, explaining how this technology has helped him sharpen the competitive edge of BCA Group: “We’ve seen packaging be buoyant, especially in niche markets for variable and personalised products. This new technology has allowed us to create a new market that was never there before due to the prohibitive cost for small quantities using a die.
“It’s fast, accurate – and once we let our imagination run – it’s amazing that we get to implement and make the finished products. After installing the machine we’ve been busy getting creative, firing samples at our customer base and really pushing what the machine can do. It’s brought creativity back to our company, and it’s evident in the new customers that we are now targeting and engaging with.
“We’ve always done work in corporate print, but now we’re looking to branch into consumer markets. We’ve been able to find new revenue by diversifying into packaging, the Blade has allowed us to do this and it’s really exciting how far we can push these applications to new businesses.”
Indeed, with a 3-tool head and the ability to handle an oversized SRA3 sheet (400 x 600mm), the digital cutter has options for cutting, kiss cutting (perfect for labels and stickers), creasing, scoring, and perforating – there is even a pen tool and an aftermarket embossing tool.
Its PFi Connect software also allows users to import a range of different file types directly into the workflow of the machine and then the machine is set ready to begin.
A Swiss Army Knife of opportunity
Neil has spent his professional career in print, working his way up from the boards through to high-level production management roles. That has given him a deep experience and insight into how technology such as the PFi Blade B3+ can drive growth for printers, as he explains: “From its most basic start point, it gets rid of bottlenecks on guillotines and platens or die cutting solutions. But that is just the tip of the sword. “As it uses a drag knife and a creasing wheel, then one sheet can have kiss cutting around complex shapes, while the overall sheet can be fully permitter cut. With multiple size tools, thisalso massively increases its flexibility versus more traditional die cutters.”
Neil expands on this train of thought, explaining that this level of productivity, flexibility, and application scope requires printers to step outside their comfort zone: “They are used to having dies made, using a third party to produce work, and being at the mercy of the trade provider in terms of time scales. But the value that is created by this solution, both financially, and in terms of control and flexibility, is paramount.
“Normally it is 24-to-48 hours to turn around a sample or short run using dies, you also need to do 30 sheets or so to get one good sample. This system can do it in less than 30min – all without the cost of dies and using just one sheet. You are keeping it all in house, with full control over your work, you can modify it on the fly, and simply there is added value on so many levels.” Neil is passionate about supporting Duplo’s customers to evolve, adapt, and thrive through the identification of growth markets and then recommending the right level of technology to meet their ambition and creative drive – an experienced that has certainly been confirmed by Mark Cotee of BCA Group and hundreds of other customers.
Neil concludes: “It is exhilarating to see our customers step into a limitless arena of products they can produce, helping them move from a business model of selling print, towards one where they are selling creative ideas to customers. Creative ideas that can be realised through advanced print, finishing and embellishment technology. And with a combination of PFi Blade B3+ table and its software, I have not come across a material we have not been able to finish within specification. What a great way to embark on a new chapter of growth for any print business. Let’s get cutting.”
For more information on the PFi Blade B3+ head to: duplointernational.com.
(Above and below) Cut, kiss cut, crease, score, perforate and emboss – all in one powerful and productive package