Sample the many ways your plotter can automate tasks in the shop

Drawing, knifing and creasing on demand

Esko’s Kongsberg V20 cutting table is outfitted with a FlexiHead and offers highly accurate, powerful cutting and creasing of packaging material

Time, too often, is the intangible cost for die shops. Once a month someone actually reports on how much time was spent on various projects, but the analysis is quickly filed away and forgotten. The management team focusses more on the cost of stuff you can feel—the price of dieboard, steel or a new piece of equipment.

One new piece of equipment, in particular, needs to be looked at carefully — for the cost savings it can generate through automation. Let’s look atthe modern plotter — one that’s capable of drawing, knifing and creasing on demand.

Here’s a list of functions that a plotter can provide to your firm, decreasing the need for hand work and freeing your most skilled employees to take care of other pressing business.

Sample making

If you aren’t already producing samples with the plotter’s assistance, you should be. This device will do all the necessary drawing, knifing and creasing faster than your staff can by hand. In addition, the sample will be more accurate. If you aren’t already charging for samples, the plotter’s capabilities will allow you to collect US$ 5 to US$ 10 per piece. You brought the machine into your shop to help you make money; take advantage of its capabilities.

Register samples

When your customer wants a mini-production run (for example, 50 samples that are as close a replica of the product as possible),why create a one-up die? Your plotter can much more economically ensure that all project components are accurately registered.

Cut PVC materials

Here’s another opportunity to make US$ 5 to US$ 10 per sample. For projects that require a proof sample, the plotter is an ideal tool. Some machines will have the ability to crease PVC, others will partially cut the material to simulate a crease.

Full-form vinyl or mylar plots

When you need to verify that the printing is placed properly and the die is built correctly, the plotter’s automated approach saves time and manpower. The mylar is sent to the printing supplier, and the same data used to generate the my laris used to make the die. All of this takes place at the same time. This way the sheets come in matching the die.

Stripping-pin check

There are times when it makes more sense for pressmen to accurately position stripping pins (upper and lower) off-press. By creating a full-form plot, the press operator can synch up tools before going on press.

Spot-up sheets

Here’s another way to end earthe pressmen to your products. Help them get uniform pressure on the die through the use of spot-up sheets, which can be done off press. This contrasts with the carbon paper approach on press that is less accurate and more time-consuming. You mark up the spot-up sheets and simply put the shims in places that correspond to the areas that are not cutting properly.

Cross-reference machine accuracy

Take a mylar plot, lay it over the laser board and check its accuracy. We know the CAD system will produce a perfect representation of what the device should look like. If the die’s components have shifted some what after repeated use, the plot will show the inconsistency. This template approach, used about once a month, is a quick and easy way to provide some quality control on your machine accuracy. This should be used as reference only. Machines should be properly calibrated.

Counter masks

Who really wants to mess around by hand with the task of spraying over the plastic
counter away from the diet oprevent the tool from receiving any glue? Set up the paper board job on the plotter, save yourself sometime and make the whole process neater.

Coating blanket

Also known as a varnish blanket, it provides a method for automating the task of ensuring that no varnishadheres to the part of the carton where the glue should go. A 10-minute job on the sample table can save one to two hours of press time. This produces a very accurate and consistent blanket, based on a CAD file sent to your sample maker.

Step and repeat plots

Put away the ruler. You don’t need to measure and number by hand on a 16-up die, when the plotter can provide a full-form verification mylar that ensures the printing is in the right place. The plotter will draw the step-and-repeat number for you.

Scribe coat and rubylith

Why not have your machine create the negative for you on extremely tight tolerance projects? Ascribe tool can scratch away the orange dust with a precision that only the most remarkable craftsmen can produce time aftertime.

Special ejection materials

Need some narrow slots on the die or an unusual size rubber? Letthe plotter do it.

Press levelling underlayment

The CAD system can create a map that will show the low areas of pressure that correspond to the low areas on the platen. You then can use the map to cut out shims that will level or bring up the low spots to even out the cutting impression.

Kiss cut

Let’s say you need a sample of some adhesive label dies. The cutting blades on most sample makers have the ability to be precisely adjusted, enabling the cutting of the label itself without cutting the adhesive backing material. This helps the customer get a real feel for the finished products.

Panel fillers

Your plotter can enable you to fill waste or large void areas with a more aesthetically pleasing cut than you can achieve by hand-cutting the material. This also helps to stabilize the diecut material, which helps to assure accuracy of the part.


As the press drags sheets from one station to another, it helps to provide a boost or lift for each sheet. You can use the plotter to create ramps—pieces of material with a little tongue sticking up—that will noticeably improve sheet flow and press speed by reducing the sheet contact with the tooling. This greatly reduces sheet stress and break-up, and helps reduce
the size and number of nicks to carry the sheet through the press.

Obviously, this list can go on, but this isn’t part of a contest to see who can create the most all-encompassing catalog. The point is that some of these ideas may be applicable to your business today, and some others tomorrow.

The purchase of a plotter opens up new horizons in automating work within your shop. Computer-aided design breakthroughs continue to surface in our industry as we all push our machines further and advance our abilities to serve customers. The hardest part of taking advantage of plotter capabilities is overcoming the ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ mindset. Your success at embracing positive change—and instilling within your organization the need for implementing innovations—will determine how well you meet
customers’ spiralling demands for improved quality and speed.

This article is reprinted with permission from the International Association of Diecutting and Diemaking’s monthly magazine, The Cutting Edge, June 1999.

The IADD is an international trade association serving diecutters, diemakers and industry suppliers worldwide. IADD provides conferences, educational and training programmes, a monthly magazine, online resource library of 500+ technical articles, industry experts to
answertechnical questions, publications and trainingmanuals,recommended specifications, online used equipment marketplace, videos and more. IADD also co-presents Odyssey, a bi-annual trade show and innovative concept in technical training featuring a hands-onTechshopwhere training programmes come alive inanactual working diemaking and diecutting facility inside the exhibit area. Visit or call 1-815-455-7519 for more information aboutIADD.

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