Me & My: Trotec Laser Q500

Time-saver: Trotec Q500 has enabled Minuteman Press Bath to bring laser-cutting jobs in-house
Time-saver: Trotec Q500 has enabled Minuteman Press Bath to bring laser-cutting jobs in-house

Attending a print trade show can be a daunting experience. Vast halls are packed to the rafters with shiny bits of new-fangled equipment, and lots of sales people are on hand to give you the spiel about why their kit is better than the one being sold on the stand around the corner.

If you don’t attend print shows with a specific purpose in mind you can easily get lost in the melee and waste your big day out.

There was little chance of that happening to Kieran Blacknall, operations manager at Minuteman Press Bath, when he attended the Sign & Digital UK show in Birmingham, in March 2022. Blacknall, along with Minuteman Press Bath managing director David Ghent, went to the event because they were looking for a laser cutter and they knew that four manufacturers were displaying these machines at the Sign & Digital UK show.

The company, which produces a wide range of products for customers, including greetings cards, wall planners, flyers, exhibition displays, shop fronts and vehicle graphics, already had a mechanical drag knife flatbed cutter with a camera system,but it was having to outsource a lot of jobs, costing it time and money.

Blacknall was particularly keen to be able to cut acrylics in-house, but this wasn’t possible using the company’s existing equipment and, as a result, it was buying them in from other suppliers.

“So we went to the show to specifically look at the laser machines,” says Blacknall. “We did our research beforehand and we looked at the options at the show from different manufacturers. We looked at a cutter from Duplo as well, but that was also a drag knife machine and we were already sorted for that sort of thing. The target was to get a laser so we could cut acrylics and do acrylic signage and things like that.”     

Having closely pored over the different options on display at the show, he was particularly impressed by the machine offered by one company in particular.

“We really liked the look of the Trotec Laser Q500. So we got some samples off their machine and we went away and thought about it. Then we went to their showroom near Bristol and tested it on a wide range of different materials, and we liked what we saw,” says Blacknall.

He was so impressed by its performance that in October last year, Minuteman Press Bath took delivery of a new Q500 dual-source laser cutter with the add-on Trotec Vision Print & Cut camera system.

Blacknall says the installation went smoothly, but he admits that getting to grips with the new machine proved to be a steep learning curve for the business, as it was a totally new technology. 

“With a lot of print machinery you press a button and you expect it to do the job, but with this machine you’ve got to control the power and the speed of the laser – a couple of percent in power can make a huge difference. If you’re trying to cut a thin piece of paper you’re either not going to go through it or, if you go overboard, you’re potentially going to scorch the paper. So it’s been a learning curve to work out how a laser operates, because it’s a completely different process to anything we’ve been used to before.”

He says for the first month or so it would take him a while to work out how to handle each job while he was getting up to speed on what it could do but, over time, through trial and error, he built up knowledge of how to get the most out of the machine and become more proficient. 

During this learning process, he says, Trotec was always on hand to help out when he encountered any problems, and issues were quickly resolved thanks to the company’s input. Over time, as the machine has become more bedded in, Blacknall says the company has really started to reap the rewards of investing in the Trotec, which has enabled Minuteman to be faster, more flexible and more efficient when it comes to cutting. 

“It’s great from a creative point of view because you can really think outside the box,” he says. “We do quite a bit of wood on it, which we never thought we’d do. A quarter of the jobs we’ve done so far have been cutting and engraving wood, which is interesting. I think the versatility is the best thing about it.” 

He is also a big fan of the Trotec Vision Print & Cut camera system, which enables printed materials with registration marks to be processed accurately, providing an efficient workflow and negating the need for manual alignment of jobs. 

“Obviously you can put things on there and you can sort of line it up by eye and cut it, and you’re going to be roughly in the right place if you’re good at lining stuff up. But with the camera add-on all we have to do is put these six-millimetre dots on the page where we’re printing and the camera will find the dots and it will cut. You can cut a file out that hasn’t got bleed on it; that’s how good it is.” 

Blacknall is delighted with the effect the Trotec Laser Q500 has had since installation and says it has boosted turnover, reduced costs and made the company even more efficient.

“Before we took delivery of the Trotec, when doing any acrylic work we would have to order it out to another supplier, who would send us the finished piece and we would have no control over it. We were also paying the cost of sending it out, whereas now I can order my own acrylics, so I’m getting a much better price on my materials and I can control the whole production process in-house really quickly, which is great. It has certainly brought us increased margin on the acrylic work, and on short-run work as well.”

The machine has already exceeded Blacknall’s expectations, but he believes there is even more to come from it. “I think this year the Trotec is really going to come into its own. We have sort of spent the last couple of months figuring out what we can do on it, what’s going to be a good product to promote and what’s going to be something you don’t really want to be doing everyday because it takes too long or it’s too complicated. So I think this year it’s going to really turn it up a notch.” 


Max processing speed 2m/s

Work area Up to 1,300 x 900mm

Cutting depth Up to 15mm

Power consumption 100-250V, 1,100-1,500W

Footprint 1.9x1.6m 

Weight About 570kg

Price From around £45,000

Contact Trotec 0191 580 1184


The company began life in central Bath about 25 years ago as a small print and copy shop. During the intervening years it has grown rapidly and recently invested more than £1m in a move to a new commercial unit in Bath. The business offers a comprehensive service, including print, design and signage. It also offers a wide range of products, from greetings cards, wall planners and flyers to exhibition displays, shop fronts and vehicle graphics.

Why it was bought...

The company already had a mechanical flatbed cutter with a camera system, which allowed it to offer a fairly comprehensive service, but it was outsourcing some cutting work, such as acrylics, which meant it lost time and margin. Minuteman wanted to invest in a laser cutter so it could bring this sort of work in-house.

How it has performed...

Blacknall says it took a little while for him to get to grips with the new technology, but after bedding the machine in it has “been an excellent addition to our workflow, giving us a new dimension to processing and allowing us to offer a comprehensive range of options for clients”.