One of the doors opened by TwentySix01’s investment in a Summa F2630 flatbed cutter was to a private jet. More precisely having digital flatbed printing and cutting helped the firm win a job kitting out interiors for executive jets for a new client that has since become a regular customer.
Co-founder Steve Williamson picks up how the Summa helped the Bristol-based firm soar to success: “In the case of the jet job, a designer who had found out about our flatbed cutter online came to see us before work one morning; by 11 that morning we had been asked to pitch that afternoon. When we turned up at half past two with a personalised pitch box it blew their minds, and now they are a regular client.”
The firm’s growth trajectory has also been jet-like since Williamson and his co-founder Paul Johnson decided to pool their expertise and go into business together in 2015. Combining Williamson’s agency side design and artworking expertise with Johnson’s print production and sales skills they offer a complete range of services from design through all types of print to mailing. However, the core of the business, which now employs seven staff, is wide-format printing and finishing.
“Large-format offers more room for customisation and more opportunities; we can focus on delivering clients what they need rather than what they think they want,” says Williamson. “Our clients range from litho printers, through retail and property to design agencies,” he says. “We cover a very broad spectrum of industries. We also have a creative artwork and design department and print manage litho and small-format digital print.”
To get started they took a trip to Sign & Digital UK 2015 to look at equipment and came away with a pair of HP roll-fed printers, a Latex 360 and a Designjet Z6800, along with a laminator and a Summa plotter-cutter. With the fledgling business taking off the pair soon found they were looking to invest in additional production firepower.
“We were doing a fair amount of board work and it was proving very time-consuming with our existing equipment as we needed to mount and wrap,” he says. “So we decided to invest in flatbed printing and it was pointless having flatbed printing without a cutter.”
Having assessed their options Williamson and Johnson decided on another HP machine – an FB750 – for their flatbed printing, which was supplied by Papergraphics. The route to getting the Summa F2630 cutter was a little bit more convoluted.
“We had decided to get an ex-demo Zünd cutter but when they came to do a site survey it became clear it would never get into our premises,” he says.
The limited access looked like it might have quashed any plans for a cutter.
“We looked at the smaller Summa, the F1612, but that was shipped as a single piece and wouldn’t get through our doors. Fortunately the F2630, although bigger when assembled, is supplied in five pieces, so we could get it in.”
The F2630, which has a cutting area of 2,650x3,050mm, was installed at the end of 2016. To prepare for the installation the firm had to upgrade its network and its electrical supply to three phase, and also changed its RIP from Caldera to Onyx Thrive, which also necessitated moving from a Mac-based system to a PC.
“The installation was fantastic. The Summa arrived in five containers, which enabled it to be wheeled into the production area without disruption. It was installed within two days with another five days for testing and training.”
Like other cutting tables the Summa uses a camera to read optical marks on the print to identify and register the job and then cuts to shape using the contours file in the artwork. The cutter can cut through a wide range of media from paper, self-adhesive, cardboard, acrylic, Dibond and vinyl.
“Its been working amazingly well and it really makes you wonder how we coped before. The quality , reliability and flexibility are fantastic. It does everything it says on the box and more – we haven’t found any limitations.”
If anything, he feels the high demand for bread and butter work has prevented the exploration of all of its capabilities: “Once people knew we had the flatbed printer and cutter there was a lot of demand and they quickly filled up with work, which has meant we haven’t found time to experiment with some of the capabilities such as engraving.”
Being that busy is a nice problem to have, and pretty much the only issue.
“We haven’t really had much to grumble about, if we were to criticise the cutter we would want the vacuum on the bed to be a little stronger. The worst thing is how loud it is routing aluminium. Another peeve is the mess produced by some substrates, which he quips means “our second favourite machine now is Henry the hoover.”
Service has been great, and even when a part failed within the first few months the response was swift.
“It was rectified rapidly considering it was the first machine of its kind in the UK and the spare parts had to come from Belgium.”
While the Summa won its place in the business because it physically fitted through the factory doors it has proved its worth by opening the door to new business.
“It has brought a wider range of offerings and services to the company and we have recently been able to get involved with some more packaging projects. It’s been a great fit for our design agency clients who love the ability to get one-off mock ups produced at speed without costing the earth. We’re not cardboard engineers, but we are learning. We’ve used the cutter to produce a sample box that we personalise for prospects, which has proved to be extremely powerful. It is such a good door opener. In addition to the private jet interior job it helped us to get onto the roster for a local tourist attraction.”
While the headline benefit of the cutter is its ability to handle rigid materials, thanks to the roll-to-roll handling unit it has also proved to be a boon for finishing existing work off the two roll-fed printers. In particular the ability to load a 50m roll and just let the machine get on with cutting. While its original roll cutter could kiss-cut self adhesive work it couldn’t cut all the way through the substrate meaning some jobs still needed hand finishing.
“Even for simple jobs like 100 A0 posters the time saving is massive as before it would have been done using rulers and scalpels and have taken forever.
“Having the flatbed and the cutter has also helped us to pick up a lot of wide-format work from local litho printers. A lot of them want to get into wide-format but don’t realise how much space you need, and don’t have it. We offer to produce wide-format for firms without the space and we’re getting new work from other printers on an almost daily basis.”
Now that the Summa is in place there’s no room in the factory for another cutter, but there’s no doubt it has won a place in the firm’s heart.
“We wouldn’t be able to fit another in the building but would highly recommend to others looking for an affordable cutter.”
Max sheet size 2.65x3.05m (can handle jobs up to 50m long in multi-panel mode)
Cutting speed Up to 1m/s
Price £104,795 including a two-year warranty. This price is for the machine (including automatic tool depth control) and software but without tools. There is a menu of many different tools, according to supplier ArtSystems, and which ones are opted for will obviously have an impact on price
Steve Williamson and Paul Johnson founded bristol-based TwentySix01 in 2015 to offer design and print with a core offering of roll-fed wide-format print produced in-house. The firm has grown rapidly and now employs seven people.
Why it was bought...
The two founders saw early on that there was a gap in the market for flatbed work and decided to fill it, investing in the Summa F2630 cutting table along with an HP FB750 printer.
How has it performed...
Williamson says: “It has brought a wider range of offerings and services to the company and we have recently been able to get involved with some more packaging projects… Even for simple jobs like 100 A0 posters the time saving is massive… Having the flatbed and the cutter has also helped us to pick up a lot of wide format work from local litho printers.”