Star product: Uchida AeroDieCut

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

A B3 die-cutter that mixes the benefits of conventional technology with modern automation and step-and-repeat functionality, making it a versatile addition to any small printer’s kit line-up.

What does it do?

This is a fully automated B3 format die- cutting, creasing and embossing platen that uses traditional plywood-mounted dies with metal rules. It’s compact, quiet and runs off a 13amp plug.

It takes dies with the standard letterpress type height that you’ll find in old Heidelberg Windmill-type clamshell platens and converted letterpress cylinders, so any die-maker can supply them. The price depends on the length and complexity of the rules, but £150 would be typical according to UK distributor Morgana. 

Unusually, there’s an automated step-and-repeat facility so a small die pattern can be duplicated along the sheet length in the same pass.

Unlike the straight-line cuts, creases and perforations of multi-finishers, dies allow production of complex shapes such as small boxes, angles, round corners, tear-off perforated coupons, as well as true embossing. 

When was it launched and what’s the target market?

Uchida is a Japanese manufacturer. The AeroDieCut was launched in Europe in 2019 but the disruption from Covid delayed its appearance in the UK. 

Morgana, which sells other Uchida products including the AeroCut and AeroCut X multi-finishers, announced the UK distributorship in March but its first public appearance was at the Print Show in September. It’s available for delivery. 

According to Gavin Blakemore, Morgana’s UK national sales manager, the target markets include current users of small converted letterpress die-cutters, who may be finding that skilled operators are retiring and new ones prefer the automation and easy setup of the AeroDieCut. 

He says it’s also attractive to small printers, often all-digital SRA3 press users, that haven’t had in-house die-cutting at all until now. 

“At this price point it’s an alternative to some of the cutting and slitting multi- finishers,” he says. “It’s not for high-speed, high-throughout work.”

It’s also a much lower-priced alternative to the small rotary die-cutters that have been introduced in recent years by Morgana (whose RDC is about £60,000 compared to the AeroDieCut’s £39,995) and Duplo (the PFI Di-Cut 310), says Blakemore. “Unlike the rotary machines, the AeroDieCut produces properly formed creases and can handle real embossing, because of the counter-form that goes underneath the sheet,” he says. Horizon’s RD-N4055DM rotary die-cutter does have provision for a counter die on the impression cylinder, but it costs a lot more. 

How does it work?

The AeroDieCut has top and bottom plates, each with pressure applied by a roller, which Uchida says makes it quieter than traditional platens. The roller pressure is set by a large hand screw for each. 

The official stock weight range of 120-400gsm ties in with most digital presses, but something heavier would be handy for small box work by litho. 

Blakemore says that the first user in the UK, Healeys in Ipswich, has been getting up to 600gsm in practice, so the official specs are likely to change.

The plywood die forme is mounted on the top plate with the rules facing down, while a metal counter-plate goes on the bottom. For cutting-only work that’s all that is needed, but for creasing and embossing a thin resilient plastic counter matrix is attached to the plate. Most die makers can supply the counter sheet ready to mount. There’s a choice of steel or aluminium counter plate – aluminium is cheaper and less durable, but not so critical for the pressure setting. 

Small multi-up jobs (such as tickets or busines cards) can be set up with smaller dies at one end, with the machine able to step the sheet to repeat them up to five times along the length. 

There’s a ‘tri-suction’ sheet feeder with an ultra-sonic sensor for double feed detection, and a cut-mark sensor to compensate for lengthways image shift on the sheet (this also senses position for step-and-repeat). Delivery can be to an optional conveyor with separator, which allows for waste to fall into a catch bin (though this only works with certain cutting schemes). 

All job settings are entered through a 10cm colour touchscreen with several menu layers. Up to 100 jobs can be stored in the memory. 

What’s the USP?

Blakemore says it’s a combination of the automation, price point, counters for creasing and embossing, the ability to cut, crease, perforate and emboss in one pass plus the step-and- repeat ability. 

How fast is it?

Nominal speed is 1,000sph, though this would slow down for multiple cuts on the same sheet. 

What does it cost?

The list price is £39,995, plus options: the delivery conveyor is £3,290 and the waste separator is £3,990. 

What service, support and training is offered?

Morgana handles all service and support in the UK. The installation is same-day with operator training. Blakemore says it only takes about 15 minutes to plug in and then level the machine once it’s in position. There’s a 12-month warranty. 


SPECIFICATIONS

Maximum speed 1,000sph

Multiple-up repeats Up to 5 per sheet

Die board size 350x550mm

Die board thickness 18mm

Cutting rule height 23.3-23.8mm

Max paper size 365x515mm

Maximum finishing size 310x485mm

Stock range 120-400gsm

Footprint 2.7x1m

Power Single-phase, 400W

Price £39,995, plus conveyor delivery £3,490 and waste separator £3,990

Contact Morgana 01908 608888 www.plockmaticgroup.com


ALTERNATIVES

The AeroDieCut seems to be unique with its combination of conventional metal dies in a compact, automated and easy-to-use machine. Alternatives would include rebuilt converted letterpress machines (some of which can incorporate heated dies and feeders for hot foiling, unlike the AeroDieCut), larger clamshell platens (which are normally rebuilds or Chinese imports), modern automated rotary die-cutters with magnetic flexible dies at higher cost, or larger and more expensive hydraulic-operated vertical platen machines. 

Blakemore mentions multi-finishers as another alternative. These are available from Duplo, Horizon (via IFS in the UK) and Morgana, offering combinations of slitting/cutting, creasing and perforating in the lengthways or crosswise directions. They’re fast, quick and easy to set up and relatively low cost as base models, but only work in straight lines, without the angles, curves, shapes and embossing effects of a die-cutter. 

Computer-controlled XY cutting tables have the advantage of not needing to wait for dies to be made, so are suitable for instant one-offs, short runs and variable patterns. A cutting table cannot emboss and although it can handle creases, they are not as fully formed as a die-cutter with counter layer can create. 

Intec Printing and Graphtec offer small B3 models with or without vacuum beds for a few thousand pounds. However they are hand-fed and much slower than a die-cutter, so you’d need one of the largest area tables from such as Blackman & White, DYSS or Kongsberg, costing the wrong side of £100,000, to approach the throughput of the AeroDieCut. 

Intec also supplies the compact SRA3+ SC5000 sheetfed digital pattern cutter-creaser for about £5,000, which was a subject of a Printweek Star Product in July/August 2021. “Typical” speeds are under 200sph. Intec was recently acquired by Plockmatic, owner of Morgana, so the two ranges are now sold side by side. Graphtec’s SRA3+ F-Mark 2 and SRA2+ F Mark-2+ take sheets up to 700mm long and are in the same price league.


USER REVIEW

“We wanted to die cut reasonably heavy card, similar to ram punching, which takes a lot of time to set up. Cylinders give a rough edge. We’ve modified our Ricoh Pro C9200s for 600gsm and this goes on the Uchida. I’m pleased with the purchase – it’s not a vast amount of money and it’s going to be a worthwhile investment” Philip Dodd MD, Healeys Print Group

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