Paper cutter selection is often given less consideration than it deserves. In neglecting to place importance on paper cutting standards, many misconceptions have developed. The most common misconceptions about paper cutters can negatively affect your productivity and consequently your profitability. Whether you’re currently in the market for a paper cutter or simply curious if your current cutter is up to par, the following guidelines should help you determine the proper cutter to fit your needs.
The first facet considered should be work volume. If your cutting needs are minimal and infrequent or you plan on only cutting a few sheets or thin/flexible materials, a simple low-cost rotary trimmer will likely fit the bill. If you plan on cutting thicker stock or need to cut larger stacks of paper at once, a step up to a desktop guillotine hand cutter is in order. Basic guillotine hand cutters typically will not cut more than 15-20 sheets at a time. If you need to cut more than 15-20 sheets at once, a more heavy duty, Manual Hand Cutter capable of cutting a stack of paper up to 3 inches or more might be the choice for you. Electric/Hydraulic or “stack” paper cutters are perfect for frequent use, high volume and thick or heavy materials.
Once you’ve determined the type of cutter you need, the first and most important feature to be considered is size. Often, many assume they only need a paper cutter slightly larger than the paper they plan to cut. This frequent mistake causes unnecessary loss of time, supplies and operator energy while limiting future cutting capabilities (and also potentially reducing the quality of your product). As an example, if you purchase a 19” paper cutter to accommodate 18” paper, the operator must remove the full stack, rotate and replace it, as opposed to simply rotating it on the proper size machine. For financial purposes, the normal practice for small shops is to buy a cutter adequate for the maximum paper size they plan to use. However, the best practice is to purchase and use a machine big enough to allow you to fully rotate the stack under the knife (avoiding stack/cover lifting increases production potential).
Keep the rule of thumb for paper cutting in mind: any operator should be able to easily rotate the full stack of materials on the cutting surface without lifting the stack. This issue becomes increasingly important when dealing with larger (and therefore heavier) stock in greater volumes. When requiring lifting to rotate heavier stacks of paper, your options for capable operators are greatly reduced (focus shifts from ability of the operator to operator strength).
*Important Note: If you use metric paper sizes, use a machine with metric measurements. If you use standard paper sizes, use a machine with standard measurements.
As with all other electronics, binding and paper cutting technologies are constantly evolving and safety features are not being left behind. Gone are the days of a plastic lid as an essential to paper cutter safety. In fact, at this juncture plastic safety lids are actually more of a hindrance than a help; consuming valuable time and energy. Lifting and closing the lid to rotate and reposition paper is becoming unheard of in this day and age. The advent of photocell barriers (often called infrared safety curtains) included on low to high end machines has rendered plastic covers completely unnecessary. Plastic covers are more or less only included on modern machines to reduce manufacturing costs.
In the interest of efficiency meshed with safety, automated paper push-out mechanisms have eradicated the need to place hands in the clamp or knife/blade areas. The new standard of injury prevention, safety curtains (typically a row of infrared light beams that detect when unwanted objects cross their path) are equipped to interrupt the cutting cycle and keep the blade from making any further cuts. As an additional safety back up, many machines are also outfitted with an emergency stop button. It is important to note that a thorough read and review of any accompanying operator or safety manual is a vital part of maintaining safe operation of any machinery.
Speed and quality are the key productivity factors to consider before making your selection. Faster machines will typically list cut cycle speed with their specifications. The higher the number of cuts per minute, the more you can produce in a shorter amount of time. High end plants place so much emphasis on the paper cutting device that it is one of the most expensive products they install in their entire facility. In addition, to better production levels, number of cuts per minute, full programmability, etc. coming from high end machinery, the quality of high end paper cutters allows a facility to factor in cutting cost with end production pricing of the finished product.
The commonly disregarded issue of paper accessibility will impact both speed and quality. The plastic safety lids (mentioned above) cause 3 times the amount of work for the operator and slow productivity down to a third of its potential. The “clear” plastic used to make the lids is similar to car headlights and can develop haziness, inhibiting the operator’s visibility, thus making cutting more difficult. The constant required use of the lid during operation also leads to an inevitably elevated rate of service calls. Overall, plastic covers are a step backward for ease of operation.
Clamping pressure is another often overlooked characteristic of cutting production. When a machine’s clamping pressure is low, your paper is not held securely. Poor clamping leads to an inconsistent cut from the top to bottom of a stack and leads to paper draw rather than a neat, clean cut. To understand paper draw, think of cutting a club sandwich. The cut at the top starts off okay, but as you continue to slice through, the contents get dragged along the way and the cut at the bottom is far from the quality of the cut at the top. The higher the level of clamping pressure on the paper stock, the less paper draw will take place as the knife cuts through the stack.
To avoid paper draw issues, it’s a good idea to keep a secondary sharpened blade on hand for minimal interruption of production when the blade in use becomes dull. A dull blade produces “ripping” rather than solid cut, requiring multiple re-trims to obtain the proper cut. Multiple cuts on a single sheet cannot be executed with a dull blade. An attempted cut with a dull blade shows imperfections/tears in toner/ink for documents/items with a full bleed.
Besides having a better overall appearance, an accurate cut is imperative for a quality final product. Any product entering a copier or press must be as exact as possible in order to avoid registration problems (Registration is consistency in print placement i.e. the same text/image appears in the same exact spot on every piece of paper it is printed on).
The final aspect to consider is machine compatibility. Whatever your process may be, it is essential to efficiency to use equipment of a similar caliber for each of your tasks. For example, if you’ve upgraded to a faster, high-speed copier, it does no good to continue to use a desktop paper cutter for the process at hand. If your copying rate exceeds your cutting rate, you are not improving productivity. If you feel the need to upgrade one part of your system, it is probably time to upgrade the rest.