Education and a U.S. Debut at Zünd Digital Cutting Days 2023
For anyone looking to improve their finishing department’s speed, productivity, or efficiency, the Zünd Digital Cutting Days event — held Sept 28-29, 2023 at it’s U.S. headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — had a wealth of information for customers, partners, and guests to explore. The event is the first time the company has opened its doors to larger gathering here in the United States since it moved to its new facilities in 2019, showing off not only it’s full equipment line, but also 60,000 sq. ft. of space dedicated to everything from training, to education, to demonstrations.
Perhaps one of the biggest highlights of the event, was the U.S. debut of the brand new Q-LINE digital flatbed cutter, with a wide range of new innovations designed to help printers be faster and more efficient when it comes to their finishing and cutting needs. The new cutter includes the BHS180 board handling solution with UNDERCAM, tailored for operations that need a highly automated system that can load, cut, and unload/stack boards completely hands free, allowing operators to walk away to work on other equipment, or even run a “lights out” shift with the machine running overnight to keep production high.
Currently sold as a system, the package makes for a compelling solution for high-volume operations, and that was obvious at Digital Cutting Days, as it attracted the most attention of all the equipment on the showroom floor by a wide margin.
In addition to high-level automation, the new Q-LINE cutter has a host of other improvements, including new components designed to be lighter and perform better, the ability to switch between cutting knives on the fly automatically, making it a more versatile piece of equipment, and a range of features specifically created with operator safety in mind, just to name a few.
Another interesting feature of the setup is on the unloading and stacking end, with the system automatically tracking the beginning and end of each individual job, and offsetting them slightly as the finished boards are pulled from the machine, allowing an operator to see at a glance where a job starts and stops. The system can even offset a board where an error was registered, so an operator can see exactly where a problem occurred while they were away without stopping the rest of the run.
All in all, it makes for a very interesting system that any shop with the volume to support it could greatly benefit from.
Sustainability Takes the Spotlight
But while the Q-LINE was the star of the show, it certainly wasn’t the only draw of the Digital Cutting Days event. Zünd also offered a range of educational sessions designed to get attendees talking to each other in a round table format, rather than simply listening to speakers.
One of those sessions was “What Does the Future Hold for the Graphics Business,” hosted by Zünd’s graphics segment manager, Lars Bendixen. The group — which included wide-format printers, an agency, and a smaller specialty shop — talked about a lot of different topics they were each facing, but the one that got the most discussion was by far sustainability.
In particular, the group agreed that even a few years ago, brands still focused more on getting a job done for the lowest cost, and while sustainable options were nice, they weren’t willing to pay the premium for them. Now, however, it’s becoming a must-have, especially for higher-end brands and clients. And they are not only looking to use more sustainable substrates and processes. They are also looking at the printers for ways to be more “green” after the fact, including things like donating used banners to various organizations around the country that can re-purpose the materials. And while the brands can certainly do this themselves, they are starting to look more to their printers to provide a full lifecycle solution, rather than just the print.
However, the group did discuss that the increased demand isn’t a bad thing — in fact, as the demand is increasing across the board, they are finding that the costs of sustainable materials and processes is also coming down. One printer noted that they used to have the cost stop all sustainability attempts, but now it’s only about 10-15% higher than using non-sustainable options, which has made it “more doable.”
That said, the group agreed that printers need to be very, very careful not to engage in “greenwashing,” where the claim to sustainability is all smoke with very little fire. “The younger generation will call you out,” one noted. “You can’t just get a certification and call it enough. They will research it.”
That said, they all expressed frustration over the lack of a true industry standard around what sustainability actually means. There are a host of different certifications, definitions, and ideas out there, but it can get confusing, and having more guidance on an industry-wide level about what we mean when we say “sustainable” would help ease some of that frustration. “I want to do more, but I don’t even know where to start,” one printer noted.
Having a few tools for measuring or recycling, for example, are great, but what the printers really noted they need is help with educating brand owners on the options out there and how they can optimize their print jobs to achieve their goals, stay in budget, and be sustainable at the same time. “As an industry, we have a dark cloud hanging over us,” one printer noted. “So, it’s up to us to help them understand how to optimize their print.”
And that was just one of the panel sessions at this year’s event. Other round-table discussions included “What Material Innovations and Improvements are you Looking for in Your Graphics and Packaging Business,” “Facilitating the Step: Training and Consulting Options to Improve Your Cutting-Room Efficiency,” and “Step into IOT4.0 with Zünd Connect.” Not to mention the partner area with other industry suppliers on hand to talk about how their solutions compliment the Zünd lineup and can help printers further optimize their business, access to the company’s showroom floor where a number of pieces of equipment were up and running alongside experts to answer questions, a gallery area where attendees could get a better idea of the breadth of jobs the Zünd cutters can help them create, and several networking opportunities spread throughout the day.
Overall, it is safe to say the first Digital Cutting Days event Zünd has produced was a big success, and is worth keeping an eye out to attend next year.
To watch a video recap of the event, click here.