Me & my: Horizon RD-4055

By Barney Cox, Monday 25 January 2016

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Elite Labels is, as the name suggests, a label producer but it’s not your standard label outfit producing self-adhesive labels for product decoration. Its focus is on the garment industry, so a lot of those labels are the fabric ones sewn into clothes – designer and others.

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Sidik: “As soon as we saw it we could see the potential”

Its client base ranges from high-end fashion to high street. The Leicester-based firm is 40-strong and has been trading since 1987. Thanks to a network of global partners it operates on a worldwide scale. 

Despite its name the firm produces a broader range of branding and identification products for the clothing industry than the labels sewn into clothes. The range includes fasteners, badges, lanyards, heat transfers, diamante and rhinestone transfers, leather badges (think the bit on the back of your jeans) and branded rope handled bags. 

It also produces the tags and swing tickets that carry the important details of size, style, price and barcode in addition to any branding attached to them when they’re on the rail in the shop. 

In the summer of 2015 the firm installed the UK’s first Horizon RD-4055 rotary die-cutter, which is used in the production of the tags and swing tickets. It cuts the board that the firm prints using its range of litho and digital presses, depending on the volumes required. 

“We wanted to speed up and simplify the process of cutting out the tags,” says Elite Labels manager Saabir Sidik. “We were producing them before using a guillotine and a paper drill, which took a lot of cuts to make each ticket.”

Assessing options

The firm was already looking for an alternative to hand-cutting the labels on a guillotine before it became aware of the RD-4055. Having rejected an old platen as too labour-intensive for its requirements it had been looking for a “modern easy-to-use machine”. It had been looking at digital slitter-cutter-creaser machines, including those from Duplo and Morgana before an email from IFS arrived, which alerted Sidik to the availability of the machine. 

“Until then nothing we’d seen was right,” Sidik says. “As soon as we saw it we could see the potential.”

“Installation was perfect,” he says. It fitted easily into the factory and just needed hooking up to the electricity and an air line from its existing compressor. 

The RD-4055 is a rotary die-cutter. It uses steel dies, which the company needs to send out artwork for and buy in from a number of third-party suppliers. The die is wrapped around the magnetic cylinder at the heart of the machine and can be used to cut and crease. Rotary dies are commonplace in packaging print and also similar, albeit higher throughput and more expensive machines such as the Bograma are sometimes used for high-volume continuous-feed applications such direct mail.

With the RD-4055 Horizon has taken the rotary die-cutting concept and incorporated its expertise in making automated, easy-to-use push-button machines suited to digital and short-run litho operations.

“It’s hard to think of anything bad about it,” he says. “It has got sensors everywhere, which ensures if there’s a problem with anything it stops rather than producing lots of waste.”

It can handle materials up to 0.5mm thick, so it comfortably deals with the 350gsm stock the firm tends to use. Speed is 6,000cph, which means it eclipses the capabilities of any of the slitter-cutter-creasing devices. 

“While they would have handled that thickness, they would have been very slow,” he says.

The speed advantage is down to the fundamentally different way the RD-4055 operates compared to the slitter-cutter-creasers. While they use adjustable knives to cut the sheet, and can be programmed by the operator, it uses a metal die. This needs to be produced by an external specialist, typically taking a week to turn around, and incurring an additional cost. 

Sidik says that is not an issue, especially as the dies can be re-used for common sized tags and repeat work. To ensure the dies aren’t damaged in storage the firm returns them to the packaging they are supplied in, and has set aside a dedicated space in the factory to safely store them. 

Light touch

He was concerned that the operators might damage the dies if they were heavy-handed in setting the pressures, but due to its ease-of-use and the training provided in how to set it up that hasn’t proved to be a problem in reality. It’s also proved to be simple to change the dies and get back into production with the next job.

Another benefit is that the dies can cut curved corners and much more complicated and creative shapes rather than square X-Y cuts that it was limited to with the guillotine and would have had to stick to with a slitter-cutter-creaser.

In the time it has been installed the machine hasn’t needed service and support, something that Sidik attributes to its simple and robust design. 

“The best thing about it is that it is simple to operate and offers good performance,” he says. “Once you’ve set it correctly it strips out the waste and just delivers finished products. We band the tags into batches of 250. We can set the machine to pause every so often – depending on how many tags are on each sheet – to give the operator the time to gather up a batch. If it was an old platen you couldn’t do that – it would just keep going chucking out products at you.”

The one thing he’d like is even more automation, so the machine could batch and band the bundles of tags on the conveyor rather than having the operator do that. Fortunately IFS has the requisite products in its range to add banding when and if it’s required. 

“It’s taken away a lot of manual handling and made the whole production process much easier,” he says. “At the moment it is more than capable of handling our production requirements even though we are growing, especially in this side of the business. If we did get to the stage of needing additional capacity I’d definitely buy another.” 


SPECIFICATIONS

Type Rotary die-cutter

Max speed 6,000cph

Max sheet size 400x550mm

Max substrate thickness 0.5mm

Price £65,000

Contact IFS 020 8997 8053 www.ifsl.uk.com 


COMPANY PROFILE

Elite Labels is a label producer that focuses on the garment industry. In addition to the ones sewn into clothes it also produces the tags and swing tickets that carry the important details of size, style, price and barcode in addition to any branding are attached to them when they’re on the rail in the shop. The firm was founded in 1987 and employs 40 staff at its factory in Leicester, from which it supplies garment producers globally. 

Why is was bought... 

Before buying the RD-4055 the firm was cutting tags manually using a guillotine and using a paper drill to produce the hole for the string to hold the tag to pass through. It wanted to simplify, speed up and automate the process to keep up with growth in that part of its business. 

How it has performed...

The machine has ticked all the boxes in the original brief and a few more to boot. It has proven easy-to-use, speedy and reliable. An additional benefit is the ability to be more creative with the shapes and go beyond the rather staid squared up tags it produced before.

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