Perfecting the cut

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Perfecting the cut

Guillotine feature - Print Monthly 2019

Author: SuperUser Account/Monday, August 26, 2019/Categories: Technical Features

Perfecting the cut

When reading the word guillotine, images of massacre, beheadings and the French Revolution may spring to mind. However, despite the technology’s slightly more gruesome start, the guillotine is now considered a staple piece of equipment across the print industry.

Today, a paper guillotine is a mechanical device used to cut or trim large stacks of paper or documents at the same time. First pioneered in the mid-nineteenth century, there are many types, but all feature some form of blade and a flat surface to place the paper on.

In commercial printing, a range of larger, electronic commercial-grade machines for print finishing and production environments are used.

While there are many factors that make each model of guillotine unique – blade size, cut speed, power consumption, safety features and maintenance – the technology itself has developed over the years to provide a number of benefits. These include accuracy and consistency, cut quality, and the benefit of speed which results in a reduction of cost due to a reduction of man-hours needed. Described by The Printing Charity as one of the most under-rated items in its arsenal, the guillotine is used for almost every job. This feature takes a look at how far this technology has come, and where it is headed.

Safety first
Paper-cutting guillotines are considered by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to be high-risk machines having caused many accidents over the years. Being a category one machine, guillotines also fall under the Printing Industry Advisory Committee (PIAC) safety guidelines. The PIAC was formed in July 1979 to advise the HSE on matters concerning the printing industry. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that safety is one element of the machinery that is constantly developed and improved on.


Friedheim International is the only approved supplier of BaumannWohlenberg guillotines able to carry out known critical checks. Stuart Bamford, national post-press sales manager at Friedheim explains that BaumannWohlenberg’s machines are regularly updated, including the regular development of its safety systems.

Bamford says: “On a typical BaumannWohlenberg guillotine, the automated safety knife exchange from the front means that the knife-change protective device provides the highest safety standards for the machine operator. The cutting release is activated by a two-hand cut-start so that the down-movement of the knife is immediately stopped when one of the buttons is released.” Bamford also mentions a self-monitoring light barrier with 50 channels operates fully electronically and is maintenance-free. The mechanical safety bolt is an additional feature against double-cycling of the knife.


Bamford also notes the importance of monitoring the health of operators. This is something BaumannWohlenberg places as a primary concern due to the potential of handling large volumes of paper to cause operator fatigue. Because of this, newer machines have focused more on ease of use. “Design has improved so they are more ergonomically attuned to operators,” agrees Dean Stayne, sales manager of Terry Cooper Services (TCS). “This makes operation a nicer experience. In essence, the required action of a guillotine remains the same but recent developments have focused on ease of set up, simple use and ensuring all health and safety measures are met. “Often a guillotine is run by different operators and the simpler it is to use the better it is to ensure streamlined, error-free production.”



With guillotines often lasting between 15-30 years, the need for refurbishment and upgrades of certain parts is inevitable. In some cases, Bamford argues that upgrading a guillotine within an inch of its life may not be the most business-savvy move. “At the end of the day a guillotine simply cuts paper, we have customers with Wohlenberg and Schneider guillotines in their factories that are over 30 years old, and still cutting away. “This way of thinking is a false economy. Cutting accuracy decreases over time, repairs and maintenance costs increase, technology improves, and customers need to ask themselves – is it enough to spend thousands to replace aging components and degrading parts rather than go for a new guillotine with all the current safety and accuracy features available to them?


Responding to trends


As with anything, market trends shape the development with new products, and the production of guillotines is no different. Although the sole purpose of the machine remains the same, what consumers want from the technology changes as business changes. Bamford confirms that as the UK moves towards shorter runs, this has a direct knock-on effect in the finishing department which in turn generates bottlenecks when format sizes need to be taken into account. Bamford explains: “Smaller print runs force manufacturers to make readies for their machine and operator controls to try and minimise delays between job changes. How quickly you can change over between batches, how efficiently you can operate the machine, and how easily it can be integrated into the overall printing workflow have all become critical factors.


Baumann-Wohlenberg has recently launched its new Baumann Automatic Cutting System (BASS) which can be installed on all its guillotines. “This is why programable set up and MIS integration has become vitally important in recent years – add this to shorter runs and high variety of jobs it’s no wonder BaumannWohlenberg have put so much development into their BASA automatic jogging and the new BASS automatic cutting systems. For large volumes nothing will beat automation and BaumannWohlenberg are leading the way in this field.”

Bluetree connected two guillotines to Baumann-Wohlenberg’s BASA automated jogging system having realised the potential in this level of automation. Bamford also explains that through purchasing the BASA system, companies such as Bluetree (Route1Print) have realised the potential in this level of automation. “Connecting two guillotines to the BASA, the majority of print the company produces is automatically jogged, sorted, cut and distributed by a reduced workforce, so that the company can reutilise them in areas where human skill is essential.

Times are changing

Reflecting on how far the technology has come, Bamford says: “Compared to even a few years ago, the new guillotines from BaumannWohlenberg come with a host of new features, from touch programmable screens to lasers safety guides, double trigger cutting, and integration to workflow including CIP4, but delve even further and the materials themselves have changed.

“With higher grade materials used for modern cutting knives, replacing them has not only become easier, but the accuracy of the cuts are more consistent as well as a longer period between knife changes.” In terms of what’s in store for the future of guillotines, Bamford points to the use of robots, artificial intelligence and automated cutting, predicting that the future is already here.


“The new Baumann Automatic Cutting System does exactly what the name implies. For all products that have the same cross-sectional layout, the integrated robot takes over the tasks of the operator. Before the cut, the layer is positioned at the back gauge and held in position until the clamping bar fixes the layer.


“After the cut, it takes over the alignment of the layer and then transports it to the next processing machine. This feeding can be done either to the right, left, or in alternation, to the right and left.”


In addition to its range of multi-function devices, Morgana supplies a full range of EBA guillotines right through to the 7260 model, providing a cutting length of 720mm and cutting height up to 80mm.  “Our most popular size of machine has traditionally been the 55cm 5260 unit, however in the last two years we’ve seen many more sales of 66 and 72cm machines,” explains Ray Hillhouse, general manager, UK operations of Plokmatic Group. “This is a result of the digital print manufacturers moving to larger sheet sizes and promoting long sheet applications.” 

Read the full feature here.


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