29 May 2017 Finishing

Cutture delivers a digital cut above

Cutture is a trade service built around the power of laser powered digital cutting.

Cutture offers a trade cutting service using a Motioncutter laser cutting unit backed by a decade of experience in using highly focused energy to cut intricate patterns in paper and card.

It calls this a bureau rather than trade finishing, suggesting correctly that this has little to do with rapid turnaround of fold stitch trim or binding work. And the bureau is built on the back of the spare capacity it has from its design business.

Dominic Sharland started the cutting business as a consequence of growing interest in an architectural model making company. This was using a laser to cut the acrylics and boards used to create the 3D models architects need to show their clients and planning agencies.

The other half of the business was a conventional design agency, set up in 2002. The opportunity was to combine the two, using lasers to to cut intricate patterns for top end social stationery and greetings cards. That was in 2010.

In the five years since the company has learned plenty about materials and how to cope with some of the less desired effects of laser cutting. “We found that the market was dominated by really bad laser cutting. Printers and designers that had used it were put off by the scorching and discolouration they had experienced,” he says.

The perception lingers although this is completely wrong. The laser is so focused and has such a short dwell time that the temperature of the paper around the cut area is not raised enough to cause scorching.

Where there are concerns, Sharland has almost certainly tested the substrate. If not, Cutture will test a material and optimise settings where required. “We will test each material that customers want to use to check that it is appropriate,” he says. “It’s part of the due diligence that we will do.”

If there are problems it is nothing to do with the technology, more to do with how the paper is made and what has gone into the coating or sizing he explains.

Cutture's own expanding design business called for a new machine leading to investment in the Motioncutter, one of fewer than a dozen in the UK. It has a feeder, rather than hand feeding which increases throughput as well increasing the quality.

“We end up with something that is really striking with no visual defects,” Sharland adds. “That is what we wanted for ourselves and what the market wanted.

“We are producing invitations where people go ‘Wow’, where we can have conversations with customers who instead of sending 2,000 standard invitations to achieve a response of 200, can now send 250 designed and laser cut invitations, perhaps with personalised cutting, to get the same 200 response. The invitees see the investment that has gone into the invitation and that raises the value of the event.”

Styles are not restricted to value added, engaging and emotion building print. Laser cutting is used in a wide range of areas, passports for example use the technology as one of the many security features employed. He would like to get involved in this and other types of work. For now, the work is greetings cards, packaging, magazine or book covers and social stationery where the laser cutting helps set the product apart from any other printed product.

In its own design business, based in Fulham, Cutture is dealing with the top brands and what Sharland calls ‘high net worth individuals’, celebrities and sports personalities for example. It is not for every job, but where the need requires it, luxury brands are heading for the design office in Fulham, often leaving chauffeurs to circle the block while the meeting is going on. “Pricing on the bespoke side of things is,” says Sharland, “off the scale. Though they will not invest this in every job.”

Nor are the prices charged to other printers in the same league. Pricing is linked to the short run nature of the jobs, where developing a die would make the short run prohibitive. Nor is Cutture tempted to invest in its own digital print technology. “We prefer to build relationships with other digital printers. It reassures them we are not out to take the client and in any case we can buy digital print quite keenly.

It is investing in a small foiling machine, the conventional type not digital as according to Sharland “customers think that foiling should come with a physical impression. Digital foiling is not there yet”. Digital cutting is a completely different matter. It is a hot topic, without the need for any scorch marks.

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Alice sample

Alice sample

Alice in Wonderland is evocatively rendered by the accuracy and finesse achieved through laser cutting on the Motioncutter at Cutture.

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