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The Right Finishing Tool for the Job

Specialty equipment to keep those projects moving out the door.



The right tool is critical to any part of a job, of course. But of all the areas in a shop, it may be in the finishing department where shops typically try to get by with less or depend upon equipment that has been in-house for a while.

And, yes, while you may be able to “make do” with that sewing machine you’ve had on-hand since the Carter administration, or that dryer that first came through the door when something called MTV was introduced, it might be time to carefully evaluate how new specialty finishing equipment could possibly help you out. Can a new or different tool do a better job than your present one? Are there new technologies available that simply weren’t available when you first bought a similar tool? Can a different tool speed up your processes and get the job out the door and into your customer’s hands more quickly? Keep in mind that quick turnaround means happier customers and, likely, an improved bottom line.

In that spirit, here is a sampling of finishing tools that-with the investment of some cash and training-will improve your turnaround time and add another revenue stream.

Dry assist

As the speed of wide-format printing increases, the time to dry the graphics before re-rolling or lamination has decreased. One way to move the process along is to supplement your printer with one or more additional heating units.

The portable infrared dryers from Black Body can be rolled up directly alongside the printer to dry the ink to its full cure. Because it’s the nature of infrared to dry from the inside out, the Digi-Dri units provide a full cure without deforming the substrate, the company reports. Complete with a controller, these dryers are available up to 108-in. wide; more than one heating unit can be placed on a heating assembly frame. Depending on the unit width and current, the Digi-Dri can be used with printers that output up to 860 sq ft/hr. These IR dryers also can be used to preheat substrates.



Heat and seal

Cutting printed fabric can lead to fraying ends and loose threads, as well as the possible need for reprinting. The HSGM Heat Cutter can solve this problem with its hot technology: Heating up to 600? C in 6-8 seconds, it cuts and seals the fibers of thermoplastic substrates (polyesters and other synthetic materials).

The company’s HSG-0 Heat Cutter works with synthetic fabric, cords, ropes, bands, and belting fabric. The tool is best used forfebruary 2007 | cutting small quantities of fabric; HSGM recommends this hand-held heat cutter for short-time operation. In addition, because of its sealing capabilities, the tool should only be used to cut single-layer fabrics (otherwise, the layers will be melted together).

Various blades are available, depending on the substrate and type of cut desired.



A stitch in time

Finishing banners by sewing pole pockets and hems is standard in many shops. But, let’s face it, the $99 Singer from Wal-Mart won’t cut it when it comes to sewing two or more layers of vinyl. Shops need an industrial sewing machine that’s built for heavy-duty 8+ hr/day output on thick, hard-to-sew materials. In addition, shops need speed and, again, home machines typically aren’t up to the task-home machines sew up to just 800 stitches/min, whereas industrial sewing machines can reach 9000 stitches/min.

The Consew 206RB-5 is an industrial sewing machine that can handle heavy-duty materials such as leather, vinyl, synthetics, canvas, and laminated products. It features speeds up to 3300 stitches/min (depending on thread and substrate), has a locking stitch regulator to prevent changes in stitch length due to vibration, and includes a walking foot to assist the fast feeding of the material.


Pocket pouch

While not quite fitting into your pocket, Drytac’s new Pocket Gopher does offer an alternative to a costly wide-format laminator that can also devour more than a bit of floor space. Capable of encapsulating posters and graphics as large as 12 x 18 in., the Pocket Gopher operates at speeds up to 25 in./min and is simple to use: Insert the graphic into a pouch and feed into the heated rollers. The laminator features temperature control, reverse mode, and indicator lights. It’s compatible with pouch thicknesses up to 10 mm, and will laminate products such as posters, menus, business cards, luggage tags, and more.



Dust devil

Once prints have been laminated, dust or particulate matter won’t harm the print. If that dust or dirt is on the print as it’s laminated, however, then it’s there forever. Removing that dust before lamination is an important step.

The Dust Removal System (DRS) from SDI does just that-and very simply. The system comprises a roller and a pad. The roller has a tacky polymer coating that lifts particulates from the printed graphic; the tacky pad is coated with a specially formulated adhesive that will not transfer onto the roller, but will cling to the dirt and dust coming off the roller. Pass the roller over the print, clean the roller by passing over the pad, and repeat as necessary.

SDI offers several versions of the Dust Removal System: a high-tack Blue model for use on rigid, thicker substrates; a medium-tack Red for artwork and glass; and a medium-tack general purpose Light Blue model for thin and delicate substrates.


Sharp shears

For cutting flexibility on the shop floor, nothing beats sharp scissors. Scissor-manufacturer Wiss, a division of Cooper Hand Tools, has designed a pair especially for heavy-duty use-Shop Shear. The lightweight 10-in. shear is made of heavy-duty stainless steel. The high-leverage comfort hand grips can be used by either left- or right-handed employees. The shears feature a notch for easy rope/twine cutting, a serrated lower blade that grips materials to ensure even cutting, and blades that are corrosion-resistant. The straight blade can be easily re-sharpened; the company suggests the serrated blade be professionally sharpened. The shears can cut cardboard, industrial fabrics, rubber, screen, leather, and more.


Mount and press

Once graphics are printed, they often need to be mounted onto a rigid substrate for hanging or presentation. The McDonald Heat/Air-pressure Canvas Press, from Tara Materials, is an industrial-strength pneumatic press with heat specifically designed for mounting photos to canvas (it can dry-mount images as well). Compared to clamshell dry-mount presses, the company reports, this is a larger commercial press with more control of pressure and temperature; in addition, it can apply more pressure because it is pneumatic.

The press is offered in two sizes: 36 x 46 in. (A-4000) and 22 x 26 in. (A-2000). Both sizes feature digital temperature control, digital timer with alarm, steel-constructed chassis, slide-out work tray, and adjustable pressing settings.


Grand grommeting

Speeding up the tedious job of adding grommets to a large banner can help move jobs out the door. To this end, Stimpson features its Model S-83 GW dual-feed, heavy-duty grommeting machine. The operator simply puts the material in place and steps on the foot switch; the machine cuts the hole, puts the grommet and washer into place, and sets them-all in less than a second, the company reports. It’s compatible with grommets/washers from sizes 00 to 4. The machine has a small footprint: 2.5 x 2.5-ft wide and deep, and 5.5-ft tall. Stimpson also offers a wide variety of grommets and eyelets for virtually any job.


Precision plus safety

If you make mistakes on the finishing side of things, a graphic may have to be reprinted-adding to turnaround time and cutting profits. One way to guard against shop mishaps: the new Guardian Knife Guide. Line up the straight-edge guide with the cut line; an Olfa knife fits in the bracket and both slip onto the guide to easily and accurately trim prints. Featuring non-slip rubber on the bottom to keep the guide from moving, the aluminum guide extrusion also has a lip to protect the “hold-down-hand” from getting cut.


Wedge welding

Instead of sewing PVC banners together, you can hot weld them. The Leister Uniplan Wedge-available for acrylics or billboards/coated fabrics/foils-is a portable unit with electronically regulated heating and digital display of air flow, temperature, and welding speed. Offering temperatures up to 420? C, the Uniplan Wedge can weld 20- or 30-mm (0.79 to 1.18-in.) seams at speeds up to 24.6 ft/min. Its automatic drive sensors and optional laser guide help make welding comfortable and precise. Weight: 25 lb.


Like a knife through butter

The Thermocutter Zetz-9, from A-Z Formen-und Maschinenbau, can cut fabrics, as well as synthetic ropes and material up to 5-in. thick (depending on density), including rubber, PVC, polyethylene, polypropylene, ABS (acrylo-nitrile butadiene styrene), polystyrene, polyamide, fiberboard, and styrofoam. Producing minimal smoke and no burned edges, the Zetz-9’s blade heats up fast and has an adjustable temperature up to 565? C. The Thermocutter is designed for continuous use and offers a wide variety of blades for various jobs and media. Weight: 2.5 lb. Abbeon Cal ( is the exclusive US distributor.


It has a bent for plastic

When putting together P-O-P displays for customers, print providers often have to be creative. Some shops find that a strip heater comes in handy to bend acrylic plastics for display units-and for prototype packaging. The 43-in. EMX-1 strip heater from Kidder is designed to heat acrylic thermoplastic to 2007171? C where it will become soft and pliable. The tool is capable of bending acrylics from 1/16- to 1/2-in. thick; its heating times range from 1 to 30 min, depending on the thickness of the material to be bent. Also offers 48-in. EMX-2 model.


Industrial sewing

Banner finishing can be speeded along with an industrial-strength sewing machine. Designed for use with heavy materials, the Juki DNU-1541 is a 1-needle, unison-feed, lockstitch machine. Its rectangular feeding motion, walking foot, and unison feed mechanism help consistently feed heavyweight materials of all thicknesses. Offering sewing speeds up to 3000 RPM, the machine also features a stitch dial to select stitch length, a knee-lifter mechanism which raises or lowers the presser foot allowing the operator’s hands to stay on the material, and a lubricating mechanism to reduce maintenance time.


Peggy Middendorf is the managing editor of The Big Picture magazine.

Keep It Simple, but Finish and Display with Flair

Some projects may not require heavy-duty finishing, even though the customer is seeking a professional look. A few innovative companies have come through with simple solutions that provide a finished look and an easy install, without a lot of fuss or money. By offering one or more of these options to customers, you can help them solve a display problem, while increasing your bottom line.

* Clearly hung: Don’t want a hanging system to interfere with a sign’s carefully planned full-color graphics? Crystal Clear PowerTabs, from E. L. Hatton (, are invisible after installation and are as strong as the company’s Banner Ups product, but less conspicuous than grommets. Compatible with banner fabrics, Coroplast, foamboard, or paper, PowerTabs can be used on inside or outside applications. For banners longer than 6 ft, the company also offers Banner Ups Power Tape Hem Reinforcing Tape to reinforce banner edges without folding or sewing.

* Prong easy: Moore Push-Pin Company ( offers several quick hanging solutions for printed/mounted graphics. Its FoamFast Hangers are a fast way to hang signs mounted onto foamboard: Simply push the pointed prongs into the back of the foam substrate; the sawtooth edge allows for quick hanging and easy leveling of graphics. Its SharksTooth self-locking hangers are for use with harder, higher-density materials such as MDF (medium-density fiberboard) and masonite. Just hammer the prongs into the substrate and hang by its sawtooth rim.

* Klip it on: Sign Supply Source ( has designed easy-to-use reusable banner clips-ProKlip. Both the Mini and the Super models are easy to reposition without damaging the material, and the harder you pull on the clips, the harder they grip. The ProKlip Mini is designed for banner material that is being held with rope or a hook; to release the banner, squeeze the ProKlip and the wedge will loosen. For heavier materials such as 4-mm Coroplast or 3-mm Sintra, use the ProKlip Super. The Super uses a ratchet design to fasten itself to the substrate; so just push down and pull back the ratchet to unfasten.

* Glue ’n slide: Speedpress ( offers yet another option for finishing graphics without hems or grommets. Its SignZup banner display system involves attaching an acrylic strip onto the graphic (with the attached adhesive strip) and then just sliding the graphic into the SignZup rail. The graphic is locked in straight and is easy to change out, says the company. Available for indoor and outdoor use; slide-in clamps are available for a variety of mounting options.

* Install in a snap: Just need to finish a banner for a quick hang? SuperSnap from Rose Displays ( might be the system you’re looking for. Offering a sleek modern appearance, SuperSnap can be used over and over again. And installing graphics is simple: Snap the rail open, insert the graphic, snap it closed, and hang. The company offers hardware for wall-mounting, slatwall hanging, or window hanging; in addition it produces the Gotcha plastic graphic holder, also with its snap-open/snap-closed hinge.

* Adhesive hem: Without investing in sewing and grommeting equipment, your shop can still offer finished goods ready for hanging. Easy Edge Tape from Emblem USA ( reinforces banners and eliminates the need for sewing hems or pockets. With the reusable Easy Clips, neither grommets nor tools are necessary to mount or hang the banner. The Easy Clips are capable of holding up to 220 lb each; just slip on the corners or edges.

* Suction power: Most retail locations have a window-filled storefront. Window banners are essential to draw in customers, but they might not want to hang signs with clear tape or invest in an expensive rail system. Economy Plastic Banner Rail from Displays- 2Go (, complete with clear suction cups, may be an alternative solution. Graphics simply snap into place, with a bottom rail holding posters or banners flat and taut. Other hanging hardware is also available.



Printvinyl Scored Print Media

New Printvinyl Scored wide-format print media features an easy-to-remove scored liner for creating decals, product stickers, packaging labels, and more. The precision-scored liner, with a 1.25” spacing on a 60” roll, guarantees a seamless and hassle-free removal process.

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