Advantage Signs and Graphics is a family owned and operated large format business based in Burlington, Canada with over 20 years of sign making and digital printing experience. They are a high quality producer of trade show displays, full-color banners, vinyl-cut banners, backlit signs, decals, vehicle graphics, window graphics, Coroplast signs, and specialty items, like magnetics.
“We are always on the lookout for technology that will help us speed up productivity, as well as the overall quality of the products we create,” comments Jeff Beaton, vice president, Advantage. “We had used i-cut Suite for just a few weeks, and already experienced much faster production—our graphic designer said in some instances it has been 75% faster than our previous way of handling PDF files and imposition.”
i-cut Suite lets companies, that drive narrow or large format digital printers and/or digital finishing systems, streamline their workflows.
i-cut Suite components include:
Advantage installed Esko’s i-cut Suite to help speed up the process of setting up files for printing and cutting on their Kongsberg digital finishing table. Before they invested in i-cut Suite, Advantage used Adobe® Illustrator® to preflight all their files. Now, with i-cut Preflight, they can open PDF files even if they don’t have the fonts on the system—something they could never do in Illustrator. If they were missing fonts, the file just wouldn’t open. So, they either had to return to the client to collect the fonts, or change the font. Either way, it was a waiting game. Now, when they import the file into i-cut Preflight, it automatically opens. They don’t have to worry about fonts anymore.
“One of the big time-savers is that we are able to do all our editing right in i-cut Preflight—we don’t have to return to Illustrator,” says Beaton. “If there is something wrong with the file, i-cut Preflight automatically relays the information and tells us how to fix it.”
“We found out about a feature in i-cut Preflight that our graphic designer is using all the time now—which sped up production, right off the bat,” adds Beaton. “We can open a file in i-cut Preflight, save it with the proper layouts, and then move to i-cut Layout. When we are in i-cut Preflight, we can specify whether or not a layout is a technical layer or a printable layer. Then, just before we export the file, i-cut Layout gives us a list of all the layers. Each layer has a printer icon or a scissors icon, indicating whether or not it will print. It’s really user friendly.”
Advantage is able to take a graphic design file, open it in Preflight, and see whether or not the client has created a cutting path. If they haven’t, they don’t have to return to Illustrator. They can do the work right within i-cut Layout, taking a lot less time. It has special tools that let them create and fix cutting contours. It also has an automatic tool for bleed generation that prevents false registrations between the artwork and the cut—the kind that causes unsightly, small white spaces. The i-cut Layout program will create the contour cuts and also add a bleed to edge, so if the cutting table is off a bit, the printed piece still looks great.
Advantage saves a lot of time by using i-cut Layout. One of its popular features is that it will flatten any file to a low-res PDF version, so when they are transferring files, they aren’t spending hours loading them, which is what was happening before. “When using Illustrator, if we were running multiples for foam core, the file sizes got so large—just trying to hold all the editing capabilities—that it took hours just to download the files,” remembers Beaton. “i-cut Layout has different resolutions, so our graphic designers don’t have to work in the highest resolution. They can save artwork on low resolution and work with a screen preview.”
“I’m not sitting around and waiting forever for files to save or transfer over,” says Bradley Cousins, Advantage graphic designer. “With Illustrator we’re working with such big files, we’re constantly waiting to save them onto the computer. I was losing a lot of time just waiting. With Illustrator, we were transferring 1.5-gigabyte files, but with i-cut Suite, it’s only ten megabytes. We just get a screen preview, so we aren’t waiting for the files to keep reloading.”
i-cut Layout also has a very helpful step-and-repeat function. Before, when Advantage tried to fit a lot of decals—or whatever—on the same sheet, they had to manually cut and paste each decal, especially if the file had many visual effects, such as gradients. “We were copying 100 times. It would really slow the computer down,” comments Beaton. “We would have to manually count out how many labels fit on a sheet. Now, i-cut Layout automatically tells us how many sheets we need. When we are filling the sheet, we just create the one graphic file, and tell the system how many we need. It tells us how many sheets we must print to get our desired end quantity. It’s all done automatically—no more cutting and pasting!”
“We received a job requiring us to print 2”x5” decals. The order was for 30,000 of these little things,” explains Beaton. “There was a lot of different artwork for the job. If we didn’t have i-cut Layout to import the files and create the layout, it would have taken days to do it. Especially having to figure out the math of how many can fit on a sheet—all that is done automatically in i-cut Layout.”
“We can create a bar code on our print files. It reads the bar code and opens the appropriate cut file on the table,” concludes Beaton. “Our i-cut Suite has saved us significant time and has really enhanced our Kongsberg table, which we purchased a three years ago. The software has made it more efficient; they definitely go hand in hand.”