Output road test: Esko Kongsberg XN
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By Sophie Matthews-Paul
24 May 2012
The Kongsberg XN handles a vast range of materials and is a good workhorse for sign-makers, display producers and packaging companies
Shows like drupa aren't just about printing machines; finishing is just as important and, with the increase in demand for more complexity in digital print of all sizes, important additions to the armouries of display producers and sign-makers now come in the form of CNC cutting tables. These might appear to represent a hefty investment but a well-built and powerful unit will be worth the money, particularly if you're going to be expecting it to work with all sorts of materials.
When investing in a cutting table points to bear in mind are how complex the end results need to be, and how intuitive the software is that's going to drive the machine. Its siting needs to be considered, as does its power and extraction; but of primary importance is its ability to produce extreme accuracy regardless of complexity.
At drupa I spent time with the latest solution from Esko. This is the Kongsberg XN, a new addition to the company's extensive and impressive range of solid ergonomic cutting tables. This machine carries many familiar elements but has been fine-tuned to make it a great mid-range solution for people needing a tough and reliable option for a variety of substrate requirements. It can also be purchased as an entry-level model or in a more advanced configuration, depending on user needs and investment budget.
Kongsberg tables are proving popular among display producers, sign-makers and packaging specialists because of their logical operation and foolproof software. The XN is no different, benefiting from all the options available on others in the family. It can be used to its full potential with i-cut Vision Pro so that end prints are cut to perfect registration, even allowing for skew in the material.
This machine is similar in many ways to the Kongsberg XL and is designed to handle a variety of cutting options, thus making it well suited to users who tend to work a large selection of different types and weights of materials, from paper-thin up to heavyweight substrates of 25mm in thickness. This makes it a great addition for companies producing one-offs and short runs who don't want to compromise on cutting capabilities.
High-powered milling is achieved using the MultiCut-HP spindle that should produce three times more power than conventional options. There's a choice of four tool heads that includes inserts for solid and corrugated board v-notching, plus a Braille capability. Changing tools is fast and error-free thanks to a unique bar code system which is used to identify each insert.
The Kongsberg XN features a rack-and-pinion drive for dynamic repeatability, giving it the durability to work with even the most difficult substrates. It has a modular tabletop construction and comes in a variety of sizes, starting at 1.68 x 1.27m with the largest being 2.21 x 6.55m. Users can extend the range of standard tools according to specific types of finishing requirements.
Although it's easy to use, with minimal margin for error, Esko trains all new operators. Esko's i-cut suite simplifies nesting and sheet optimisation, and this software helps to minimise on waste and set-up times. The parameters employed in the program are designed for all types of display production and packaging layouts, and the results also eliminate the margin for error. The addition of i-cut Automate 12 brings in interactive features that simplify the creation of cutting paths, the addition of bleeds and setting nesting parameters.
From £65,000 according to size and configuration.
Pros and Cons
The Kongsberg XN accommodates many of the features of other models across the range but is tailored for the sign and display industry's need for a cutting table which can handle a wide selection of different material thicknesses and weights. It might not be as fast as more advanced and sophisticated options, but it makes up for this in sheer versatility of workload and ease of set-up.
This is a well-priced machine that benefits from being a tough workhorse. It helps if users are familiar with dieless cutting and its associated software, but the learning curve should be relatively gentle for new operators. Esko has positioned this machine in exactly the right place for any display, sign or packaging company wanting to invest in a solid cutting table that's priced reasonably and is manufactured by a highly reputable company.
Ease of use: 5/5
Value for money: 5/5
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