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When technology opens new possibilities

The only information I had on Cuthings, when I visited its premises in Heusden-Zolder in Belgium, was that the company uses Zünd cutting technology. Kristof Weckx, Managing Director of Cuthings, kindly invited me to come and see for myself what the company is all about. By Ton Rombout, Editor in Chief, SignPro Europe

Cuthings is an independent supplier of cutting and routing services, mainly to the Dutch and Belgian markets, with some customers based in France and Germany – Kristof Weckx explained. The company targets its services at roughly three market segments, i.e. industrial applications, the creative design sector and the sign and display printing sector.

Cuthings’ history provides an insight into the company’s current activities. Kristof Weckx, who was project engineer for an engineering agency with customers that included companies in the automotive industry, decided in 2014 to join forces with six other shareholders/investors and invest in a new venture. Although their activities initially focused on cutting products in the leather goods industry, including finishing of handbags and other items, the company’s activities soon extended into other areas. In fact, because of his earlier work Kristof was familiar with this type of customer and their requirements. Kristof now manages the company, with the other investors acting as silent partners.

Applications for the automotive industry
When Kristof Weckx, who was by far the largest shareholder, came into contact with Zünd, the producer of cutting and routing machines, he recognized the potential to significantly expand his sphere of activities. As a result, Cuthings soon developed into a cutting and routing service provider for lightweight components and packaging in the automotive industry – projects that are still ongoing five years on. Other specialist activities relate to the production of hydrogen vehicles involving the optimization of fuel cells that convert hydrogen into electricity. Also, for example, the cutting and processing of carbon fibers for bodywork and chassis components and the optimisation of acoustic insulation systems in the wheel geometry to reduce cabin noise. Cuthings customers are interested in the company's services specifically because of the precision of the Zünd equipment that is being used, the quality of cut components, the minimization of error margins and ultimately the price, as subcontracting provides a highly cost-effective approach for these companies.

Expansion into other sectors
In addition to the Zünd G3 cutting and routing machine, a second Zünd G3 Cutter soon appeared two years later because other sectors were showing interest in the range of services offered by Cuthings, not just other industrial sectors but also creative design sectors. Product designer and production manager Jonas Neo Fabry also attended our meeting. He develops furniture, e.g. tables and chairs, on behalf of Cuthings, which is bought by third parties or often made to order. He also makes jewellery, for example. In fact, anything goes. He may, for example, design a door lock that fits seamlessly into a specific structure and that may subsequently go into production. He explained: “A product designer looks for solutions. In fact, I have to interpret the customer’s wishes and process the model on the computer using appropriate software. This ranges from minor designs to extensive and complex models.

Using these creative programmes I can then transfer the file into the Zünd Cut Center ZCC in order to create and optimize a successful model on the cutting or routing machine.”

Sign and display products
Subcontracted work from mainly large format print companies and sign makers is one category of activities that has become quite substantial and continues to increase rapidly. These companies often primarily focus on the print product and don’t have any cutting or routing machines in-house, or have too much work to handle on their own cutting machine and are forced to subcontract some of it. “Or they may not have a specific expertise that we do have,” Kristof Weckx added. “Or it involves what we call ‘delicate’ production, e.g. 300 aluminum menu cards that have to be cut or milled with great accuracy.”

He continued: “Another key aspect is that many companies do not have the appropriate skills in-house. Sometimes they have the equipment but not the skilled operators that we have. Obviously, we at Cuthings always aim to organize various operations with maximum efficiency.”

Other developments
At the end of the meeting Kristof Weckx also referred to a number of key issues that are currently important and under the spotlight with a view to further expansion:
- “We are in the process of setting up a second subsidiary near Kortrijk as it is important to be close to the customer in this business.
- We are also developing our online portal, to make the uploading of files easier and more secure and facilitate the placement of orders.
- The arrival of a third Zünd G3 XL3200 with a more robust routing module. This is important because this kind of routing module can finish certain products more accurately than before, which in turn will enable us to safely expand this industrial segment.”

Why Zünd?
At the end of the conversation I took the liberty to ask why Cuthings opted for Zünd. The answer was quite decisive: Eersel, where Zünd’s Benelux subsidiary is located, is relatively close by. However, that is not the prime reason. Kristof Weckx also referred to the personal aspect: the excellent relationship with Stephan Jacobs of Zünd Benelux in terms of the overall supervision of the project and development of his own company, Cuthings. “We are in regular contact and dialogue concerning our ongoing development and have received quite a few very useful tips over the years. The company also offers outstanding technical support.”

Q.E.D. - thus it has been demonstrated…