Inspired by innovators and used for centuries in low and high-level production, die cutting is an incredible process that produces parts, artwork, and images with a straightforward process.
If you want a faster, more efficient way to create pieces for your small business or to crank out massive copies of one item, you need die cutting.
Scroll down for a closer look at what it is and how it works so you can get to know this incredible process.
Die cutting’s humble beginnings
Back in the 1800s, shoe cobblers had a major problem. Their customers needed well-made shoes that consistently fit and felt nice on their feet, but cobblers couldn’t cut the exact same sole out of a sheet of leather each time. At the time, all shoemakers fabricated shoes by hand, making for lots of variation in each pair. It also presented another problem – slow production.
Die cutting cut the shoemaking process in half. With the massive machine that could stamp out pieces soles with no variation, the long expensive art of shoemaking transformed into a simple, straightforward process perfect for another new invention – the factory.
Other factories took note of the shoe industry’s significant step forward and began to make use of the machine for their own production. Suddenly machine parts, products, and signs could be made in a day with a few passes through a machine.
Die cutting made industry not only possible but significantly better.
Die cutting today
This incredible process proved to be so useful that it’s grown and evolved with the industries that use it the most. Several variations on the original shoe die help businesses create what’s needed and create copies of their original in minutes.
Today Computer Aided Designs, (CADs) get programmed into a Computer Numerical Control, (CNC) machine to help workers see placement, design, and size long before anything is made. The die cut is then programmed into the CNC to automate the process and let it cut out the necessary number of pieces.
The die, or the mold of the piece being cut, gets placed between two boards on top of a flat material like paper, wood, or a sheet of metal. High pressure gets applied to the sandwiched materials and in one step the entire piece is cut out and ready to be removed from the machine.
Die cutting works for high or low-volume orders, depending on the style you use. Here are some options:
Flatbed die cutting
Best for rigid to semi-rigid materials like plastic, foam, wood, or composites. This process works well for producing large parts for bigger projects. The flatbed die cutter exerts a significant level of force and can go through several layers at once thanks to its complex system of knives.
Laid out like a long, rectangular calendar, the machine uses steel rule dies attached to a mechanical or hydraulic press to create multiple copies of a part in one pass. Raw materials get stacked between the male and female die and then pressed together to press out each detail, opening, and groove.
Flatbed die cutting involves a lot of smaller, nuanced subprocesses that help create the best cuts and highest quality product possible. Make sure you have a full understanding of each step to finalize any die cuts before you mass-produce a new part or product.
Rotary die cutting
Simple or light parts for large orders can be cranked out at top speed on a rotary or semi-rotary die cutter. The rotary machine uses two cylinders working together for a lighter amount of pressure and faster production. Dies stamp out parts in quick succession as part of a production line and provide ready-made pieces in minutes.
Like flatbed die cutting, this requires additional steps and an in-depth knowledge of how to adjust and finish each cut. Be sure to familiarize yourself with any new machines and their ins and outs before you start any major production.