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All About Die Cutting

Die Cutting is an intricate process that uses a die to cut webs or sheets of material such as plastic, rubber, foil, cloth, paper, foam, and many others.  This is a manufacturing process that cuts uniform shapes out of materials to create both component parts and final products for a wide variety of industries. The dies are specialized application specific pieces of equipment that are used to cut, manipulate, and shape materials through the use of a press.  Similar to the common mold, dies fulfill specific tasks and are customized to the items they are used to create.  Objects made through this process can range from a simple blank label to a complicated multi-material multi-process tight tolerance part.

The history of die cutting is deeply rooted in the rise of industrialization in America.  During the early 1900s facilities opened their doors initially to shape leather for shoe making. As the industry became more technologically savvy, the dies were able to handle different types of material, subsequently resulting in a larger array of products to manufacture. The die-cutting process has evolved greatly over the past one hundred-fifty years. The exponential growth of technology makes sure that die-cutting techniques will grow perpetually, continuing to open the door for even more precision applications in die cutting.

There are two main types of die cutting that are popular in the industry: flat-bed die cutting and rotary die cutting. The primary differences between rotary and flatbed cutting are machine efficiency and costs of operation. Flatbed cutting is sometimes less efficient, but is also less expensive to operate for some applications in relation to rotary cutting. Essentially, the tools are cheaper but the machine runs slower when utilizing the Flatbed method. Often smaller “Mom and Pop” Tool and Die shops adopt the Flatbed system of cutting as the capital expenditure is lower.

Rotary machines use a cylindrical die on a rotary press.  The material is fed through the press to areas known as the die stations where the rotary tool cuts out shapes, makes perforations, and separates the material into smaller parts.   There can be multiple stations within the rotary die cutting machine that increase efficiency and allow for multiple die cutting operations.  A series of gears, with adjustable ratios drive the material through the stations. Many methods for sensing the material are used when accurate registration from die to die are required for example when registering to a preprinted image on the web.

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