Business owners often rely on die-cutting when they need to cut, form, or shear materials into a custom shape or design. They do so with the help of specialized die-cutting machines and tools capable of accomplishing this task. The process is ideal for a variety of materials such as wood, plastic, metal, and composites. Furthermore, the cutting process is helpful in a range of industries, such as those that frequently need to cut fabric, foam, paper, or neoprene while ensuring the size and shape of each piece is uniform.
Multiple die-cutting processes are available today. This includes digital die-cutting, rotary die-cutting, and flatbed die-cutting. All have their benefits and drawbacks that a person must be aware of before choosing. The one that is most suitable for a particular task depends on multiple factors, such as the part size, the lead times, desired tolerances, and more. Understanding the capabilities and limitations of each option is imperative when choosing which one to use. Fortunately, companies that supply these machines can be of great help to businesses looking to make a purchase when it comes to choosing which machine to buy.
Steel Rule or Flatbed Die-Cutting
Steel rule die-cutting, also known as flatbed die-cutting, makes use of a flatbed press together with custom steel rule dies to transform the stock material into the desired shape and design. Thicker material benefits from the use of this process, and it is helpful when large parts are to be produced. Companies looking to fulfill a small order or offer an item with a short production run typically select this die-cutting method.
Companies choose between electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic devices, each with different configurations for specific cutting applications. The dies consist of a steel rule that has been custom-designed which will be used to cut the material and the die base that holds the steel rule in the desired location which ensuring it maintains its shape. Furthermore, several steel rule die options are offered.
Materials may be cut in either roll or sheet form when the flatbed die-cutting process is selected. The die’s geometry and design are determined by the compressibility and thickness of the material. Thanks to the great cutting pressures that can be achieved using a flatbed press, hard and thick materials may be cut using this device and the same is true of soft and thin ones.
Companies that find many cutting techniques cannot be used for their large, thick materials will discover flatbed die-cutting to be the solution they have been searching for. The cuts are sharp and crisp and material deformation is rarely a concern. The lead time is shorter when multiple parts need to be fabricated while tooling costs decline when this process is used.
Cylindrical dies are used in rotary die-cutting when flexible materials are the base on which the design is to be created. These dies are attached to a rotary press to cut the design. Applications which require high procession along with high accuracy benefit from rotary die-cutting. The same is true for production runs of high volume.
These rotary dies are available in both flexible and solid cylindrical varieties, and the choice of which to use is dependent on the material to be cut, the specifications of the finished product, the budget, and the lead time for the project.
Only web materials may be converted using the rotary die-cutting process. The material to be cut determines the rotary die design along with the cutting pressure to be used. Furthermore, the properties of the material dictate whether a solid or flexible die will be needed during the cutting process.
Why does rotary die-cutting remain so popular? The quick turn-around time ensures clients have their product in hand rapidly. The speed of the production doesn’t have a negative impact on the tolerance of the die cut parts either. Tolerance die cut parts remain reliable, repeatable, and consistent. Waste is reduced when this fabrication method is selected, and these machines are capable of doing multiple jobs. Finally, inline packaging of the finished product can be incorporated into the fabrication process.
Many companies now turn to digital die-cutting today as no dies are needed when this option is selected. Scores, creases, and cuts are produced with the help of blades, tool bits, and lasers controlled by a computer. Low-shear materials are often used with digital die-cutting, especially when the project has a fast lead time yet requires high precision. This tends to be a cost-effective method of die-cutting.
Digital die-cutting machines carry out the desired cuts with the help of blades, knives, and other tools that may be connected to the machine. A computer digitally transmits the design information to the cutting device, which then carries out the necessary actions to create the finished product.
A variety of materials may be converted using this method. This includes plastic, textiles, and paper among others. In fact, digital die-cutting is ideal for low-shear materials that typically don’t respond well to more conventional die-cutting methods. On the other hand, long lead times are needed when high-shear materials are to be processed. Keep this in mind as the selection process moves forward.
The quick turn-around time is one reason companies often choose digital die-cutting as opposed to the other options. No die is required when digital die-cutting is selected, as new dies do not have to be created for each project. A computer controls the design. The process is extremely precise, thanks to the tools used. Additionally, the software programs required for digital die-cutting typically work with multiple machines to make the integration process easier.
Furthermore, there is no need for storage room for the dies. They are collected digitally and reused when needed. This is of concern to many businesses that don’t have a great deal of space when first starting out. It’s simply a matter of having the storage on the computer for the various designs.
Why Die-Cutting as Opposed to Other Fabrication Methods?
Die-cutting allows for more flexibility during the fabrication process. In most cases, dies that have been custom-designed for the project are attached to a specialized machine for the purpose of converting stock material. It works for a variety of materials, which is why the process is utilized in many applications as well as a number of industries. Cutting operation capabilities one should consider before making a purchase include through cutting, scoring, kiss cutting, creasing, and perforating. What does each capability allow for in the die-cutting process?
With this process, which is often referred to as thru cutting or metal-to-metal die-cutting, a design that has been custom created is cut through all layers. For instance, when handling a plastic item with an adhesive back, the machine cuts through each layer before separating the newly created design from the material.
Scoring doesn’t cut completely through the stock material. However, it does leave a partial cut, indent, or die impression at a specific stress point. This score tends to only penetrate or cut through less than 50 percent of the material. It does reduce the stress where the cut, impression, or indent is made to allow for square profile folds.
Materials that are lined with adhesive require a different cutting process. With kiss cutting, the machine cuts through both the face and the adhesive layer. However, unlike through cutting, the backing material is left intact. This allows the die-cut design to be removed from the backing layer without fully separating it from the stock material.
Creasing is a process that also creates a fold line on the material. What differentiates creasing from scoring is the creasing process actually reshapes the material resulting in a bulge that turns inward between parallel stress points. By incorporating two stress points into the design, the creator adds to the material’s flexibility at the crease. This minimizes the stress placed on the material at the folds.
There are times when a die-cut design needs to be held on the material on which it is placed. Perforating is a process that creates a series of holes that are punched in to secure the design in this manner. The material and design are not completely separated, but they are able to be detached along these perforated lines.
These are only a few of the more common capabilities of die-cutting machines, and there are others. Identify which tasks will need to be carried out by the machine before making a purchase. In addition, consider what capabilities may be needed in the future and try to obtain a machine that can handle those as well. This ensures the selected machine will be appropriate for the needs of the business for years to come.
Understanding when die-cutting is appropriate and what materials respond well to this fabrication method is crucial. Once it has been determined that this is the appropriate technique for the task, the right industrial machine needs to be selected. Contact SBL Group for assistance in determining which machine best meets your needs. The team will be happy to assist in finding the right machine for your organization.