Understanding the Proper Care and Maintenance of Cutting Dies

Care and Maintenance

Understanding the Proper Care and Maintenance of Cutting Dies

Companies everywhere use die cutting machines daily. Die cutting equipment is designed to create specific shapes using a wide variety of materials. Manufacturers routinely shape paper, cardboard, rubber, foam, and other materials used in the production and shipping of products. 


Manual die cutters were first produced in the 19th century to cut leather for shoes, but that simple beginning merely foreshadowed what was to come. Today, relatively rudimentary manual die cutters are still in use, but advanced digital die cutters are far more the norm.


However, die cutting machines require maintenance to continue functioning properly. Edges intended to be sharp dull over time and components wear, creating problems with accuracy. The only practical way to keep die cutting machines functioning correctly is to provide routine maintenance at recommended intervals. 


Consider the Many Uses of Die Cutting Machines


There are numerous uses for die cutting machines, and some company owners may not be aware of how versatile these devices are. If you’re looking for a solution to a manufacturing problem, die cutting may be at least a part of the answer. Here are a few areas where die cutters are routinely used.


Packaging. Shipping and handling issues plague companies everywhere. Without proper packaging, damage can easily occur during shipping. The size of packages is also an issue. Many shippers find that packaging must meet very specific size requirements to fit pallets or be considered acceptable by the USPS, UPS, or FedEx. 


Foam Cutting. Foam is commonly used in automotive parts, insulation, and packaging. Companies ship a high percentage of products in specially designed foam packaging. The use of die cutters makes creating packaging easy. Automobile manufacturers use foam for insulation and padding throughout vehicles. The uses of foam are virtually countless, and all that foam must be properly shaped to serve its intended purpose. 


Shaping Plastic. As the use of plastics expands, so does the need for shaping that material. Die cutters are used in numerous settings to shape plastic parts. 


Forming Rubber Parts. Rubber and rubber-like materials are used extensively to produce gaskets, seals, and a variety of other automotive parts. However, rubber components are also common in many manufacturing settings. The material can easily be cut to exacting standards using die cutters.


Fiber Products. Clothing and furniture manufacturers immediately come to mind when discussing ways to quickly cut fabric and other fiber products. The use of die cutters in those settings cuts labor costs, reduces waste, and guarantees the same cuts are achieved every time. 


Of course, there are other areas where die cutting machines are employed, and it pays to discuss your needs with a representative from SBL Machinery when exploring new and innovative ways to improve your company’s overall performance and profitability. 


Exploring Maintenance Strategies


Even when a business owner understands the importance of maintaining their die cutting machines, not everyone grasps why the practices are crucial or how maintenance can impact a company’s bottom line. 


The object of conducting routine maintenance is to have the machines functioning as designed while simultaneously keeping overall costs to a minimum and reducing downtime. Here are a few time-honored maintenance strategies to consider.


  • Get Everyone Involved. Proper maintenance requires that everyone in a facility is aware of the company’s maintenance objectives and understands their roles in the process. When any type of issue is discovered, reporting the problem at once is absolutely vital, as ongoing issues tend to get worse. Immediately taking care of issues may not be convenient, but doing so tends to reduce both downtime and waste. 
  • Identify the Problem. Before making any repair plans, take the time to identify the problem properly. In some instances, that won’t be easy, as an issue you’re seeing may be more complicated than it first seemed. However, it’s always important to avoid spending money by simply guessing what the underlying issues are and replacing parts that aren’t needed.
  • Minimize Downtime. No company can afford to have workers and machinery sit idle while repairs to a piece of equipment are dealt with. However, downtime is often unavoidable, so the next best thing is to keep that downtime to an absolute minimum. That requires having knowledgeable repair personnel on hand to facilitate repairs as needed. Of course, having a basic selection of parts on hand or readily available will also be crucial. 
  • Take Care of Routine Maintenance. Far too often, company personnel let routine maintenance slide. That’s not a good idea when it comes to taking care of die cutting machine components. Regular lubrication is always important, as the practice minimizes wear caused by friction. With today’s high-tech die cutters, proper maintenance greatly reduces the odds of unexpected breakdowns. 
  • Make Adjustments as Needed. Just about every company using die cutting equipment has experienced incidents where cuts were too shallow. That results in waste, slowed production schedules, and other issues. On the other end of the spectrum, machines with too much pressure applied also suffer issues and wear is exacerbated. That increases costs and cuts into profits. 


Other type of general facility maintenance also impact die cutting equipment. Dusty environments, for example, compromise the quality of cuts, as the dust serves to increase friction. Excessive moisture can also impact equipment, so take precautions to keep the environment controlled to the extent possible.


How Does Proper Maintenance Improve Outcomes?


Die cutting machines are expensive, and it always pays to protect your investment. Normal wear is unavoidable, but there is no reason to allow a lack of maintenance to shorten the lifespan of equipment components. Proper maintenance extends the life of dies and reduces the potential for needing repairs sooner than necessary. 


When die cutting equipment is maintained correctly, your customers are happier. Customers expect quality products, and delivering that level of quality isn’t possible when machines are not correctly maintained. Dull cutters, for example, produce less-than-optimal results. Remember, customers expect close tolerances and consistency. Don’t risk disappointing them. Take the time now to make sure your die cutting equipment is in perfect condition. 


Practical Measures for Every Machine Owner


While adhering to basic maintenance guidelines is always essential, there are some specific practices die cutting equipment owners can put in place to keep their machines functioning at peak levels.


  • Use and Store Dies Carefully. Dull, dented dies don’t produce the outcomes business owners expect and need. Industry experts always recommend monitoring the pressure in use. As noted earlier, too much pressure can quickly and irreversibly damage dies. That means the final product will be far from perfect. Use the absolute minimum pressure required to make the cut. In addition, make sure your dies are stored in a way that reduces the odds of damage. Even a minor nick will negatively impact product quality.
  • Don’t Neglect the Anvil. All parts wear, and that includes the machine’s anvil. Every anvil will require resurfacing after a few months. The level of use and maintenance procedures will dictate how often resurfacing is required. Many organizations keep at least one spare anvil on hand to eliminate downtime while an anvil is being resurfaced.
  • Modern Components Require Unique Care. Today’s high-tech die cutting equipment may include a magnetic cylinder. If your machine includes a magnetic cylinder, it’s vitally important to make sure it’s kept clean. 


Correctly storing the various components will significantly reduce the odds of damage occurring. For example, most industry experts recommend storing dies with the cutting edge away from any hard surface. Even a slight jarring can damage a cutter if it’s stored with the blade in contact with another surface. 


When possible, store dies and anvils in their original containers to minimize the potential for damage. When that’s not possible, look for ways to store the components away from any potential threat, and that includes dust.


Using a Die Cutting Machine in Your Facility


Manual die cutters are rapidly disappearing. That’s simply because digital die cutters are far more efficient. Modern die cutting machines connect to a computer that dictates how and where cuts are made. Even though older manual machines are sufficient for some uses, modern organizations rarely find their use is worthwhile. 


Packaging industry experts routinely recommend companies make use of modern equipment, including hot foil stampers, flatbed die cutters, and folder gluers to ensure the best packaging results.


Today’s manufacturers demand equipment that’s designed to last for years and remain viable even when the company’s needs evolve. The goal is to install and use equipment that’s designed to serve owners well in the long term. 


Equipment owners also expect parts and service to be readily available. Die cutting equipment and ancillary machinery are necessary in a wide variety of manufacturing settings, and that equipment must be versatile enough to meet a user’s needs now and well into the future.


If you’re exploring options for a new facility or updating an existing one, let the experts at SBL Machinery help. Our team of experts is always there to answer questions and provide recommendations for equipment to meet your organization’s needs.

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