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Guide to Die Cutting

Guide to Die Cutting

The capabilities of die cutting are vast and include a variety of commercial, industrial and consumer-grade goods. Its versatility makes it suitable for various projects, but die cutting is more effective for some needs than others. Recognizing when to choose this manufacturing method and understanding its limitations will increase the chances of getting the results you want. Discover everything you need to know about this process in our guide to die cutting below.

What Is Die Cutting?

Die cutting cuts pre-determined forms into thin material, such as rubber, foam, plastic, wood, metal and fabric. The process can take several forms. Common die cutting methods include using a laser, implementing a rotary tool or creating a custom die for punching out forms.

The History of Die Cutting

Die cutting has existed for almost 200 years. Not long after the Industrial Revolution, die cutting used a punch to press holes into leather manually. This form of cutting initially helped shoemakers produce shoes more uniformly and at a faster pace by creating precisely cut pieces of leather. Over time, die cutting evolved to become more automated and cut into different types of materials. Today, many industries, from electronics to medical products, take advantage of the customizable forms die cutting can create in large quantities.

Die Cutting Process

The die cutting process depends on the type of equipment used, but it involves choosing the material and selecting the right equipment for the job. For methods that don’t use lasers or a rotary tool for cutting, you may need to create a die.

Methods for Die Cutting

The three main methods for die cutting include steel rule, rotary and laser. Each process has separate pros and cons, and the same die cutting method may not work for every project. The methods for die cutting include:

  • Steel rule: Steel rule cutting, also known as flatbed, starts with creating a customized die used for the project. Because the die needs fabrication first, this manufacturing method is ideal for large volume projects that rely heavily on a specific shape.
  • Rotary die: Rotary die cutting uses a turning tool to perforate or cut through a sheet of material.
  • Laser die: The last kind of die cutting, laser or digital cutting, does not use physical tools or dies to create the forms. A laser can cut more precisely than a physical tool can, so this type of cutting produces parts with high tolerances.

How to Find a Die Cutting Method That Works Best for You

The type of die cutting method that works best for you depends on your project requirements. For mass production, a steel rule cutting with a customized die is best. If you already have dies, you can use this method for whatever project the shape of the die accommodates. For heavier materials, the steel rule cutting method works well because the bed supports the weight of what you’re cutting.

Rotary cutting makes objects like gaskets easily. It can cut materials like fabric, plastic and sheet metal and offers a quick turnaround for high-volume projects.

Laser cutting is a method that professional die cutting businesses use. This type of cutting works best for high-precision work required by electronics and similar industries. Beginners don’t often use this method because of the equipment involved.

What Is Die Cutting Used For?

Die cutting has countless uses. For example, die cutting with a rotary cutter often crafts gaskets out of elastomers or rubbers. Laser cutting can help create electrical insulation to meet the high standards of military equipment. Customized packing inserts made from die-cut foam offer specific forms cut into material to safely cradle the packed products.

What Can You Make With Die Cutting?

As a beginner, you may want to start with paper, fabric or leather die cutting. These materials are easier to cut through. For beginners, crafting projects such as gift cards, holiday decorations, scrapbooking materials, labels and gift tags are ideal places to begin.

What Materials Do You Need for Die Cutting?

For die cutting, the materials used depend on the type of machine you’re working with. For most beginners, a steel rule on a piece of flat material will suffice. Make sure the die will cut through what you want to work with. The amount of pressure used will determine whether the die goes through the piece or creates an imprint, scoring into the material without cutting through it.

A cutting pad under the material can protect the surface underneath, whether it is the die cutting flatbed or another surface.

Where to Find Materials to Use for Die Cutting

Paper, fabrics, leather, wood, metal, plastic and foam are commonly used with die cutting. Find these materials for die cutting and others from hobby stores, craft shops or online.

Materials to Avoid for Die Cutting

When die cutting initially, avoid using extra-thick materials that would require too much pressure from a die. You also cannot use materials too thick to pass through the machine.

Tips for Beginners: Common Die Cutting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

One of the most common mistakes with die cutting is the die failing to cut all the way through the material. This error can happen if the die does not have enough pressure behind it or if the material is too thick to cut. Try sending the material through the machine a second time or adding a piece of cardstock or bulking material under the project to bring it closer to the die and increase pressure. If these options fail, consider replacing the die — it may have a defect.

The Pros and Cons of Die Cutting

Depending on your experience with die cutting and what you’re trying to achieve, you may find potential pros and cons to the process. Understanding those advantages and disadvantages can help you make the right considerations for your project.

What Are the Advantages of Die Cutting?

Die cutting provides multiple advantages for projects that require it, including:

  • Affordability: Die cutting offers an affordable manufacturing option, especially in bulk. Once manufacturers create the needed die, the costs for increasing the order size only depend on the type of material used.
  • Customizability: While affordable, die cutting also allows for customizable cuts. Laser and steel rule die cutting can adapt to any shape needed.
  • Flexibility: There are many materials this process can cut, including metals and wood. The wide variety of projects that can use die cutting makes it a flexible manufacturing process.

What Are the Disadvantages of Die Cutting?

Die cutting is great for thin materials, but it does not work for all projects. For instance, thick materials or different ones at the same time in the cutter may not work.

Additionally, not using a die cutter properly could result in scoring the material instead of cutting through it. Trying to fix this error by running the project through the machine again could fix it. But if the material shifted between the first and second passes, the second cut may not align with the first, creating a misshapen cutout.

The steel rule dies and rotary cutters are also very sharp. Mishandling of them could result in physical injury. And if you need highly precise cutting, you’ll likely not have access to the laser die cutting machines required.

Professional die cutters with more precise machinery can overcome these disadvantages. Experts know how to control the die cutter’s pressure based on the material to ensure proper cutting. Plus, they can use laser cutting for accurate die-cutting results.

Request a Free Quote for Die Cutting Services From American Micro Industries

Don’t risk making a mistake on die cutting projects that require extra skills to achieve. Instead, request professional die cutting to have a quality job done. Die cutting services from a professional company with the right materials and equipment can help you complete your projects.

When your beginner die cutting skills don’t meet the needs of a specific task, contact American Micro Industries for a free quote for our expert die cutting services. We’re also happy to answer any questions or provide more information about our company and services.