The Die Cutting machine has a fairly short history, dating back to the late 1800s for shoemakers (cobblers). They needed a new process to reliably and quickly shape leather for soles and the body of the shoe.
Since then, hobbyists and large companies looking to cut unique shapes or fold packaging have relied on the versatility of manual die cutting and digital die cutting alike.
Commercial printers often have to make hundreds or thousands of boxes, envelopes, and other packaging we see every day. But hobbyists also enjoy the art and skill it takes to make a good die cut.
Since you're new to die cutting, we'll cut to the chase and keep it simple.
Ready to learn all you ever wanted to know about manual and electronic die cutting? So are we!
Cut It Out: Die Cutting Machine Basics
There are a few things to learn in this 101 class on die cutting. There are 5 basic processes of a die process, which are:
Let's take a look at what each of these are in more detail. It's likely that you have seen the result of these processes all around your home or workplace!
Through cutting is sometimes called metal-to-metal cutting, and is exactly as it seems—you cut completely through the material. For example, when cutting a sticker in the shape of a T-Rex you would cut through all the material, adhesive, and the backing material. This fully separates the cut from the surrounding material.
For a T-Rex sticker you wanted to keep on, say, a square of backing material, kiss cutting is your best bet. This cuts the design through the face material, and the adhesive, but keeps the backing intact. You can remove the excess material around the sticker, or leave it intact.
Perforating is a process you might expect when you want the end customer to tear along a line or a shape. An example would be notebook paper with a perforated edge, so you can tear it from the book with ease and neatness. In this process, holes or slits are cut in the desired shape using dies.
In scoring, the die does not cut all the way through the material. Less than or equal to 50% of the material's thickness is cut, in scoring, allowing for severe folds, or weakening along the scored area. This kind of die process can also be used to make an impression or indent to make a medallion as in gift envelopes.
Creasing is a bit like a scoring process because it creates a fold line in the stock with high flexibility. You make a crease by creating two parallel stress points in the stock, where the material in the middle becomes more flexible than the stress point alone. An example would be the corners and edges of a box used for product packaging (take a close look inside one next time).
How Is Die Cutting Done?
The die cutting process is similar across the whole landscape of mechanisms made for the purpose. You take a solid rule (usually steel) and press it mechanically into the material to cut, impression, or score it.
Manual and Electronic Die Cutting
Manual and electronic die cutting refer mostly to the engine which powers the die cutter. In the case of the electronic die cutter, it has an electric motor that feeds the material through the die cutter. The cutter itself consists of two rollers that press the material, but more importantly the die, which is placed atop the material.
Many dyes have a slight cutting edge. The edge is faced down toward the material, which is resting on a kind of cutting pad. The pressure itself holds the material in place on these small table-top machines.
If you aren't using an electric die cutter, then the other option is manual. You guessed it, good old elbow grease and a hand crank. Somehow, it's satisfying to hear and feel the crunch as the die does its job.
This is usually a hobbyist-level machine, but that doesn't mean it doesn't pump out quality craft.
Custom and Digital Die Cutting
Custom die cutting means custom shapes. These are usually difficult to make on your own, not recommended, and could damage your machine if you intend to use it in a manual or electronic die cutter.
Custom dies would normally be made for custom packaging, and therefore gets to be a bit expensive. It's a manual process, planned out, shaped, and placed. This process isn't done too much by hand anymore except for, maybe, a specialty artisan project.
Another consideration is if the material must be handled in this way.
A better way to do custom dies is by going digital. In digital die cutting, there is a computer where you can load a cut pattern, feed your die information by a file or USB, and let the machine do its job.
Rather than an actual die, the machine has a cutter that follows the pattern as the material goes through the machine. It's really satisfying to watch cardstock go in one side and see a doily coming out the other.
With this kind of die cutting, you can program your own cuts if you're a bit tech-savvy. And at this point, we're blurring the line between professional tools and hobbyist level. If you need to make a production-level quantity of your die cuts or precision you can't get from this basic hardware, you have to go commercial.
Commercial Die Cutting
With commercial die cutting, you get quality and quantity. In this area, there are many more tools and processes available such as rotary dies, cylindrical dies, laser cutting, and more.
Some jobs can be hand-tooled for production, but the majority of the work is digitally composed because it's less time-consuming and cheaper. It takes some supervision for quality control, but there is no reason hundreds or thousands of the finished product can't be produced in short order.
Metal, vellum, card stock, chipboard, and virtually any other material can be shaped in commercial machines.
The Last Word On Die Cutting
Die cutting really is a very interesting field. As a hobby, it is fascinating to come up with die cut designs and handmade goodies for friends and families. You can even compose your own "thank you" cards and more.
But for a professional look, nothing can beat commercial die cutting. Would you like to see what a die cutting machine can do for your next project?
Contact TEAM Concept Printing today and see if we can finish your next product from start to finish.