Die cutting machines are pieces of industrial or commercial manufacturing equipment used to cut materials into specific shapes. They can cut everything from paper and fabric to rubber, foil, foam, and even sheet metal.
Die cutters were originally designed in the mid-19th century to cut leather for shoes, but the industry has come a long way since then. Today, these machines are used in several industries ranging from packaging to automobile manufacturing and beyond.
Primary Applications for Die Cutting Machines
Industrial die cutters are used primarily in manufacturing, but they have a wide range of applications within this field. Recently, a team from MIT even began using die cutting to create disposable face shields. Here are a few examples of how industrial manufacturers use die cutting machines to create useful products:
Cardboard and Carton Packaging
Die-cut cardboard and fiberboard are often used to create packaging supplies. These include not just product packaging, but also envelope mailers, bookends, and cargo liner components.
Most die cutters are capable of processing foam. Die-cut foam can be used to create rigid foam insulation, automotive parts, gaskets, and more.
Some die cutters are capable of processing thin sheets of plastic. This plastic can be used to create an array of products. Most plastics manufacturers that use die cutting machines fabricate stiffeners and hold-downs.
Die-cut rubber is used extensively in the automotive industry. Manufacturers use die cutting to create rubber gaskets, gasoline engine seals, and more.
Fabrics and Fibers
Almost all fabrics can be die cut. These include textiles used for furniture-making, interior decor, and clothing design.
Manual vs. Digital Die Cutting Machines
Industrial business owners who want to purchase die cutting machines have a few important decisions to make. The choice between manual and digital die cutters is one of the easiest of them, so it’s a good place to start.
Manual Die Cutting Machines
Manual die cutters work like cookie cutters, but on a larger scale. Business owners can purchase prefabricated dies in different shapes and sizes or order custom dies to meet their unique needs. Each time they want to cut a new shape, machine operators switch out the dies. Manufacturers that use manual die cutting machines must purchase new dies from a specialized die fabricator each time they want to cut a new shape.
Manual die cutters are becoming less common every year, as advances in digital technologies have begun to make them obsolete. Some manufacturers still use manual die cutters, though, especially in the apparel, packaging, and printing industries, where they are used to cut fabric and emboss paper or cardstock. Small manual die cutters can only cut or emboss one piece of material at once, while larger machines can handle multiple pieces of fabric.
Pros of Manual Die Cutters
Manual die cutters are easy to use, and they don’t require a computer. They’re still fairly common among hobby creators and some small business owners, but most industrial business owners find that it’s more practical and cost-effective to purchase digital machines.
Cons of Manual Die Cutters
Manual die cutting machines aren’t very versatile. Each time a machine operator wants to cut a different shape, a brand-new die must be purchased or custom-fabricated by a specialized die manufacturer. It’s difficult for business owners to create their own designs, and the costs of purchasing new dies for every project add up fast.
Digital Die Cutting Machines
Modern digital die cutters, also referred to in some industries as desktop cutting machines, connect to a computer. This allows users to create their own designs instead of relying on die manufacturers.
Older digital die cutters used cartridges instead of software integration. These cartridges contained designs that users could select on the machines’ onboard displays. Some established niche companies still use these older machines, but it makes little sense for industrial business owners to purchase outdated technology.
Modern digital die cutters can be connected to computers that run design software. Users can create designs from scratch using this software, then export them from the computer to the cutting machine for processing. Today’s digital die cutting machines aren’t just good for cutting. They can also be used for drawing, etching, and engraving designs.
Digital die cutting machines are much more versatile than their manual counterparts. Digital die cutters are most common in the packaging industry, but they can also be used to create intricate storefront signs, samples, automotive components, rubber gaskets, paper products, fabric cuts, foam cuts, and more.
As technology has advanced and demand for digital machines has increased, the cost of digital die cutters has gone down substantially. These highly specialized machines used to be available only to well-established industrial manufacturers, but now even new business owners just getting off the ground should be able to afford high-quality digital die cutters.
Pros of Digital Die Cutters
Digital die cutters allow designers to create any shapes they want and share the files with multiple machine operators. Some machines are capable of cutting precision shapes as small as a few millimeters in size. Desktop cutting machines can also be used to draw, etch, pierce, emboss, and engrave materials, which eliminates the need for other expensive manual machinery.
Some digital die cutters feature what’s known as cut-by-color technology. They can trace colors on various materials, then cut around them. This is especially useful for businesses that work with paper and fabric.
Industrial digital die cutters are more versatile when it comes to material considerations. Some machines can even cut sheet metal quickly and efficiently, which has allowed metal fabricators to start incorporating them into their production lines.
Cons of Digital Die Cutters
Digital die cutters require more technological expertise. Machine operators must have at least a basic knowledge of computers, and most designers experience a learning curve while they learn how to use the Paragraphrequired software.
Die Cutting Machine Capabilities
Modern die cutters can be used to perform a variety of tasks, but not every machine will have the same capabilities. Manufacturers must consider their unique business models to determine what operational capabilities they’ll require before purchasing a machine.
All die cutting machines are capable of performing through cutting. During this process, the machine will cut the design all the way through one or more layers of material, fully separating the design from the stock. Packaging manufacturers might use through cutting to cut through plastic facing, adhesive, and cardboard or another backing material at once to create a uniform shape.
Kiss cutting is used exclusively on adhesive lined materials. This process involves cutting through the adhesive layer and the face, but not the cardboard or other backing layer. Once the die cutter has done its job, the machine operator or another worker can easily remove the die-cut design from the intact backing layer of the stock material.
When perforating materials, die cutters punch a series of holes into them that hold the design in place but make it easy to detach along the perforated lines. Perforations can be used when the design is not intended to be removed from the stock material during the manufacturing process, but it must be easy to remove for post-production workers or consumers. Not all die cutters are capable of perforating materials, so business owners who need to create perforations should check with the machine’s manufacturer about its operational capacities.
Scoring leaves a partial cut or indent at a single stress point on a stock material. Unlike perforating, it only cuts through less than half the material. This reduces its thickness at the stress point and makes it easier for workers, or customers, to create square profile folds.
Creasing is similar to scoring in that it creates fold lines on stock materials. The primary differencebetween these two processes is that while scoring reduces the thickness of the stock material at one stress point, creasing creates an inward bending bulge between two close together stress points. This increases flexibility at the crease and reduces the amount of effort it takes to fold the material.
What to Consider When Purchasing a New Die Cutting Machine
The most important consideration for industrial business owners who want to invest in any kind of new industrial machinery is quality. Only buy from a well-established, specialized company like SBLthat already has years of experience in the industry and a reputation for excellence.
Once they’ve decided whether to buy digital or manual machines, business owners must also consider a few other factors. These include machine size, material capabilities, precision, and ease of use. Keep in mind that in the case of digital die cutters, ease of use refers not just to the machine itself but also its software.
The Bottom Line
The most common use for die cutters is in the packaging industry, but these advanced machines also find applications in the fields of automotive parts manufacturing, clothing design, custom paper products creation, and more. SBL carries a range of die cutting machines and accessories. Get in touch for a quote today to get started.