Die-cutting machines are great for cutting materials like paper, cardboard or fabric eliminating the tedious and time-consuming ways of cutting out shapes by hand. Die cuts are mostly used in artistic ways for the creation of unique gift cards, scrapbooking, and arts and crafts. Commercial die-cutting machines are capable of cutting materials like metal and other hard objects in mass-produced quantities.
How Does Die Cutting Work?
Dies are templates with razor-sharp edges used in a die cutting machine that shears the shape through thin material into uniform shapes.
DIY Die Cutting Machines
Die-cutting machines for home use are capable of cutting through thin materials like paper, cardboard, and fabric in limited amounts for crafting projects. Some die cutting machines for home use include a set of dies but compatible kits can be purchased.
The machine works by sandwiching a specific die and the chosen material in between two thick foam or rubber layers in a tray supplied with the machine. A layer of foam or rubber is placed in the bottom of the tray followed by a layer of thin material, for example, paper. The die is placed on top of the paper to be cut and another layer of foam or rubber is placed on top.
Once the die “sandwich” has been assembled the crank is turned to move the tray through the machine pressing the die to cut through the paper. When the tray emerges on the other side of the machine the top layers can be removed and the cut-out shape that can be gently lifted from the rest of the paper.
Materials Suitable for Die Cutting
• Card stock in various colors can be used for making designs or letters for greeting cards. For more intricate designs, heavy card stock will hold the shape of the cut without tearing.
• Patterned paper or vellum for more elegant designs.
• Foil or glitter papers to add accents.
• Adhesive papers for home-made stickers and personalized labels.
• Fabric-like felt, leather, and woven fabrics to create clothing accents.
Commercially Manufactured Dies
Commercial manufacturers can create virtually any design, pattern, and shape with die cutting using any type of flat, low-strength material. High-speed die-cutting is a process that is used to create a wide range of products including everyday items such as household products, office supplies, packaging, electrical gadgets, and even complex engineering equipment.
Die Cutting Applications
Die-cutting is used in any industry that requires the manufacture of high volumes of products in uniform shapes, complex design elements, and precisely defined dimensions. Items can be made out of materials such as metal, plastic, rubber, wood, foam, adhesives, sponge, and film. High-speed cutting is commonly used for the production of labels, washers, gaskets, insulating foams, vehicle parts, medical components, and many other products.
Commercial die-cutting is also used to produce a huge variety of shapes in many different types of materials for artistic use. These die cuts are sold by retail outlets for use in arts and crafts by individuals who prefer to purchase die cuts rather than investing in a DIY die cutting machine and die kits to create their unique cuts.
The Die Cutting Process
Die-cutting makes use of special cutting tools (dies) specifically designed for particular application needs that are capable of cutting shapes and patterns through any piece of material that is sufficiently thin. Different cutting operations are used for different applications such as metal cutting and forming, swaging, extrusion, curling, bending, roll forming, bulging, coining, laser cutting, blanking, broaching, and other methods that offer unique benefits and features.
Water jet cutting uses high pressurized water to accurately cut large quantities of thick or thin materials.
Rotary die-cutting makes use of a cylindrical die on a rotary press to cut various shapes or to make creases and perforations very rapidly.
Just as cutting out shapes with a pair of scissors can create many different shapes, sizes, and patterns, the flexibility, and speed of die-cutting in the industrial sphere allow for unmatched productivity and cost-saving. Any type of suitable materials can quickly and easily be shaped into specific products or items for use in many different types of industries. Die-cutting operations depend on three essential components: a cutting machine, material, and a cutting tool or die. It helps to think of die-cutting as a machine that uses an industrial cookie cutter as the die.