Die-Cutting: Never a Dull Moment

Paper dulls scissors. While it's a good thing when playing “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” when it comes to die life in the real-life world of die-cutting, it's not: The more you cut, the duller the metal gets.

Same goes for the metal used to die-cut paper — and film, foam, and most substrates known to humans. And those substrates known to today's converting industry are increasing at a pace that's probably a bit maddening for die-cutting suppliers, maybe even (despite the new product opportunities) at a pace frustrating for converters themselves. “There are always new materials coming out,” says Lyle Archer, president, Chicago Cutting Die Co. (chicagocuttingdie.com), Northbrook, IL, “which means we have to [figure out] how to cut them.”

But any die-cutting product manufacturer worth its salt knows figuring out how to cut today's myriad materials is just the beginning of die-cutting success. “Different materials give a certain life to the die,” says Val Rimas, sales and marketing VP at Rotoflex Intl. Inc. (rotoflex.com), Mississauga, Ont., Canada. “Also certain inks, which basically are abrasive — many whites, for instance, have a lot of Titanium in them — really break down the die.”

Speeds — always a factor in converting — also are important to any die-cutting converter's process. But when die-cutting such material as adhesive-laden substrates, it means more than simply running product through a converting machine. Stripping away the unused die-cut material is critical, says Rimas. “You can only go as fast as you can strip,” he states.

Nevertheless, conventional die-cutting processes, including stripping, these days can run to speeds of 850 fpm, Rimas adds.

And with a traditional rotary die-cutting process, reports Archer, “you can get 800 to 900 feet per minute,” which likely is a major reason why die-cutting converters maintain status quo with their conventional, metal-tooling processes and forge into the unconventional — like die-cutting shapes into substrates with lasers — with less frequency.

“Right now, [laser die-cutters] operate at approximately 200 feet per minute, so there's a ways to go,” says Archer, “although, I think they're finding a nice niche market for certain things.”

Lasers used for making die boards, like the ones used for die-cutting folding cartons and corrugated substrates, also are finding a steady lot in the die-cutting world. David Domizi, president of Lasercut Inc. (lasercutinc.com), Branford, CT, says his laser-technology-oriented company has been around for almost 30 years. “We make laser machines that cut the slots in the plywood for the insertion of the knives. The laser replaces the jigsaw; it's still used by some die shops.”

But probably not a lot. According to Domizi, “Today, we have 2,500-watt systems, and we are cutting die-board systems…at speeds of over 200 inches a minute. Now, we can do a job that would have taken roughly an hour on the jigsaw with a laser in about five minutes.”

Flexibility, tooling longevity, speed, innovation — all of these, say the die-cutting vendors, are key to die-cutting success. But service — helping the die-cutter navigate the daily ins and outs of die-cutting converting — seems to be most crucial.

Says Steve Lee, VP of technical support at RotoMetrics (rotometrics.com), Eureka, MO, “On a daily basis, our sales and technical support team communicate with our customers to ensure the tooling they are purchasing [or purchased] is designed to convert productively.”

Certainly makes for a non-dull day at work.


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