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What is Die Cutting and How Can it Benefit Your Custom Packaging

The die cutting process is a popular technique within the package printing industry. It involves creating a die that is used to cut a wide variety of stocks and substrates into an assortment of packaging designs and shapes. The ability to produce custom packaging is where the real significance of the die cutting process lies. Die-cut packaging is an easy, cost-effective way to create custom packaging on a larger scale. 

In this article, we’ll be exploring the die cutting process and its role in custom packaging printing

How Does Die Cutting Work?

A cutting die is essentially a giant cookie cutter that presses into a material such as; coated paper, board, plastic, and many other types of stocks and substrates to form the desired shape of the packaging. Die cutting has developed into a versatile fabrication process. Virtually any shape, design, or pattern can be accomplished using a cutting die to create custom packaging for cosmetics, food, gaming, medical supplies, sporting goods, and more.

Die cut packaging is produced using custom steel dies and die-cutting machines. This form of manufacturing ensures precision and accuracy. The most popular brands are Bobst, Brausse, Heidelberg, Jima, Kluge, SBL and Thomson

How is a Cutting Die Made?

Developments in technology and manufacturing techniques of cutting dies allow for the most effective and accurate design of die-cut custom packaging. Usually, the packaging outline is generated by Computer-Aided Design (CAD). The digitized drawing is then transferred onto a piece of hardwood called a die board. 

The most advanced method for creating designs onto die boards is by burning the wooden surface using state of the art laser cutters. The cutting die uses strips of metal called rules or steel rules. The cutting ruler is formed into shape using a rule bender which bends, cuts, and notches steel into the shape needed to produce custom packaging.

A variety of cutting rules can be used in the die-cutting process. Each rule has its own function and use depending on the complexity of the packaging. 

 Some of the most common rule options are:

  •       Through Cutting: Cuts through the packaging material.
  •       Scoring: Leaves an impression indent or partial cut on a single stress point. 
  •       Creasing: Allows for inward bending of material by having two parallel stress points to permit greater flexibility. Creasing is similar to scoring, where the die creates a fold line on the packaging material.
  •       Perforating: Involves indenting a line of holes along with the design material. The design is not separated from the material itself but can easily detach along the perforated lines. 

The steel rules are hammered into the die board by hand. A variety of foam and rubber pieces are then glued onto the die to assist in bouncing off the corrugated board during production. 

The die cutting machine presses the die firmly into the cardboard, which results in a cut-out shape. Depending on the complexity of the packaging design, this cut out has several lines, creases, and folds which are used to assemble the packaging by hand. Making individual dies for each piece of packaging can be costly, however, it’s a one-time cost as the die can be used for multiple orders of the same packaging over time. 

Which Die Cutting Techniques Exist?

Die-cutting is still very much manual in nature. Although technology is used in the process, the fastest method for custom packaging is still with a manually built cutting die.

The most popular die-cutting techniques in packaging are:

Flatbed Die Cutting: 

Flatbed dies are made with a flat, rectangular piece of hardwood (die board) that contains the unique die shape. 

It involves the use of a cutting die that is firmly pressed into the cardboard by a flatbed machine. 

Flatbed die machines have a small blank size, so they are not suggested for larger designs. However, they are capable of making intricate, detailed designs such as small cut-outs, tight cuts, and slit scores.

Rotary Die Cutting:

Rotary dies are made with a cylindrical press and rolled over the cardboard rather than pressed down like the flatbed die cutter. 

Rotary die-cutting is a much quicker process and is ideal for mass production of simple designs. 

The Finishing Touch in the Die Cutting Process

The die-cutting process makes it possible to create virtually any kind of truly unique custom packaging no matter the size, material, fold, or function. Intricate, complex design in luxury custom packaging provides a special touch that will leave a lasting impression.

There are also a variety of finishing techniques that enhance the custom packaging die-cut design. This focus on packaging design resonates with consumers and positively impacts their future purchasing decisions. 

Below are other finishing techniques die cutting machines are capable of that can be beneficial to getting the most out of your custom print and packaging pieces:

Embossing / Debossing:

A printing technique that uses an embossing machine to raise the print higher off the surface of the packaging. A metal die is made (similar to a cutting die) that is then used to emboss the desired area.

It is also possible to deboss – the opposite of embossing, where the design is pressed underneath the packaging surface, creating an indented look to the finish.

Foil Hot Stamping:

A finishing technique for custom packaging that uses high temperature for gluing foil or dry paint into the desired shape. The finishes are pressed on with a die which transfers the heat.

In Closing

The die-cutting process makes it possible to create a wide range of custom packaging. Varied die-cutting techniques, machines, and styles provide a wide range of packaging functions.

Consult Bromley Printing for more – we can make all you can imagine.