Die-cutting started as a process of cutting leather for the shoe industry in the mid-19th century. It is now sophisticated enough to cut through just one layer of a laminate, so it is now used on labels, decals and flexible insulators; this type of die-cutting is known as kiss cutting.
Die-cutting can be done on either flatbed or rotary presses. Rotary die-cutting is often done inline with printing. The primary difference between rotary die-cutting and flatbed die-cutting is that the flatbed is not as fast but the dies are cheaper. This process lends itself to smaller production runs where it is not as easy to absorb the added cost of a rotary die.
In rotary die-cutting, a series of gears will force the die to rotate at the same speed as the rest of the press, ensuring that any cuts the die makes line up with the printing on the material. Some machines use automatic eye registration to make sure the cuts and / or printing are lined up with one another when higher tolerances are required.
Dies used in rotary die-cutting are either solid engraved dies, or magnetic plate tooling. Engraved dies have a much higher tolerance and are machined out of a flexible tool steel plate. Magnetic plate tooling has a cylinder that has magnets placed in it, and an engraved metal plate is attached or wrapped around the base cylinder holding onto it by the force of the magnets.
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