Die-cutting is an automated and truly valuable process, making things more efficient and cost-effective by facilitating the uniform production of multiple pieces with the same shape. It is defined as a manufacturing technique that tailors a die through cutting, forming, or shearing to create precise shapes, designs, or patterns. When custom packaging is produced in larger quantities, die-cutting brings speed without sacrificing quality – something that benefits both manufacturers and businesses in a big way. It can deliver the whole thing, a perimeter, a corner, or cut out cool silhouettes from the center, giving you loads of creative possibilities.
In the packaging industry, die-cut printing is a versatile process to create unique custom packaging. The key element required in the process of die-cutting is a "die" – a specialized metal (steel) tool used to cut, shape, or mold any material into particular shapes and designs. Dies have sharp areas, more precisely, exact contours to get the desired figure. Despite their sharpness, they comprise protective layers of plastic or foam to ensure safety.
Primarily used in cutting packaging materials, they are similar to how a cookie cutter creates uniform shapes in dough. For instance, to get custom-shaped hang tags, the first step is to make your own die using a press. Also, many printers offer a range of standard dies for common cuts and shapes. Yet, for unique designs, custom dies are typically crafted.
Tip: Steel-rule dies are specifically crafted for cutting thicker packaging materials or slicing through a stack of less dense packaging simultaneously. In contrast, there are slimmer metal dies that lack the same level of sharpness and are unsuitable for cutting through very thick materials. These lighter, more manageable dies don't have protective foam or plastic, making them easier to store.
It's widely acknowledged that most printed materials typically adopt a conventional appearance, often being rectangular or square. Die-cutting provides a means to deviate from this norm by introducing intriguing shapes, contours, flaps, holes, etc., thereby capturing attention.
Before delving into the die-cutting process in the printing and packaging industry, look at some common types of dies used for different applications.
|Common Types of Dies
|Creates score lines on materials used for items having folded designs like brochures and cards
|Creates tiny holes or perforations in the material used in the production of tickets and coupons
|Used in hot foiling stamp process Adds a thin metallic or shiny layer onto the material's surface Considered an embellishment to decorate packaging and book covers
|For creating indented designs on a surface Used in printing and packaging for a subtle look on printed materials
|Creates raised patterns on the material surface to add texture and dimension Ideal for greeting cards, invitations, packaging
|Used to cut paper, cardboard, or other types of materials into precise shapes For business cards, packaging materials, labels, etc
Steel-rule Dies/ Flatbed Dies
|Very sharp-edged dies with foam/plastic wrapped around them for safety Used to cut thicker packaging materials or to cut bundles of thin packaging
Creating dies for packaging designs might cost initially, but it's a one-time investment. Once you have the die, making large volumes of custom packaging becomes affordable. Moreover, just one die can be used for multiple products, making it a valuable asset for your brand.
Think of it as an upfront investment that pays off in the long run for your business!
Beyond its role in promotional contexts, die-cutting serves to enhance the functionality of printed materials. For instance:
In the past, making steel dies to cut customized shapes and designs was quite pricey. So, the printers had very limited options to choose from. Only six dies were available, each for a different shape. The following six standard die-cut shapes were their go-to options without draining the finances:
The process starts with creating a design with the right use of a dieline or a design template. This step demands the top-tier expertise of the graphic designers. Once the design is finalized, a matching die is formed, customized exactly per the provided design.
Moving forward to the printing process, ensure that the printed sheets contain the desired visuals and typography. The technique is decided per the artwork’s requirements.
To get the desired shapes, perforations, and scorings, printed sheets are meticulously passed through a die-cutting machine.
It is time to get rid of the extra material that could be chads left around the shapes. It helps get the printed design in a sharp, clean, and tidy profile.
Lastly, add-ons and finishes are decided to keep the exclusivity alive. From embossing and debossing to varnish and laminations, UV-printing, and foil stamping to metallic accenting - you can pick any option for a luxurious texture. Where these premium finishings improve the exterior of your die-cut design, they also ensure a protective layering. To convert the die-cut material into a high-end material, you need these specialties.
Steel dies were used in traditional die-cutting, but this method faced several challenges, such as material limitations and high costs. Besides, pricing was done through manual communication, which was another exhausting producer, resulting in expensive custom dies. Due to high expenses, short runs were not possible. Moreover, for different shapes and designs, multiple dies were required.
All these barriers make traditional die-cutting a complex and inflexible method.
On the other hand, digital die-cutting, unlike traditional methods, eliminates the need for physical dies. Using software (CAD), designs are created on a computer, offering flexibility and precise control. Digital machines operate faster, allowing for shorter turnaround times without changing dies. Further, the process is user-friendly, requiring less skill than traditional die-cutting. It is precise, budget-saving, and versatile, handling materials like vinyl, cardboard, leather, and more with ease. It is suitable even for small quantities and various materials.
This method enables creative freedom, making it a go-to for quick, intricate projects.
For crafting bespoke shapes and printing designs, the die-cutting process differs, and there are no hard-and-fast rules or protocols to follow. One is advised to pick the one that serves all your professional needs and personal demands. A few names that are commonly used include:
A process dedicated to achieving a flat and uniform look by clipping the material from the outer edges.
Typically a preferred choice for thin and/or cylindrical packaging, it is used for pulling material through the machine until a predetermined length is reached.
It is a method where raw materials are shaped on a curved surface with keen attention to detail. Forming is suitable with a design that involves creating tubular parts for custom packaging.
Ideal for making precise circular holes in materials with great pressure, it is used to accomplish complicated structural design features.
The broaching method uses several rows of "teeth" to cut material that is considered difficult to cut with steel dies.
Whether you are a non-professional, lack specialized equipment, or need to print a rare shape, using metal dies without any guidance from an expert can negatively impact the quality of die-cut results. It is advisable to get the needed help from packaging experts.
You can rely on Custom Packaging Lane to deliver all your die-cut materials, signage, and merchandise. With an effective approach, we steer you in the right direction to lure your customer base, extend your brand’s reach, and double the popularity of your product or service. We welcome you to pick custom designs from our gallery, or you can provide our team with your distinctive layout, artwork, logo, or typography. You'll be awe-struck with the top-notch quality of our materials and exotic finishing touches.
To request a free quote, contact us right now and enjoy our special discounts and deals on bulk orders!