Die cutting is a printing process where a steel rule die, which is a shaped cutting device, is pressed into a sheet of paper to cut out a specific shape.
Steel rule dies are made by burning precise and accurate patterns as specified by structural files on a computer into a die board (usually made of wood) using laser equipment. Pieces of steel are then placed along the lines etched out by the laser. A firm spongy material is placed around the steel in areas where the steel is meant to cut through the paper. This is called the ‘cutting rule’. The area of the die where the steel is exposed and is not surrounded by sponge is called the ‘scoring rule’. Scoring the paper is the process of creating a crease in the paper so it will fold more easily.
Die cutting is done by placing the steel rule die onto the bed of the press surrounded by a chase to hold it in place. Paper is fed into the cylinder of the machine while the bed moves in and out. When the bed moves in it puts pressure on the piece of paper cutting it into shape. Dies are meant for ultra precise cuts. To maintain the precision of the cuts the die can only cut one piece of paper at a time as to do more than that may result in the paper shifting from the pressure of the press, which would cause an imperfect cut. The last step is simply separating the excess paper from the cut out shape, and recycling the scrap.
Die cutting is the perfect tool for creating a truly unique custom printed piece. At Minuteman Press Markham, through the use of die cutting we are able to create custom shaped business cards, door hangers, labels, presentation folders, and more.
The great thing about dies is that they are highly reusable. While the initial expense of creating a die cut piece can be quite high, each subsequent order will be significantly cheaper as you only need to incur the cost of creating the die once. After that you can hold onto your die and re-use it as many times as you like. Overtime the steel blades of your die may dull or break, but they can be easily replaced if needed.