When it comes to your finishing, adding or upgrading a die-cutter can have a major impact on your operation. It can open new applications, increase productivity, and even reduce costs. But it isn’t something that should be purchased without thought into what type of work it will be doing.
Some things to keep in mind when choosing a die-cutter:
How much space do you have? Die-cutters can range from small tabletop models to equipment that can rival a press in size and scope. Before you even sit down to decide what type of die-cutter will best suit your operation, first take stock of the space. Determine where the die-cutter will be installed and calculate how much space you’ll need to be able to comfortably move around it to complete jobs, move materials, and perform maintenance. Knowing these dimensions before beginning your research will help narrow down the models under consideration to a more manageable number.
What materials do you want to die-cut? Not all die-cutters are created equal, with rotary, flatbed, and digital die-cutters all having their own strengths and weaknesses, and the types and sizes of materials they can process. If you mostly run papers that are easy to cut, you will want a different die-cutter than a shop that runs a lot of thick stocks or cardboards, for example. Some die-cutters can even cut through thin metals, so if that is a material you print on, make sure you choose a die-cutter to match.
The types of cutting you plan to do will impact which machine that’s is right for you:
Sometimes called metal-to-metal cutting, this refers to cuts where the metal of the die slices all the way through the material to touch the metal on the opposite side. For example, if you’re cutting any kind of material with adhesive backing, you’ll want a die-cutter with this capability to ensure you can cut through all the layers of material cleanly.
This is the opposite of through-cutting, stopping short of cutting through the backing layer of a material. If you print and cut labels, decals, or stickers, which need to be able to be removed from their backing layer with the cut image coming away cleanly, then this is the type of capability you will need.
Instead of cutting a clean line, this type of capability will instead create a series of
small holes in precise lines that can be detached later. Examples of when this type of cutting works best are applications such as tickets or forms.
Scoring. When you only want to make a partial cut, rather than slicing through the material completely, this is known as scoring. To create items such as a folding carton, for example, you will want a die-cutter capable of this operation.
Creasing. Like scoring, creasing creates a bit stronger of a bend, making more of a stress point in the material and making it easier to bend. Examples of where this might be needed would be heavier cardstocks that you want to have precise folds that would be difficult to get cleanly without a pre-made crease.
What kind of support is offered? Just like a printing press, a die-cutter is an investment in your business, and you’ll want to make sure you know up front the costs for things like parts and maintenance. Is there a service plan to keep your machine always running in top condition? Is there a support structure that will respond quickly if something does go down? Make sure to ask these questions as part of your research process so you understand the total cost of ownership.
How skilled are your operators? Do you have an experienced staff who knows how to use complex die-cutting equipment? Or is your staff newer, without decades of technical expertise? Different types of die-cutters have different levels of skill required to operate them effectively, so keep that in mind when choosing the right one for your operation. Another thing to ask when researching is what types of education and training are offered to help your staff — no matter their skill level — get the most of that specific piece of equipment.
What supporting equipment or software is needed to get the most out of your investment? Will you need pieces such as a stripper to remove the waste when operating a die-cutter at high speeds? Will you need dedicated cutting software to generate the cut lines and manage cutting impositions? Will you need to ensure your die-cutter can fit seamlessly into your current workflow or do you plan to keep it separate? Just buying a piece of equipment, no matter how advanced or what capabilities it might bring to your shop, isn’t enough if you don’t have the supporting pieces to ensure you can get the most out of it. Making those decisions up front, before the investment, can help ensure a smoother transition, and get your new die-cutter up and running quickly and efficiently.
What is your budget? Just as die-cutters come in a wide range of sizes, they also come with a wide range of price tags. The most robust and versatile the die-cutter, the higher the up-front cost will be. You also need to consider the cost of consumables, depending on the type of die-cutter you purchase, as well as the costs to store the physical dies in many cases. Don’t just consider the price tag on the die-cutter itself, but consider the total cost of ownership, and compare that with the projected returns you believe you can get from having it installed. Are you opening new applications and markets, with untapped potential? Are you looking to serve current customers better, capturing more of their business? Do you already have a die-cutter, and you’re looking to do the same jobs faster and more efficiently? Keep all these things in mind before making your selections.
Purchasing a new die-cutter shouldn’t just be a snap decision — you want to ensure you are getting equipment that will enhance and expand your business, not hinder it. Take the time to really consider your operation, how die-cutting can help you grow, and then take the time to evaluate all the options before choosing the one that is right for you. Taking that extra time up front will ensure your investment is one that will pay dividends for many years to come.
Written by: Denise Gustavson
Guest Blogger for Duplo USA