Die Cutting: Shaping Your Prints

Die Cutting: Shaping Your Prints

Andrew James

Andrew James

Letterpress Operator at Capital Colour
Andrew James

Latest posts by Andrew James (see all)

Many people don’t think twice about the shape of a tissue box, envelope, pocket folder, or door hanger, but the steps that go towards producing these items can be very intricate. In fact, almost all paper products utilize this process. Paper can be cut into unique shapes and forms by using a steel rule die. A steel rule die is used much like a cookie cutter to stamp individual shapes out of a sheet of paper.
Achieving this begins with a simple line drawing of the desired shape. This drawing, usually a CAD file or vector line art, is then carefully measured and re-created with sharp steel rule set into a wooden board. The steel rule can be bent into shape with precision making it possible to create large or small dies with fine details, slits, holes, perforations, and more. These steps are completed by a trained die-maker.

A completed die is set into a die-cutting press or letterpress for stamping. The paper is pressed against the cutting rule with enough pressure for the shape to cut and pop out. Pieces of foam surround the cutting rule to stop the sheet from sticking to the die.

Perforations and score lines in paper are done the same way. All three can be combined for interesting results. With this process, a print project could incorporate a unique shape, precise folding, and a removable tab all in one.

Also, packaging solutions could display a product by using a window cutout. In addition to this, die cutting can help add depth and dimension by converting flat sheets of paper into an endless combination of three dimensional objects. Scalloped edges, glue-tabs, and shaped stickers are all possible with die-cutting.
As environmental pressures push industries toward recyclable processes, paper based packaging is the best option for businesses looking to stay green. Cardboards and cardstocks can be fortified through design and diecutting to make robust boxes or carrying cases that rival plastic goods.

Everything from promotional cardboard cut-outs to the average milk carton is cut into that shape with a steel rule die.

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