Die-cut components 101: fabrication equipment

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By Chris Doyle | Jul 24, 2015
Fabricating die-cut components

Last week, we discussed die-cut components and how the different tooling processes can best meet your unique project needs. This week we’ll discuss the four types of fabrication equipment offered at GMN including our clam shell press, laser cutter, plotter/router and rotary cutter. Combined, each piece of equipment offers a wide variety of options discussed below.

Clam shell press: This piece of equipment has the ability to cut using a steel rule die or a chemical etch die.

  • Advantages
    • Good for low to medium volume production
    • Ability to cut multiple types of material under .030”
  • Disadvantages
    • Not ideal for tighter tolerances

Laser cutter: The CO2 laser doesn’t require tooling and instead uses laser programming via a CAD file. Laser cutting has the ability to handle polycarbonate, polyesters, acrylic, foam and formex materials.

  • Advantages:
    • No tooling cost, only a small programming charge
    • Tight tolerance of +/-.005”
    • No lead time for tools
    • Great for low volume
  • Disadvantages:
    • Limited material cutting options (no metal or vinyl)
    • Can create burnt edges on polycarbonate
    • Masking is required before cutting to eliminate burn marks on the part so it’s more labor expensive and ups the cost

Plotter/router: This equipment uses a two-in-one cutting system in which the plotter cutter uses a small blade to cut out thin materials while the router uses different “bits” to cut thicker materials. Materials include acrylic, polycarbonate, vinyl, polyester, and aluminum.

  • Advantages:
    • No tooling cost, only a small programming charge
    • Good for low volume production
    • No masking needed like in laser cutting
    • No burning on polycarbonate like laser cutting
  • Disadvantages:
    • Slow process
    • Custom “bits” may be required
    • Material limitations
    • Can leave rough edges
    • Some limitations on interior cutouts
    • Very small parts (under 2” square)

Rotary cutting: The main component of this equipment is a rolling cylindrical anvil that contains the die tool and as it rolls, cuts pieces from the inserted material.

  • Advantages:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
    • Good for high volume product (over 10,000 pieces)
    • Auto application
    • Low tooling cost
    • Performs well when “kiss cut” to a liner, not individual pieces
  • Disadvantages:
    • Difficult to cut out interior holes
    • Loose tolerance of +/-.015”
    • Limited to thin materials including polyester, polycarbonate, double coated adhesives, thin foam and thin aluminum

For more information on die-cut components, visit our webpage on die-cut components or read our other two blogs in this series: