Die Cutting


Array of die cut parts

The Industrial Revolution was a time in which modern manufacturing was born, albeit as a slightly nuanced concept. The Industrial Revolution was also the advent of a process called die cutting. (There are many types of die-cutting but this is referring to the part cut by pressure on a pressboard.) This idea essentially started with a tool that “cut” out a piece of weak material such as rubber, felt, leather and such. Die-Cutting started with cobblers cutting out the soles for shoes. This made it much easier for cobblers to manufacture shoes on a large scale. Leather paved the way for other materials to be cut via this method.

The modern way to “die cut” is to take advantage of all the uses of the steel rule die. The steel rule die is essentially a piece of tough wood that has “rule” in it; one side of the rule is sharpened. This rule is bent into the shape of the part and placed into the wood to create a tool that is very durable. The steel rule offered an economical solution to manufacture a quality product for large-scale runs. One of the biggest benefits of dies is their amazing durability, and their low cost. The equipment is all that is needed to manufacture a quality part. A die-cutting machine comes down with enormous pressure and precision to “burst” the die through the material. Die-cutting machines have come a long way since the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Modern die-cutting machines offer computer algorithms and lightning fast die cutting ability. Our modern die-cutting machines utilize a coordination of computers, hydraulics, and nesting software to offer our customers the best price possible.

One of the advantages of die-cutting is the reproducibility of every cut. The part is made by the die, and the die is naturally stronger than the material itself, so it helps in producing a quality part over and over. The shape of the part is dictated by the rule of the die which stays in place due to the wood and the pressure of the machine that is being used. Nearly every cut is within a few thousandths of the last cut. One of the limitations of the steel-rule die is the tolerance. Although steel-rule dies can be manufactured to hold a +/- .005” tolerance, it may be difficult to stay within that tolerance on a very complex part such as extremely thick materials or extremely dense materials. Luckily, NEDC offers a solution to this problem as well, (see our Waterjet Cutting article). It is also possible to hold a +/- .002” tolerance with a solid tool; NEDC provides solid tool cutting as well. Die cutting normally offers a two-dimensional part (X and Y axis); it is possible to offer some parts as three-dimensional, through bends. This is rare but can be done with some rigid, thin materials. Die Cutting also offers the ability to “kiss-cut,” this is described in our article on “Kiss-Cut Parts“.

NEDC now offers a large variety of materials that may be die cut, such as fluorosilicone, nitrile rubber, electrically conductive silicone and fluorosilicone, EPDM rubber, as well as many other types of materials (see our products list). NEDC owns and operates a modern die cutting facility in Methuen, MA, and has manufactured thousands of dies over a 30-year period. These dies “die-cut” hundreds of different shapes and sizes of parts that range from extremely complex to very simple diameters. Some of the parts NEDC has the capability to die-cut are gaskets, washers, and waveguide gaskets. Of course, NEDC can manufacture other types of shapes that are not listed because of the comprehensive list this would offer. NEDC offers die cutting for quantities ranging from very high such as 1,000,000 pcs to 1 pc.

It is possible to manufacture a die with more knife bent into the configuration to make more parts with each ‘hit’. This is done often when there are many parts required, or when nesting the part may offer a more effective price structure for our customer. It is normal for the price to go up on the tool when there are more parts offered per ‘hit’.

Another bonus of modern die cutting is the ability to offer pressure sensitive adhesive on the back of parts with ease of removal. NEDC is an authorized convertor of 3M and thus offers many different types of adhesives on the back of its parts:

  • Thin Films such as ETFE, PTFE, and DuPont’s Kapton®
  • Adhesives, such as the wide range 3M offers
  • Rubbers, such as silicone, fluorosiliconne, nitrile rubber, and EPDM rubber
  • Thin Plastics such as DuPont’s Mylar®
  • Fabrics such as Felt
  • Thin Foils
  • Aramid paper Products such as DuPont’s Nomex®

If you have any questions concerning our die-cutting process or would like to send us an RFQ (request for quotation) for a part you would like die cut, please contact our Sales Team at sales@nedc.com.