Also referred to as steel rule die cutting, flatbed die cutting is a fabrication process which employs a flatbed die cutting press and steel rule dies to convert material into custom shapes and designs. The process is suitable for die cutting fabric, and a wide range of other materials, including paper, plastic, metal, rubber (including cutting neoprene), composites, and laminates, and creating uniform parts for a variety of manufacturing applications.
Compared to other die cutting processes—e.g., rotary die cutting and laser cutting—flatbed cutting is more suitable for processing thicker material, producing larger parts, and completing small orders or short production runs. However, while flatbed die cutting demonstrates some advantages over rotary die cutting and laser cutting, some manufacturing applications are better suited to these other die cutting processes, such as high-precision, intricate design, or large run part production. The requirements and specifications demanded by a particular die cutting application—e.g., materials, sizing, tolerances, costs, turnaround times, etc.—help determine the type of die cutting process most suitable to use for it.
While each type has its advantages and disadvantages in regards to manufacturing, this article focuses on the flatbed die cutting process, outlining the basics of the process, and the components and mechanics of the flatbed die cutting machine. Additionally, the article explores various flatbed die cutting capabilities and the benefits and limitations of the process.
The Flatbed Die Cutting Press and Process
For the flatbed die cutting process to run smoothly, and at optimum capacity, several factors should be taken into consideration, such as the flatbed die cutting machine’s configuration and settings, the material being cut and its properties, as well as the type of steel rule die employed.
Overview of Press Components and Mechanics
Flatbed die cutting is a type of die cutting which utilizes custom-designed steel rule dies affixed to a flatbed press to convert metal and non-metal material. Flatbed die presses are available in mechanical, hydraulic, and electric models and have configurations which vary from application to application. The typical setup for these presses includes a feeder unit, an in-feed module, a cutting station and steel rule die assembly, part extraction and waste removal tools, and a parts collection and delivery system.
The feeder—also referred to as the loader—utilizes suctioning, pulling, or pushing movements to transfer material from the feed tray or unwind stands to the in-feed module of the flatbed die press. Controlling the material’s movement and positioning as it enters the press’s die cutting station, the in-feed can also register individual sheets and sections of material to the cutting station. Registering the material helps to both ensure it is positioned correctly within the press and prevent cutting errors.
Read more: Introduction to Flatbed Die Cutting
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