One of the most common questions at this time in our lives is whether it is more convenient to use a die-cutting machine or a digital cutting machine. Large companies offer both die-cutting and digital cutting to help their customers create unique shapes, but everyone is unclear about the difference between them.
For most small companies that don't have these types of solutions, it's not even clear that they should buy them first. Many times, as experts, we find ourselves in the awkward position of having to answer this question and offer advice. Let's first try to clarify the meaning of the terms "die-cutting" and "digital cutting".
In the printing world, die-cutting provides a quick and inexpensive way to cut a large number of prints into the same shape. The artwork is printed on a square or rectangular piece of material (usually paper or cardstock) and then placed in a machine with a custom "die" or "punch block" (a block of wood with a metal blade) that is bent and folded into the desired shape). As the machine presses the sheet and dies together, it cuts the shape of the blade into the material.
Unlike die cutting, which uses a physical die to create the shape, digital cutting uses a blade that follows a computer-programmed path to creating the shape. A digital cutter consists of a flat table area and a set of cutting, milling, and scoring attachments mounted on an arm. The arm allows the cutter to move to the left, right, forward and backward. A printed sheet is placed on the table and the cutter follows a programmed path through the sheet to cut out the shape.
Which is the better option?
How do you choose between two cutting solutions? The simplest answer is, "It all depends on the type of job. If you want to trim a large number of smaller items printed on paper or card stock, die-cutting is the more cost-effective and time-efficient option. Once the die is assembled, it can be used over and over again to create a large number of the same shapes - all in a fraction of the time of a digital cutter. This means that the cost of assembling a custom die can be somewhat offset by using it for a large number of projects (and/or repurposing it for additional future print runs).
However, if you want to trim a small number of large-format items (especially those printed on thicker, tougher materials such as Forex, foam board, or R board), digital cutting is a better option. There's no need to pay for custom molds; plus, you can create more complex shapes with digital cutting.
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