What’s steel rule die-cutting?

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Steel rule die cutting is a process used to cut sheet materials such as paper, cardboard, rubber, and plastics. The mold is made of high-quality plywood or aluminum, and the steel rule is a hardened elongated razor blade. Ejector rubber is added to expel the material after cutting. Different types of steel rule are available for different applications. The die is attached to a die press, and the material is placed under the die for cutting. Perforations and creases can also be performed. Fully automatic machines are used for high volume die cutting operations. This method can also be used for cutting exotic materials such as foam, carpet, and rubber.

Steel rule die cutting is a common process used to cut a range of sheet materials, including paper, cardboard, rubber and plastics. Most standard cardboard boxes and packages are made using this relatively simple technique. As well as cutting out shapes, it can be used to create folds, perforations and slits.
The mold is constructed with a flat base or substrate which is usually made of high-quality, high-density plywood; plywood is usually made from hardwoods, such as maple, and is free from voids or other imperfections. Some specialty molds may require aluminum or steel substrates. The mold maker uses a special band saw or laser cutter to cut precisely positioned slots in the substrate. The steel rule itself is essentially an elongated razor blade made of hardened steel. The die cutter cuts and bends the steel ruler and places it into the slots in the substrate.

The final step in creating the mold involves adding ejector rubber. Rubber pads are adhered to the substrate to help expel the material after it has been cut. Without the inclusion of the ejector rubber, the material can tend to get stuck between the rules of the steel.

There are all kinds of steel rule. The rule itself is available in a variety of thicknesses which are chosen based on the particular application. There are also several options regarding the cutting edge of the steel rule:
A beveled steel center rule is the most common type of rule and is the most durable configuration. The cutting edge is conveniently centered between the two faces of the ruler. A faceted chamfer ruler also has a centered cutting edge, but is shaped more like a diamond and this tends to give cleaner cuts. in line with one of the facets of the rule. The cuts are very sharp, but the longevity of this type of ruler is poor. A side bevel rule has a slightly off-center cutting edge. It has good cutting quality and good longevity.

Once the mold maker has completed the steel mold, it is immediately ready for production. The die is attached to the top plate of a die press which will provide the necessary force for the job. Smaller presses can deliver 20 tons (18,000 kg) of force, while larger ones deliver over 150 tons (135,000 kg).

The material to be cut is placed under the die and then the press is operated. If registration is a problem, the material is placed against a stop or in a placement nest. The sharp edges of the steel ruler penetrate the material until they come into contact with the bottom plate; the press then reverses and the cut portion is exposed. In some applications, a softer material is placed under the material to accept the cut surfaces of the steel rule. When cutting paper, on the other hand, the cut is performed against special steels designed for the purpose.

Perforations and creases are performed with a special ruler positioned on the same die as the cutting ruler. Creases sometimes require a secondary die called a die, which is positioned on the opposite side of the press and is aligned with the crease row; when configured correctly, very sharp creases can be created in all types of materials. Sometimes, when plastic parts are manufactured, heated plates are used to improve the quality of the folds and cuts.
In high volume die cutting operations, fully automatic machines are used. In these machines, the material to be cut is automatically fed into the press and placed in the correct position. The steel die is pressed through the material and the pressure is released. The cut piece is removed along with any waste material and the next piece is indexed to repeat the process.

Steelline die cutting can also be used for cutting more exotic materials. Thick foam, carpet and rubber can also be cut with this method. This is a relatively cheap and effective way to cut soft sheet products.

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