Rotary Die Cutting

What is Rotary Die Cutting?

Because die cutting is a versatile fabrication process, it is used in a number of manufacturing processes to cut, form and shape sheet and rolled metal. A highly accurate and speedy process, custom-shaped die cutting comes in a variety of different methods, such as flatbed, press, laser and rotary die cutting. Rotary die cutting functions well on high volume projects, producing little waste and featuring quick turnover times. 

The rotary die cutting machine is composed of a heavy cylindrical anvil with a customized die which roles over a flat, depressed surface containing the female die features. The machine is fed sheet metal, paper or plastic, either from a spindle roll or flat individual pieces, which then passes through the rolling die. This cuts or perforates the desired shape from the material and deposits the finished shape down a line, while disposing of waste material in a catcher.

Because the control of the anvil can be very precise, the manufacturer can control the type and depth of cut from the die. Rotary die cutting performs very well in situations where the cutting material doesn’t have to touch the fabrication liner, called “kiss cutting.” It can perform high production runs with little waste.          

Although rotary die cutting works well on metals, it is also popular for cutting papers and plastics. When customers need perforated tickets, business envelopes, or small cardboard boxes, rotary die cutters can perform the operation. So as not to damage or wear down the steel dies, only soft to semi-rigid materials should be fed into rotary die cutting machines.

Generally, rotary die cutting is good for:

  • High volume projects of consistent cut;
  • Producing less waste than other, comparable methods;
  • Low tolerance precision cutting;
  • CNC application;
  • Fast turnaround times;
  • Multiple process projects, because rotary die cutting can be combined with coating, embossing, lathing and other processes. 

Naturally, rotary die cutting is not suited for all fabrication projects, and there are issues to keep in mind when deciding on a method of manufacturing. For instance, because of the high speed of rotary die cutting, products and waste can build up rather quickly. Materials handling equipment needs to be properly synced with the die cutting process in order to keep up with production and prevent stalling and accidents. Additionally, the rotary die cutting cylinders are limited in size, as not many die cutters can handle material wider than a few feet. Rotary die cutting projects usually handle smaller items. Rotary die cutting machines also need to be fed by metal rolls, which are not always available for every type of metal. Softer metals can be treated post-fabrication to increase strength and durability.