What is Die Cutting?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Die cutting is a manufacturing process used to generate large numbers of the same shape from a material such as wood, plastic, metal, or fabric. The die cut shapes are sometimes called “blanks,” because they are usually finished and decorated before being sold. The process is widely used on an assortment of materials all over the world, and many manufactured products contain several die cut components, often assembled together in a series of steps to create a finished product.

Die cutting can be used to make very intricate paper shapes.
Die cutting can be used to make very intricate paper shapes.

Sharp specially shaped blades are used in die cutting. The blade is bent into the desired shape and mounted to a strong backing. The result is known as a die. The material being cut is placed on a flat surface with a supportive backing, and the die is pressed onto the material to cut it. Depending on what is being made, a single die might cut one piece of material, or it might be designed to slice through multiple layers, generating a stack of blanks.

A die cutting machine.
A die cutting machine.

Many consumers find it helpful to consider a cookie cutter when thinking about die cutting. The cookie cutter is a type of die which is capable of cutting out a potentially infinite amount of blanks. Each blank will be exactly the same shape and size, meaning that the blanks can be cooked uniformly together and decorated at will for individuality. The alternative is cutting out each cookie by hand, a painstaking process which would result in irregular final products.

Creating dies is meticulous work. The die must be designed so that it efficiently cuts the desired material with minimal waste. Most factories which use die cutting as part of their manufacturing process have techniques for recycling material left over from die cutting, but they want to avoid excess if possible. Often, multiple dies are fitted together on one mount, nestled with each other for maximum efficiency. Material left over from the process may be melted down and reused, or reworked into other components.

Common examples of die cut items include keys, paper products, and flat plastic pieces which can be snapped together. Die cutting is limited, because it can only really be used to produce flat objects. For more dimensional shapes, other manufacturing techniques such as molds need to employed. Dies can also range widely in size from cookie cutters to massive machines designed to cut out ship components. With large dies, it is important to observe safety precautions while die cutting, as an industrial die designed to slice through metal can also remove a limb without difficulty.

Key-cutting machines use the process of die cutting.
Key-cutting machines use the process of die cutting.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


How can they be used in the industry? Like cookie cutting?


I am going to cut stickers, but not fully cut. I want to cut half, I mean an upper layer. How do I make that one? I have a problem with that. If anyone knows, please answer me.


I am currently studying graphics at gcse level and we were asked to research this and 'tessellation' and information on tessellation would be appreciated.


i need more info on die cutting. anyone have any ideas?


Paper die cutting is the same as any other kind of die cutting. If it's only cutting, many layers can be cut in one go which can save money, but will blunt a blade more rapidly (a problem overcome by use of lasers).

Paper (or card) die cutting can also incorporate fold lines, by compressing the paper/card but not cutting through, this is usually done in the same process as the initial cuts and is how many free standing card or paper display stands/promotional material is produced (for example the large displays seen in a movie theater).

If possible, try to get a copy of the specifications of your course, and work your way through that.


My customer mentioned "mouse ear" in our diecut. Please define.


what is the manufacturing process of paper die cutting?


Hello my friends, i am currently doing A-levels and i was pondering if there is any extra information i could possibly use about the subject 'Die Cutting'. Any information would be greatly appreciated by me. I wish you good health!


Deep cutting die problems are always dealt with during set up, although you should be able to adjust the platen so it will not come down too far as well. Spartanics offers a very nice Laser cutter, but the cost could be an issue


How do I correct/prevent deep die cutting problems? I work for a Label manufacturer and the largest complaint area is due to deep die cutting. The answer may be obvious for you but I am new to the printing/converting industry.


Where can the automatic laser cutters be purchased?


steel rule die boards are now often cut with automated laser cutters. the design is supplied with a computer file, and the laser cuts a narrow kerf in the board (often a high-grade plywood).

then, the diemaker carefully fits the steelrule into the thin slots created by the laser. the accuracy that can be achieved i pretty amazing, and the cost of steel rule dies is quite reasonable.

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