Advantages of Steel Rule Die Cutting:
- The cost of the tooling is one of the lowest in all the die technologies. The exception are etched zinc dies used for thermal cutting.
- It takes only three to five days to have the dies made.
- There is very little set-up needed to cut a few test pieces, making this an ideal way of making prototypes.
- The blades can be changed easily: replaced, removed, added.
Disadvantages of Steel Rule Die Cutting:
- The lack of accuracy and fine detail.
- Steel rule dies also tend to have a shorter life than rotary dies. The exact die life is difficult to predict without testing since there are so many factors to consider including acceptable quality, abrasiveness and toughness of the material to be cut, accuracy of the press, type of backing material, etc.
- Though it is possible to ‘kiss cut’ parts, it is more difficult and less accurate than with rotary die cutting.
STEEL RULE DIE CUTTING
Steel Rule Die Cutting is a crush cut technology in which the material to be cut is placed against a ‘cookie cutter’ like tool and the two are pressed with several tons of force between two parallel plates until the material is cut.
There is also a rotary drum version of the steel rule die, but we do not currently offer this service. Rotary steel rule is often used to cut large parts where accuracy is not required such as spacers or garments.
Steel rule dies are generally made with a piece of birch plywood in which slots are cut with a saw or a laser. Steel blades, called ‘rule’ in the industry, are cut, bent and inserted into the board.
The biggest difference between steel rule blades are the thickness and the angle of the blades: inside, center or outside bevel, and how the board is cut. While die makers can achieve remarkable accuracy, generally the tolerance on a die made with a saw is +/- 0.015 and with a laser cut die +/- 0.010.
There are also solid steel dies flat dies that can be used in the same way. These are much more expensive but can achieve an accuracy of +/- 0.002 inches.
Steel rule for prototyping is most often used for small quantities (up to a few thousand), very thick and large parts, or for high volumes of large parts up to 24″ x 24″.