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Clients new to manufacturing are often overwhelmed by the various cutting methods available. Terminology is confusing. At first glance, you may find far more options than you actually need. After some research, you’ll find that there are four fundamental cutting solutions:
There is no one-size-fits-all solution: each method has its pros and cons. The silver lining is that your material and project usually choose for you. Read on to learn about digital cutting.
Digital Cutting Versus Die Cutting
Digital cutting is sometimes called digital die-cutting. To avoid any confusion, let’s review the difference between die-cutting and digital cutting first.
Die-cutting has been the standard cutting method for decades. A steel rule die is made to punch out a part that meets specific tolerances, almost like an industrial cookie-cutter. We make a new die for each design. Once the material and die is loaded in the press, the operator pushes a button, the press comes down to hit the die and, just like that, you have a finished part. It is a fairly straightforward process.
The benefits to this are obvious: high speed and low cost for mass production. There are some drawbacks, too. Die-cutting is limited in terms of materials, precision, and cut options. Digital cutting addresses two of those limitations.
Digital cutting does away with the traditional die and moves to a more custom solution. The “die” is replaced with a precise knife (or other attachment if necessary). With this method, the design file is uploaded into a computer that is controlling the digital cutter.
Referencing the digital file, the machine runs and produces as many parts as you have programmed it to cut. Digital cutting excels over traditional die-cutting in its precision and intricate cuts. With attachments such as v-cut and kiss-cut tools, you can accomplish cuts with a level of precision that traditional die-cutting cannot match.
Modus Advanced frequently uses digital cutting because it is:
- Does not require hard tooling (steel rule die)
Contact us to learn more.
Why is Such High Precision Necessary?
We put such a focus on precision because our customers expect it. We serve customers in the defense, aerospace, communications, and medical industries that require tight tolerance and high quality standards. In these demanding sectors, the difference between a successful project and failure can come down to the tolerances we can achieve.
When we discuss tolerances in industrial cutting applications, we are talking about accuracy.
Digital die-cutting has two primary forms of accuracy:
- Linear straightness – how straight a line the machine can draw
- Repeatability – how closely the machine can consecutively hit a specific point
For our digital cutting, we use the G3 cutter from Zund. Zund is a global leader in digital cutting, and the G3 lives up to its reputation. It is fully modular, extremely versatile, and its precision is unmatched in digital cutting.
It has tolerances of:
- Repeatability: ± 0.03 mm
- Linear Straightness: ± 0.1 mm/m
The G3 offers a range of modular tools to allow for different types of cuts to meet our needs. Here are a few of the options:
- Knife - for cutting completely through thin materials
- Kiss-cut - for cutting partially through materials to a specified depth
- Creasing - for scoring materials without tearing the top later
- Router - used for rigid and thicker materials
- V-Cut - used for intricate cuts that require cuts from specific angles
Machine tolerances are only a part of the equation. Even with the best a cutter has to offer, these processes aren’t occurring in a perfectly controlled environment. Every material has its intricacies and those can change depending on the environment and other factors.
For example, elastomers and composite materials are very sensitive to moisture and temperature. Even the heat of the cutting process factors into tolerances. This ultimately means that there is some variance over the peak performance of the machine to account for.
At Modus, we have a database of the products and processes we have seen firsthand. We track how the materials respond and the cuts we can get by the thickness and material type. These tolerances have been established after years of experience, and we know we can achieve these results with a 99.7% consistency.
The standard tolerances for our digital cutting are:
*Separate schedules of length and width tolerances are listed for different thickness of these materials because of the “dish” effect in die-cutting. This is more noticeable as the thickness increases. The “dish” effect is a concavity of die-cut edges (due to the squeezing of the material by the pressure of the cutting die). The length or width on the top and bottom surfaces is slightly greater than the length or width at the center.
A full table of our standard tolerances can be found here.
Razor Thin Margins: Less Error, More Precision
Our standard tolerances are just the beginning of the conversation. We handle projects that need ever-tighter tolerances and predictable consistency. This is exactly why we have Process Capability Indices, or Cpk studies available for all of our cutting methods. We use this test when you:
- Have tighter tolerances than listed in our standards
- Need more consistency than our standard of 99.7%
- Are working with less predictable materials
In this test, we will make a minimum of 30 parts and measure the exact deviations. From there, we collate the data to ensure we can meet your standards, every time. And this test won’t take weeks to complete. Depending on our production schedule, we can see results in a matter of days and keep your project moving.
Taking your Idea-to-Ignition™
Ready to learn more or start your own project? Our team is standing by and ready to press play on your great ideas and digital cutting needs. Go here to make contact.