What is a die cut label? Why does my die need retooling?

A label die is responsible for creating each individual label. The label materials sheet is composed of three distinct parts. Namely, the face material or stock, the adhesive, and the liner. As the label material moves through the press, the die cuts through the stock and the adhesive. The die does not cut through the liner. The liner is the backing of the label material. It is what you peel the individual labels off to apply them. Make custom labels online.

What Does Die Cut Mean?

Okay, die cutting, it sounds like the name of a death metal band. The term, however, refers to the procedure needed for cutting label materials into the shapes required for a designated label design. The term “die,” in this case refers to the specialized piece of metal that performs the cutting. The dies, as you might have assumed, come in their own specific shapes. Typically, these die shapes are circular or rectangular, but trust us when we say there are myriad shapes available for your needs. 

die cut labels - semi-rotary

Labels are first printed and wound onto a large roll of material, commonly referred to as a web, before they can be die-cut. From there the web is transferred to specialty machinery designed to die cut. LabelValue uses an industry-leading Digicon die cutter.

How are Labels Die Cut?

There are several different types of die-cutting processes. Among those most commonly used are the flatbed, rotary, and semi-rotary die-cutting processes. Let’s break them down, shall we? 

The flatbed die-cutting process, as its name suggests, describes a procedure of cutting dependent on the use of a flatbed die and press. It incorporates a flat, stationary base and a mobile head. The dies, here, are a series of sharp-edged steel strips, referred to as steel rule. The steel rule have been bent into the configuration necessary to cut the label into the required shape. The steel rule is then fitted into a plywood, plastic, or steel board with slots for the allotted shape. The die can either be fixed to the base or head of the press. The press operates via a system of hydraulic and lifting mechanisms and produces the desired shapes.

This process allows for a cost-effective means of producing short order runs because of its slower production speeds. Despite this, it is easy to set up and incorporate different shapes. It works exceptionally well for those materials that are around 1/8 inch thick. Flatbeds tend to have cuts that are positioned perpendicular to the die bed. This fact places them in contrast to rotary die cutters, which we will touch on later. Flatbed die cutters tend to be sharper than their counterparts. They are an awesome option for short order runs.


die cutting label - applying corona

To ensure optimal adhesion and surface tension throughout the die-cutting process, a corona is applied in certain cases to the label material.

The next specialized die cutter that we’ll discuss is the rotary die cutter. Rotary die cutting refers to a method of die-cutting that utilizes custom cylindrical dies in conjunction with a rotary press. The rotary die cutting process works via a very different apparatus than the flatbed. Essentially, there is a fast rotating circular die, that cuts through the label material as it is sent through the press.

When it comes to die-cutting processes, rotary die-cutting finds itself among the quickest of the quick. With this process, hundreds of feet of material can be cut per minute. This makes the process ideal for high volume runs. What’s more, it provides a cost-effective alternative to some other processes.

label finish application - die cut labels

If any varnishes, laminates, foils, or specialty finishes are needed for the label, they are applied in this process of the die-cutting.

Then there is the semi-rotary die-cutting method. As you may have guessed, this method is similar to the rotary method. This time, though, the die moves clockwise and counterclockwise in a back and forth motion. As this occurs, the label material is moved back and forth and divvied into individual labels of the appropriate shape.

This die cutter operates at a speed that is slower than that of the typical rotary die cutter. For comparison, the aforementioned full rotary die cutter operates at a phenomenal speed. As stated before, it is well suited, then for high volume orders. Semi-rotary cutters, on the other hand, use a single cylindrical die. This means that they have shorter set up times. What’s more, they are a cost-effective solution for short order or medium order runs. 

label is die cut and stripped of waste

The label is then die cut to the labels specifications of shape and size. The remaining waste is then stripped from the label web - leaving the finished label and label liner.

Okay, so that was die cutting 101, but how does this concern you? Well, if you are in need of a label shape that is compatible with one of these objects then you are in luck. LabelValue is equipped with different presses that allow us to accommodate your needs. 

Specially made dies can be brought in to accommodate your needs. If you are in need of a specially made die for your label, consider reaching out to our customer service team. Now, ordering a specialty die may require a small initial investment but it comes with many benefits. You will, for example, be able to rest assured knowing that the dies required for your product are always on hand at a company you trust. 

One additional thing to note is that retooling of dies is sometimes necessary. Retooling is necessary when a die has been degraded to the point that it no longer cleanly cuts the label. Over time, the edges of a die get worn down, resulting in dull edges. When it gets to the point that the label is no longer being cut cleanly, the die needs to get retooled by the die-making company.


label is rewound onto finished label roll

The finished label is then slit down to the requested number of rolls and rewound. Labels are continuously checked for quality throughout the entire die-cutting and printing process.[/caption]

Thanks for reading! If you're looking to learn more about LabelValue's retooling processes, please do not hesitate to reach out. You can reach our customer service team directly by dialing (800) 750-7764. Or if you only read this article for kicks and giggles, and would like to move forward with your label design, click here to get started with InstaProof.