When you buy blank labels from an office supply store they are always die-cut into shape. Then you print on these blank die-cut labels. In the world of professional label printing it works the other way around. We load a roll of blank label material into our digital label printer and we print on this material. Then we die cut the material into shape to create finished labels. Sounds easy, right.
Die cutting is actually a very complicated and intricate process where dozens of variables have to come together to produce a good looking finished label. Take a look at the above diagram. The cutting blade of the die has to cut through the label material with just enough strength to ensure a clean cut, but not too much strength that is cuts into the backing paper. As you can see here, this requires a great deal of precision.
The other difficult part in die-cutting is precisely aligning the die. While we certainly strive for a perfectly die-cut label, we are dealing with a roll of material this is moving through a machine, so some tiny shifts can occur. The tolerance for our die-cutters are plus or minus 1/32″. For most labels you will never notice this tiny movement, but if you have a very thin border it can become noticeable. Now, we work hard to keep this movement to an absolute minimum, but the reality of working with a mechanical machine is that we can’t eliminate it.
So, next time you peel off a beautifully die-cut label take a second to appreciate the effort and precision that went into bringing you this label. While we love to talk about the brilliant quality of our digital label printing, it is the die-cutting that provides you with a label you can actually use.
Peter Renton is the founder of Lightning Labels, a 21st century label printing business using only the latest technology.