Dies 101: Why Tooling Matters for Custom Labels

“We don’t have that die.” “Make sure you check the die line.” “You might need a custom die.” You may have heard these phrases in conversations with your label printer. Well when a label converter is talking about dies, they aren’t referring to Yahtzee. Here are the basics when it comes to dies.

 

What is a die?

Great question, so the basic definition of a die is a tool used to cut something out (it is often simply called ‘tooling’). For a label converter, this means cutting the individual label out of a sheet of paper. Think of it as a cookie cutter, but instead of a sheet of cookies, it is a sheet of label material. So the die cuts out the label, and then we remove the excess material (called ‘matrix’). The ‘die line’ is the outline of where the die will cut, it is usually shown as a thick colored line in proofs.

 

A die is a large metal sheet with raised 'blades' that is affixed to a cylinder. The cylinder cuts the labels out of the sheet of material.

A die is a large metal sheet with raised ‘blades’ that is affixed to a cylinder. The cylinder cuts the labels out of the sheet of material.

Do I need a die?

It depends. We have a stock of about 800 different dies that we have accumulated over the years, which includes most common shapes (different sized rectangles, squares, circles, and ovals). We have some distinctive shapes, like triangles and diamonds, but if you want something that is specific to your brand, like a label the shape of your logo or a label that fits a piece of custom packaging, you might need to order your own die. Basically, if your label is not a rectangle or an oval, it is probable you’ll need a custom die.

Custom Die v. Standard Die

How do I create a die?

Well first start off by measuring the surface you have to affix the label to. For instance, if you’ve got a 12 ounce bottle you’re not going to want a label much bigger than 3 ½” by 7 3/8”. Once you know your size constraints, you have to design the shape. Make sure you stay away from sharp corners and acute angles; these can cause tears when the matrix is being torn away.

After you have decided on your shape, convert it into a line in Adobe Illustrator. It is very important that it is a joined line (not a bunch of overlaid segments) so that the die is continuous. Make sure the die is the correct size, and then overlay it on the Illustrator file that contains your artwork. Name the die line as a specific spot color, and make sure it is on it’s own layer.

 

This shows how die lines are demonstrated in Adobe Illustrator. The red line is where the die will cut.

This shows how die lines are demonstrated in Adobe Illustrator. The red line is where the die will cut.

How much does a die cost?

Short answer, around $150, long answer, but it depends on the size and shape of the label. If you have a label that is a complex shape (a lot of corners and curves) it could become expensive. The cost of a die is also determined by how many individual labels are on each sheet of the die (these are called cavities). If you have a very small label the die might be more expensive. We pass the cost of the die directly on to you without markups, so when we recommend a custom die we are doing it with your best interest in mind.

 

Is the die mine?

Yes. That beings said, the die you purchased is formulated for a specific piece of manufacturing equipment, mainly, our ABG Digicon 2. So even if you were to leave us (and we hope not), you’ll have to ask and make sure your die will work on other converters’ equipment. But we will send it to you regardless. Once we have purchased a die, we will replace it when it wears out or if it is damaged. You will only pay for each die once as long as you are our client.

 

This is just a basic overview of dies, there is a lot more to know, like corner tolerance, minimum and maximum thicknesses, how material choice effects die formulation, who makes dies, and on and on. We will cover some of this in future posts, but please call us if you have additional questions regarding dies (or anything else about labels for that matter).

1 reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *