Steel rule die cutting is a fairly easy and straightforward cutting method. It is used for many kinds of materials, from paper to even plastic, foam and rubber. Aside from cutting sheets into different sizes, it can also create perforations, creases, and even slits.
The “die” refers to a flat base, often made from very thick and dense plywood such as maple. Sometimes aluminum and steel dies are used. “Steel rule” on the other hand is a long razor blade, which is slid into the slits in the die. Then, a rubber pad is glued or attached to the die. This prevents the paper or material to be cut from getting caught into the steel rule.
There are many kinds of steel rule. Some are thin, some are very thick—it all depends on how it will be used. The cutting edge can also vary.
For example, a center bevel steel rule (the most commonly used kind) is known to be the most durable. As its name implies, it is placed in the middle of two different faces of the rule. A facet bevel, on the other hand, is centered, but is cut into a diamond shape. While it is not as durable as a center bevel, it tends to create a cleaner cut. The flush bevel is one of the least durable kinds of steel rule, but provides very clean cuts. The side bevel, on the other hand, provides acceptable quality and durability.
These cutting dies are then attached to a diecutting press, a heavy-duty machine that can apply up to 150 tons of force. The material is inserted into the machine (sometimes, with a soft material at the very bottom to cushion the force). When the steel rule is pressed down, it cuts through the material.