Two different die cutting services that Wisconsin Screen Process provides are steel rule die cutting and thermal die cutting. In choosing to use either steel rule die cutting or thermal die cutting to best fit the application, it is not a flip of a coin but is based on the capability of each process.
Generally used to cut a range of sheet materials including Lexan, polyester, sintra, styrene, and aluminum, steel rule die cutting consists of a die that is fabricated out of a flat base or substrate that is usually made out of high-grade and high density plywood. The plywood is generally composed of hardwoods and is free from imperfections or voids; however, there are certain dies that need aluminum or steel substrates. A band saw or a laser cutter creates the steel rule die by cutting specifically arranged slits into the substrate. Considered as an elongated razor blade manufactured out of hardened steel, the steel rule is cut and formed to fit into the slits on the substrate. Finally, an ejection rubber is affixed to the substrate to assist with ejecting the material after it is cut. To begin cutting with the die, Lexan, polyester, sintra, styrene, or aluminum material is placed below the die and then the press is started. The cutting edges of the steel rule cuts through the material until it comes in contact with the bottom platen then the press goes in reverse and exposes the cut part.
Unlike a steel rule die, a thermal die is generally made up of magnesium. A photosensitive metal plate is visible to light and then chemically etched in an acid bath. After etching is finished, all that remains are the very fine beveled cutting edges of the die. While the steel rule die cutter cuts all the way through the material, the thermal die cutter leaves the liner intact. After being heated to 300-350 degrees Fahrenheit, this die is pressured to the vinyl material and burns through the substrate leaving the graphic cut in the vinyl. After this process is completed, the excess vinyl around or within the graphic gets weeded away leaving only the graphic on the release liner.