Die-cutting is a process of fabricating and mass-producing cut-out shapes with the aid of specialized machines for creating and forming these different shapes. This is done by skilled artisans and crafters. From a single shape, the same shape can be recreated over and over without the use of scissors, craft knife, stencils, or any other cutting tool. All these make the cuts neat, professional-looking, and consistent. It is applicable in a variety of industries such as packaging, fashion, confectionaries, gasket making for automobiles, etc. For a better understanding of this, you can find further reading here.
What is a Die?
Dies are metal objects that have a raised and sharp area. They are designed into specific shapes and when used on material, they cut that specified shape into such material. Different types of dies exist.
One type is the steel-rule which is very sharp and thereby protected with either a foam or plastic material. They are the most durable and are used to cut thick materials or to make multiple cuttings at once. There is also the thin metal dies which do not cut as fast and cannot be used to cut thick materials as they are not as sharp.
They can come in a wide variety of styles and sizes, forming from basic shapes to words, florals, animals, food shapes, etc.
What is Die Cutting Machine?
This is a manual or digital tool that is designed to cut specific shapes from paper, cards, chipboards, fabric, and different materials. Some of them may also be used for embossing. They are small enough to sit atop a table and can be easily stored.
The manual machines are operated with a turn lever attached to them. The operator has to keep turning this lever to make the shapes. This type uses a metal die with a predefined shape to be cut into the material. As the lever is rotated, uniform pressure is applied on both the material to be cut and the metal and this results in the desired outcome.
For digital machines, they come with blades that make cutting into the material easy and fast. These do not, therefore, need metal dies. Just like an office printer is used to print from a computer unto a paper, they also print from a computer via a USB port using a pre-installed software or directly from a cartridge. This allows for custom and flexible shapes to be made because it is not as rigid as the manual ones.
Using die cutting machines is easy and like most tools or equipment, there are different brands and styles that you can choose from when you are trying to purchase one. Below is a review of some of the best die-cutting machines available.
Sizzix Big Shot Cutting and Embossing Machine
This is one of the most popular machines due to its consistency and low price. It is manually operated and can be used to cut multiple layers of thin materials at a go. It can also cut a variety of materials. It is compact, stylish, versatile, easy to use, and can accommodate different types of dies.
With its compact size, it is easy to carry along with you wherever you need it. This comes with a downside though as the maximum length of die you can use on it is 6 inches.
Purchasing the Sizzix means you gain full access to the Sizzix product library meaning you have the Sizzix resources and designs at your disposal (keep in mind that some of these designs are sold separately). Added to this, the Sizzix is also used for embossing.
The Cuttlebug is easily the most popular as it is regarded as being among the best cutting machines. It is manually operated, affordable, portable, lightweight, versatile, and compatible with a wide variety of dies. Its crank handle can either pop in or out allowing it to be folded up and packed when not in use. With the Cuttlebug, you can easily emboss your shapes and can also take it with you everywhere you need it.
It comes with a starter kit including a manual, a 5×7 flower embossing folder, a spacer plate, and two cutting plates.
Cricut Explore Air 2 Machine
Whether you are new to the die-cutting business or you are an old-timer, the Cricut Explore Air 2 takes care of your needs. It is a digital machine that easily connects to your device; computer, smartphone, tablet, etc. via Bluetooth. It can also work with the most popular computer operating systems and you can produce designs even when offline.
Explore Air 2 can work with different materials and with its Smart Set Dial feature, it can sense the kind of material you are cutting. You have the option of either working with the Cricut design library or customizing yours.
Brother CM350 ScanNCut 2
This works both as a cutter and a scanner. You can use any of the 500 + in-built design templates, designs from any other source or you can create yours. It is digital and can be wirelessly connected to your device; your computer, tablet, or phone. If you prefer, you can use the touch screen feature that comes with it to create or edit your designs. You can even save this and send this to another device. The ScanNCut 2 can cut extra-large sizes of up to 24 inches and it works on most materials.
Asides these above, there are others that are equally good.
While choosing a die cutting machine, you should consider factors like the type you prefer (manual or digital), its capabilities, ease of use, size, and cost. Every machine has both pros and cons but some deliver value more than others. This review is meant to make it easier for you to make a choice.