How To Use a Die Cutting Machine: Beginners Guide

Gone are those days when people use to buy commercial die-cutting machines for small projects and small handy craft businesses. There are many home-use die cutting machines available in the market which are less expensive and easy to operate.

If you regularly do art and crafting or own a crafting business that frequently deals with baking, sewing, needlework, etc., you are probably thinking about getting a die cutting machine. As a beginner, the most common concern would be, how to operate the machine effectively?

This article will teach how to operate a die cutting machine in the most convenient ways, also what to do to make the machine long-lasting.

What is a Die Cutting Machine?

A die cutting machine is used to cut various materials such as fabric, paper, rubber, leather, etc. into specific shapes. Mostly the craftsmen use the cutouts for different decorative purposes and projects such as designing, t-shirt designing, gift card making, scrapbooking, quilts, paper-craft and so on.

What Can a Die Cutting Machine Make?

A die cutting machine can be used in a wide variety of DIY projects such as –

  • T-shirt design
  • Homemade cards
  • Scrapbooking
  • Quilts
  • Magnet designs
  • Stickers and decals
  • Stencils
  • And decorations

Types of Die Cutting Machine

There are two types of die-cutting machines available in the market: Manual cutters and Digital cutters.

Manual Cutters

Manual Cutters

Manual cutters operate like cookie cutters. The machine requires you to push the die and sandwich it through the space where you put the material you want to cut.

With a manual machine, you have the option to do embossment, which is something you cannot do in digital ones. Manual cutting machines are much more flexible and allow users to use functions with various dies. It’s less expensive and very convenient to carry.

You have to buy dies separately and use them by loading into the machine. The dies can be of various shapes, sizes, and designs. Some companies make custom dies for manual cutters as well.

Digital Die-Cutting Machines

Digital Die-Cutting Machines

These machines, on the other hand, work like digital printers. You can send designs into the machine by a pre-loaded device or downloading from the internet via a computer.

They work accurately and faster. You can save your designs and templates for later use. Electric die-cutting machines are expensive, larger, and heavier than the manual ones.

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How To Use a Manual Die Cutting Machine  

Using such a machine isn’t something that is very complicated. Go through the steps to be able to use the machine successfully.

Step One

Most die-cutting machines come with a set of dies. If this is not the case with your one, then don’t freak out; you will find compatible die sets in the market.

First, choose a design that you will cut on the material. It can be a fabric, card, paper, leather, or something else. Choosing the right material and design is important. If you select a decent design, but the material is of low quality, it can affect the cutting.

Step Two

The next step is similar to making a sandwich. If you are good at that, you have no reason to worry. However, if you don't make sandwiches, there is no reason to worry either. The process is pretty easy and straightforward.

Lay your material on top of the foam layer or thick rubber that came with the machine. Then, place the die on the paper. And sandwich it by putting another layer of foam on it.

So, one of the thick layers of foams will go at the top, the die design lays go next, then the material you want to cut, and finally another layer of foam at the bottom.

Step Three

This step may vary from machine to machine. Follow the instructions that came with the package to know how to place the die cut sandwich onto the machine.

Turn the crank of the machine in the direction of the press. The die-cutting sandwich will go through the press laying on the tray. Once you place the sandwich on the tray, crank it gently until it goes to the other side. You may hear the cutting noise depending on the material.

Step Four

It’s time to see how the cuttings are going. Take the die-cutting sandwich from the tray and place it on a dry surface. Gently lift the thick foam layer and see whether the die is cut correctly on the material. If everything is fine and crisp, lift the shape from the material.

Step Five (If Necessary)

If you see places that didn’t have proper cut, you need to take it back to the press and crank it one more time. Lay the pieces back down as they were, and turn the crank in the opposite direction. The cuttings should be appropriately made this time.

Lift the layers and separate the edges of the shapes by cleaning them from the material. When you are done, you can continue to cut the following materials in this way.

You can crank the die sandwich back and forth until you get the desired cutting. However, if it’s taking too many attempts to get the final cut, you must have been using a thicker material that your machine cannot handle properly.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Die Cutting Machines

The benefits of such machines are many. However, there are some disadvantages as well, which you should know before owning one.

Pros

  • Moving flexibility.
  • Cuts unique designs and creates complex shapes.
  • Affordable compared to larger commercial die-cutting machines.
  • No curving and bowing at all.
  • Fast operation.
  • Multiple cuts with a digital machine.
  • Can create multiple layers.
  • Suitable for creasing in cards and plastics.

Cons

  • The blade is too sharp and can be dangerous.
  • Requires new die for each design.
  • Any disturbance during cutting can ruin the die work.

Die Cutting Machine Maintenance Tips

If you take good care of the machine, it can serve you longer than expected. Follow these essential maintenance tips to keep your machine in tip-top condition.

Greasing

As a die cutting machine include parts that move while operating it, you need to grease onto the parts to prevent them from friction and erosion. Get a good quality grease from a local hardware store and apply thoroughly onto the fittings of the machine.

Give special attention to the areas such as motor, and roller bearings as these two parts tend to malfunction because of inadequate greasing.

Oiling

Whether you got a manual or digital die cutting machine, oiling is a must to keep the bearing and other parts running smooth. Also, oiling prevents the parts from rusting. Consider getting a good quality oil for the machine.

Inspection

When someone uses any machine for months without checking what’s going on inside of it, in most cases, the user finds the machine malfunctioning later. If you regularly inspect the machine, you can identify problems even before they make an impact on the performance.

Therefore, try to dismantle the machine often. This practice will give you a clear view of the parts and prevent issues like rusting. If you cannot dismantle the machine, search on Google and YouTube for tutorials. Besides, you always have the option to seek professional assistance as well.

You can definitely check the bolts and joints every week to make sure they are tight. Be aware of the issue of hydraulic leaks. If it happens, it will not allow the machine to cut properly, and the leaks might damage the material as well. Checking hydraulic leaks at least once a week is highly recommended; do twice if possible.

Refilling the Air System Lubricators 

Regularly refilling the air system lubricators is one of the key things that can make your machine last for years. How smoothly a machine will function largely depends on it. Seek professional help if your die cutting machine has an issue you cannot take care of.

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Technical Terms Related to Die Cutting Machine

These are some technical terms used for die cutting machine. Knowing them will make it easier to use.

  • Cutting – You already know the term. This is the reason why people purchase such machines. Some die cutting machines can cut ¼ of an inch.
  • Cutting by Color – This is something only available in digital cutting machines. The machine automatically identifies the colors and make cuts around them.
  • Drawing – Like the previous term, this one is also available in digital machines. It replaces the blade with a marker and draws on the material instead of cutting.
  • Piercing – The holes that a machine makes on materials is called piercing.
  • Engraving – This is when the machine cuts or carves designs on hard surfaces.
  • Embossing – The term is used when the cutting machine creates raised designs on the materials or brings out a "pop-out" effect.

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Final Words

Crafting becomes even easier if you use a die cutting machine in your home. These machines can last longer if the user takes proper care. Regularly checking for defects and greasing the parts are something you must see to if you have such a machine. Take care of your machine; it will take care of your business.

Happy crafting!

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