Which way should you go - laser vs die?

  • By Dave Grenwis
  • December 19, 2018
  • Life Sciences
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In the past, when manufacturers and contract converters had to decide whether to go with a laser or a rotary die for an application, the decision usually boiled down to economics.  Laser would be nice to have, but the rotary die was the more economic approach.  However, times have changed.

We’ve definitely seen an uptick in manufacturers opting for laser die cutting over rotary.  The reasons vary -- flexibility and precision are two of the biggest -- but the marketplace is choosing laser die more and more.

Nevertheless, making the right call isn’t an easy one. In this guest post for Domino, we’ll highlight some of the big factors in the decision-making process:

Your project.  Every project is different, and the decision is most definitely in the details.  Your project will typically dictate whether you go with a rotary die, laser die, or a hybrid approach.

Your cut.  How difficult is your cut, and how tight are the tolerances? Laser cutting gets the nod here, as it handles the tricky patterns that prove difficult for traditional rotary die cutters.  And tight tolerances typically mandate a laser approach.

Your materials.  You can cut many materials with a laser, but your laser die cutter has to be chosen and set up for the materials you plan to cut. Is it powerful enough?  Do you have the correct ventilation?  Is edge cut quality for your materials acceptable for the end user?  Rotary dies will cut through any material at the same rate.  Laser cutting time, on the other hand, will vary based on material thickness and complexity of the die cut pattern.

Your stage of development. Are you producing a prototype?  If so, you will want the flexibility of a laser die cutter, especially if the parameters of the project change.  However, if your specs are set and you’re ready for a long production run, then opt for a more durable rotary die.

Your operation.  Are you looking for quick runs?  Do you need to replace dies frequently?  What kind of storage capacity do you have?  All these will impact your decision.  You always have to factor operator training and your own facility into the equation.

Your time to market.  The need to get new products to market faster favors laser technology.  Drawings can upload quickly, and recipes can be saved and easily recalled.  However, you do have to consider that faster runs are possible with a rotary die.

Your costs.  The upfront costs are lower with a rotary die cutting machine, but the long-term benefits may favor the laser machines.  Have your accounting team ready their spreadsheets.  But it really comes down to the project.  For many medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers, including those who need transdermal patch equipment, a higher price tag for the die may be justified by the scope of the project.

Multiple factors to consider, multiple dollar signs can be impacted.  Be sure to check out our side-by-side comparison post Choosing Right: Laser Die Cutting vs. Rotary Die Cutting for more details.

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