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About die cutters

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larienna
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I did a quick search recently and found that you can actually get your hands on a good die cutter for about 100$. I found a page that describes the pro and cons of 4 different cutters:

http://www.craftcritique.com/2008/02/comparing-die-cut-machines-final.html

First, I do not really understand how they work. It seem that the machine is used to pressure the die on the material to cut, but I am not sure if you cut a whole page at once or only section.

Second, there seem to be many different kind of dies available in various shapes and pattern, but there does not seem to be any basic rectangles, hexagon or circles which is most often used in board games.

So I just wanted to know if any of you had any extra information or if has used one of the cutter found in the link above.

The "Big Shot" model seems like a good quality model for it's price.

Despot9
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Most of the examples there

Most of the examples there used a roller system, so they basically work by rolling the die through the machine applying force to the die evenly. They technically only apply force to a small area at a time but as you turn the handle it pulls the die through so it gets the whole die. I'm not sure about the digital die cutter.

As far as getting dies that are useful for board games, you will probably have to have those custom made. The company I work for uses Prestige Pro presses and we order our dies custom from them. I assume that you'd be able to get custom dies for any of these presses as well.

cniemira
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I'm also interested in

I'm also interested in knowing if anyone has any experience with DIY die cutting.

I was looking around for a new printer recently, and I stumbled across a machine that's a cross between an ink-jet and a robotic die cutter. It turns out that particular device is rather poorly reviewed/regarded, but it did turn me on to the world of robotic home-use cutting machines. Apparently, these devices are primarily targeted at the arts-and-crafts and scrap-booking markets, but after doing some research, it seems that a cutting machine might be an ideal investment for a budding game designer. Most of the robotic machines I've seen use pre-configured cartridges with "shape libraries" to determine what you can do with them, which isn't too helpful. A hand-crank machine would need custom made dies. But, any machine that interfaces with a computer should allow you free reign of what you'd like to cut. Hexagons, circles, and rectangles should be no problem.

For example, a machine like this one hooks up to your PC much like a printer. You generate a template and send it a command to cut/print the product you want. It works on various papers, vinyl, and the like. Used in conjunction with a good quality color printer you could theoretically produce some quality game pieces. Cutting machines have a limit on the thickness of the material they can cut, so firm cardboard is probably out, but thick card stock would probably work. I'm thinking that at the very least, one should be able to produce a pretty decent quality deck of cards, and maybe a box to put them in.

I'm guessing that, based on the lack of replies, no one here has used one of these things... but even though I'm just getting started as a designer, I'm really excited by the possibilities.

larienna
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One of my friend has an

One of my friend has an electronic die cutter. I think it should be the way to go considering that I have not seen many dies which are 8 1-2 / 11.

I don't know much about them. From what I remember my friend likes it because it does not like cutting. Apparently, you can cut through some material of average thickness.

questccg
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Industrial dies

My printer deals with a company who makes industrial type dies. Basically they create a stencil of the shape you want and then use wood combined with rubber and very sharp blades. The blades are inserted into the wood according to the stencil.

The next step is the die cutting machine which acts like a printer press: it applies a HUGE amount of pressure making the rubber flatten away as it exposes the sharp blades. When the blades come into contact with the paper, the shapes are then cut out.

This is not a "cheap" solution: the wooden dies cost about $100-$200 to make. However they do last for quite a long time (since it is pressure based). I have had made a card-shaped die (rounded edges for my cards) and now they can use it for smaller jobs such as digital prints (instead of industrial press). So now I can order a small quantity of cards because they print the cards digitally and have their own pressure die cutting machine...

This is great for example if I want to make a promotional card (let's say 1,000 cards) or other such small runs.

bluepantherllc
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Cutters

Did a fairly thorough search of the market and some craft trade shows before we bought our diecutter.

For occasional use however- in making a few cards or shapes - some of the cutters in that article will work fine. I would be a little wary of the Cricut - some of the samples it made showed the spot where the cutting blade starts/stops, so the cards sometime look like they have very slight fingers of material sticking out, especially on rounded corners.

For any volume of production of production, though, for repeatability and cut quality, you're probably going to want an Ellison or an Accucut press-type or roller type cutter. They will cost more, but you may be surprised at just how many standard dies there are available for them (cards, small boxes, geometric shapes, etc). For repeatability, you would need what they call a "steel-rule die", where they make think steel blades to match your shape and embed them in phenolic/wood bases and then put a layer of rubber around the dies. You would then put a piece of paper on top of the rubber and run it under the rollers to get the cut.

We will occasionally use our laser to cut low volume prototype cards and unusual shaped cards (banana, oval, five-sided, six sided) at very low power settings. This way there's no tooling cost for non-standard pieces - but if you're going to make a few hundred decks of something, you'll definitely want to get a die set.

SJ

guildofblades
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I can tell you from

I can tell you from experience that even the accucute with custom steel rule dies will only take you so far also.

Its what we've been trying to move away from. But it currently is about the most practical smaller cutter on the market, which is why we've spent the last couple years designing and building our own...which we hope to finally see completed within just 2-3 more months.

Produce 500 decks on an accucute and you'll find yourself wishing you had something better. But yes, it is still miles ahead of of a cricket or any other of the drag knife computer cutters.

Ryan
GOB Retail

larienna
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Sissix has the big shot pro

Sissix has the big shot pro which will fit better for letter page size. It looks comparable to the accucut, My only worries was finding letter page size dies. But if you can design your own dies for bit more expensive than a pre-made die (which are not below 100$) then maybe buying a machine and building the die could be OK.

Do you think that physical dye cutters will last longer than electronic die cutters. Else, inversing in an electronic cutter could also be great because you can cut any shape.

truekid games
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Die cutters

I had a Klic-N-Kut Groove-E electronic die cutter (it's a blade-drag cutter that hooks up to your computer): http://scrapbookdiecutter.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=KN...

I've since sold it.

The learning curve is much higher than any information about it would lead you to believe, mostly because the software is WAY less straightforward than it should be. (also keep in mind that my most recent job was Tech support, so if I'M calling a piece of software unfriendly, you can bet it is). More importantly, you have to manually line things up, and hope that it doesn't slip during the cutting process (you're using spray-tack to keep the substrate still on the cutting mat) or the whole sheet gets ruined. Similarly, if you don't gap out what you're cutting, pieces of it may "pick up" when the knife raises, ruining the whole sheet. I used it to cut cards and tiles (it can cut chipboard, no problem), including smaller things, such as half-inch hex tiles. The set up effort/time on individual sheets was not worth it, especially considering the trial-and-error it takes before you can accurately line up any given template for the first time.

The core of the problem, I think, is that I wanted to cut things that were already printed (with some accuracy)- if I had just wanted to cut out shapes and such, and didn't care about lining things up (like your average scrapbooker), the machine would probably have been acceptable.

questccg
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Proper tolerances

truekid games wrote:
The core of the problem, I think, is that I wanted to cut things that were already printed (with some accuracy)-

Even in professional printing, they ALWAYS tell you to give an EXTRA 1/8"... Same tolerances for professional dies... Are you sure you were not allowing for sufficient tolerances? Just might maybe be the reason cutting did not go so well. Things are not always 100% centered...

bluepantherllc
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Cutter Tolerances

Assume you've got a roller style cutter.

There are several sources of variation - and only one of them is the cutter. Let's talk about roller cutters.

The first is how the paper is positioned in the cutter. If the cutter has wide guides, then the paper can move around. You might not put it in just right. Even if you put it in just right, there might be a little clearance created in whatever system is used to hold it in place after you let go. There might even be a little variation if the paper can slip around once you start the roller. This variation can be minimized, but not eliminated.

The second is variation in your printer. Where an image lands on the page is not always the exact same spot. This has to do with how the paper is put into the paper feeder, the paper path it follows in the printer, the way the rollers grip the paper, etc. Go ahead and print 10 copies of something on heavy stock 10 times in a row, then print it one page at a time over hours or days. You will see variation in where it ends up on the page.

The third is variation in your paper. Is it exactly 8.5x11?. In the wood industry, they call them 2x4s. And 50 or 100 years ago they might have been 2x4s when you measure them. Now they are 1.5 x 3.5, even though they're called 2x4s. Same is true for paper - a paper mfr can save alot of money by making paper just a little thinner and just a little smaller than the standard size. It happens to wood & plywood all the time - why not paper too?

The fourth is variation in your cutting die. You can get custom dies made or buy dies to cut your shape. Is every die exactly the same? Is the cutout shape exactly where the CAD file says it will be? Maybe.

Sounds hopeless - that's why everybody wants a 1/8 border on their cards - correct?

Well, the trick once you know the source of variation, there are some countermeasures you can take. If I get something that isn't right, but it's always wrong the same way, I can compensate and get repeatable, well centered cards or other cutouts.

First - even if your printer does things off center, chances are it's usually off center in the same direction most of the time. You can measure how much and offset your graphics to print "centered" even when the paper is not.

Second - you can measure paper - if a piece is 1/16 short of 8.5x11, chances are the whole batch of paper is off the same way - compensate as above. If you buy alot of paper, you will see that some suppliers are more consistent than others. Funny enough, brand names do matter here.

Third - your cutting die can be off from the drawing, but it's been made - it will always be off the same amount every time you use it - so you can compensate by measuring how far off it is. And factor that into everything you cut with it, since the cutter is not changing.

Even if everything is off, if it's off the same way, and you know it's off, you can compensate for it. A good tape measure, or better yet a caliper or steel ruler with fine lines on it, is your best friend.

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