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Types of Dies

What does it mean when printing companies say they need to get a die made? There are multiple types of dies used for different processes.

There are engraving dies. These are made of steel and copper. The process wipes ink across the die and then the paper is hit with that die injecting the ink into the paper. These dies last a long time and can be used multiple times. This is usually for fine type with serifs.

There are embossing dies. These are usually made of brass or copper but sometimes magnesium on the low end. The brass or copper are good for multiple uses and can have multi levels to give great detail. The edges can be beveled to achieve the maximum depth allowed by the paper. These are the dies that artistic or 2 dimensional effects are created on. The magnesium die is primarily made for short runs and will not stand up to wear and tear real well. You can only achieve one level in magnesium. All embossing dies require a counter die that fits into the die as a mirror image. These two dies actually squeeze the paper fibers between them and give the raised image. An interesting note is while embossing many times you apply heat to iron the paper texture. The brass and copper while expanding will not create a problem but the magnesium die due to the magnesium will actually expand a great deal and can cause fit problems if you have tight register to another part of the printed piece.

There are foil stamping dies. These are made of the same materials as the embossing die. A flat foil stamping die will not have a counter die. That is where the foil is flat on the sheet or no raised image. The combination die (embossing & foil stamping) has a counter and is made of brass usually. The foil is transferred via heat and pressure on both processes but with a combination stamp it is also raised at the same time to the level of the paper.

A steel rule die is not like any of the above mentioned dies. It is used to diecut or cut the paper in whatever shape the die is made in. Within the steel rule die, you have a cutting rule where the metal is sharp enough to cut through the paper when pressure is applied and you have scoring rules which have rounded edges and are made to crease the paper so it folds accurately and crisply.

All of these types of dies are done in house at The Odee Company.

See also:

Printing Special Effects
How quick can you get something Printed?
Kisscutting in Printing
Diecutting in Printing

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