Home > contract manufacturing > Understanding the Technology of Rotary Die Cutting

rotary die cuttingMany consumers and even businesses are unaware of how rotary die cutting helps create the products they use every day. From fabric goods to sheet metal to plastic, the process is critical for converting web materials. At Conversion Technologies International, it’s a popular option for manufacturers who need excellent custom die cutting performance. 

Curious about the basics of rotary die cutting and how it works? Wondering if it’s right for your manufacturing application? Read on to explore the fundamentals of rotary die cutting. 

What is Rotary Die Cutting?

Die cutting is the process of using metal tools to cut and shape materials into a desired format. Typically, it’s an automated process performed by large flatbed die or rotary die machines. A manufacturer feeds a large roll of web material like plastic film, paper, or fabric into the die cutter. Then, a motor moves the web through a cutting tool that cuts or shapes it into the desired form. 

Rotary die cutting is a special type of die cutting that’s very fast and efficient. The basic operating mechanism is a motorized drive that moves the web material between two cylinders. One cylinder has the cutting die attached to it. The other cylinder is an anvil cylinder that’s calibrated to provide just the right amount of pressure. 

When the two cylinders squeeze the material between them, the tool performs the desired cut. Rotary die cutting machines are capable of performing hundreds or even thousands of these cuts every minute. 

Why Use Rotary Die Cutting?

Efficiency is among the most important reasons that manufacturers use rotary die cutting. It’s among the fastest methods of die cutting, which makes it an excellent choice for high-throughput applications. It can also produce many different types of cuts, including kiss cuts, perforations, and metal-to-metal cutting. 

In addition, rotary die cutting is an incredibly consistent technology. By precisely calibrating motor speed and die pressure, manufacturers can produce extremely consistent cuts and perforations. Combined with fast turnaround and lead times, these features make it an appealing choice for many applications. 

We should note that rotary die cutting isn’t the right choice for every application. Sometimes, it can have higher tooling costs than other types of die cutting. It also has some limitations in the size and thickness of materials it can cut, which can affect specific applications. 

Flexible Dies vs. Solid Dies

One important factor you’ll need to consider is whether to use a flexible die or solid die on the cutting die cylinder. Each option has its own advantages for use in rotary die cutting applications: 

  • Flexible Die: A flexible die is a piece of sheet metal that’s magnetically attached to the cutting die cylinder. 
    • Advantages: Simple to replace or switch toolings, fast and inexpensive die manufacturing
  • Solid Die: A solid die is a metal cutting die cylinder with tool features machined directly onto its surface. 
    • Advantages: Greater variety of materials and designs, longer lasting dies, better performance on thick materials, lower startup costs

Solid dies are still the most commonly used option for most manufacturers. However, flexible dies continue to gain popularity. 

Industrial Die Cutting Machine Types

Many of our customers also wonder, what are the different types of cutting equipment? Here’s a quick overview of common precision cutting equipment.

Flatbed Die Cutting

Sometimes known as steel rule die cutting, this process uses a flatbed die cutting press and custom steel rule dies. For thicker material or minimal production runs, this is a useful die cut method.

Rotary Die Cutting

Conversely, rotary die cutting uses a rotary press. The user attaches cylindrical dies to the press. Most often, this method is useful for flexible materials and more voluminous production runs. A rotary die cutter is also more accurate than some alternatives.

Digital Die Cutting

Sometimes referred to as laser die cutting, digital die cutting doesn’t actually use dies. A computer controls blades, lasers and tool bits. When using low shear material, laser cutting is a cost-effective method that is also very precise. A laser machine also has a higher cutting speed.

Types of Cuts

Likewise, there are several different ways that you cut material. Whether you’re using a knife, blade, laser, die or die blade, there are multiple methods to die cut. Below is a quick overview.


Not completely separated from the original material, this die cut creates closely spaced holes outlining your desired shape. This method makes it easy to detach the shape at a later point.

Kiss Cutting

This is useful when you have a backing layer. Kiss cutting slices through the top and adhesive layers but not the material that backs the compilation. Thus, you can easily peel the die cut design from an intact back layer.

Through Cutting

Exactly as it sounds, through cutting goes completely through all layers of material. Consequently, this fully separates your custom shape from the original material.


Similar to perforating, scoring leaves a die impression at preset points. This score cuts through less than 50% of the material. Therefore, this reduces the thickness of the material which allows for folds.


Likewise, creasing creates a fold line on original material. Although, it differentiates from scoring in that the stress points differ.

Rotary Die Cutting Services from CTI

CTI proudly provides toll processing and contract manufacturing services to clients around the US. Our conversion manufacturing capabilities include laminating, adhesive coating, and slitting and die cutting. Rotary die cutting is one option that we offer as part of our commitment to end-to-end conversion manufacturing excellence. 

We’re always happy to answer questions about our die cutting capabilities, or any other service we provide. For a free consultation and quote from CTI’s conversion manufacturing experts, call us at 419-924-5566 or contact us online today.