Always the tail that wagged the converting dog, solid rotary die technology is now as sophisticated and efficient as any aspect of the package printing process.
by David Luttenberger, CPP
With quality and service a given, diemakers are looking toward more sophisticated and value-added options on which to hang their hats. No matter whether the die is for cutting paper, polyester or even non-wovens, new coatings and time-saving methods for hardening steel are what many diemakers feel will give them an edge in a segment that has seen more than a handful of new competitors pop up in the past few years.
"Basically, steel is steel," says Action Rotary Die's Bob Potraz. "Where the differences are is what we can do to extend die lifeanything to reduce the co-efficient of friction and increase the revolution count. Allied Gear's Tom Deehr concurs.
"Anything we can do to enhance wear characteristics to provide a die that affords more value at cost-per-die reductions, we're looking at," he says. A few of the newer coating and plating technologies diemakers are currently evaluating include fine diamond, titanium carbide and ion deposition. Deehr says Allied has also tested cryogenic treating of base metals in hopes of enhancing the longevity of dies. Preliminary findings of its more proprietary technologies, claims Deehr, have yielded increased wear resistance characteristics by a factor of five. For instance, a die that would normally be expected to produce five million impressions, would produce 25 million.
Earl Warren, GM, Rotoflex Tooling Div., believes the secret to successful implementation of cryogenics is in understanding that steel treated in this manner is not necessarily "harder," but that it offers an enhancement in wear resistance. "It's a subtle but important difference," he says. Rotoflex is also still somewhat on the fence with regards to the importance of base steels.