Video: Silk Screening, Digital Printing, Digital Cutting, and Die Cutting

The retail displays matrix produces are made using some very interesting industrial processes to print and trim. We wanted to share some of those processes with you. We have produced a video to introduce you to 2 print processes, silk screening and digital printing, as well as 2 trimming processes, digital cutting and die cutting.

Silk Screening, Digital Printing, Digital Cutting and Die Cutting from Matrix MCI on Vimeo.

Silk screening is a print process where silk screens let ink seep through onto the corrugate, paper or whatever ink absorbent substrate you are printing on. As you can see in the video, the machine squeegees the ink over the screen. There can be 1-6 of these stations for different colours, and each has a screen made. Typically there is 4 stations with 4 colours (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) the combination of which can create almost all colours and print art like photos. You can add additional colours when there is a need for a very specific colour (like a brand colour), or a colour not achievable through 4 colour process (bright greens for example.) Silk screening can also be used for specially designed art that only uses 1 or 2 colours to reduced.

Digital printing is the same process as your home inkjet printer, but on an industrial scale. It uses the standard 4 colours mentioned previously to print most colours. There is no tooling cost because the art is fed to the digital printing machine straight from the computer, and set up costs are minimal. This makes it cost effective for low quantity prints.

In terms of setup cost and tooling, digital print is low while silk screening is high. But in terms of speed, digital print is slow and silk screening is fast. That speed translates into cost per print; in other words silk screening has low cost per print. There is a crossover point in quantity with every print job where the initial expense of silk screening is warranted over printing digitally. But digital printing technology is getting faster and therefore cheaper per unit, so that crossover quantity is getting pushed out further and further. Therefore, digital printing is being used more and more in the industry.

Digital cutting uses a computer guided cutting table to cut a pattern out of corrugate, paper or plastic. A cutting head is run across the material with either a blade or a fold wheel. The material is sucked down by vacuum to insure it doesn’t move when the cutter runs across it. The vacuum works like an air hockey table, only in reverse.

Die cutting is how art is trimmed at industrial quantities (unless the cut shape is rectangular.) Die cutting requires tooling called a steel rule die. Steel cutting or folding rule is laid out as per the dieline (design template). This die is pressed against the material and the piece is cut and folded at the same time. The extra material is removed in a process called stripping, and it is then ready to ship. Die cutting can be either clam shell as shown in the video, or rotary. Rotary is used for very high volume projects.

Digital cutting requires no tooling cost while die cutting does. However, unlike printing, digital cutting is such a slow process that any large quantities aren’t a financially feasible alternative. This may change in the far future as technology progresses, but for now, digital cutting is mainly used for prototypes.

For further information on printing technologies and techniques, feel free to contact us at matrix.


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