Skip to content
Scott ChambersOct 6, 20236 min read

Flat Bed, Rotary, Laser Die Cutting Methods

What is the best way to cut flexible materials?

Realistically, the die cutting method you use depends on the project you’re working on and the result you’re looking for. Flat bed, rotary, and laser die cutting are their own unique processes, but do you know which process to use for your project? 

You want your die cutting method to fulfill your needs, but we know you’ll need to make some choices based on your project priorities. For example, do you need high precision or high volume? Super speed or complex cuts? Low cost or low maintenance?

Strouse is one of the converters that offers different types of die cutting so you can choose the production method that makes the most sense for your project. Today, we’ll talk about them so you’re prepared to make the right product decision early on.

Rotary vs Flat Bed vs Laser Die Cutting Video



Before exploring the three primary types of die cutting flat bed, rotary, and laser — let’s review what die cutting is and why it’s so beneficial.

A die is a tool, usually made of metal, that cuts material (paper, plastic, fabric, adhesive, and many more) into pieces that are identical in size and shape. Die cutting benefits many industries because it offers different advantages depending on the type of project.

Should I Use Die Cutting?


You might be wondering, what’s the difference between rotary, die cut, and flat bed die cutting? How is laser cut different from both of them? Here’s a brief overview of the methods.

  1. Flatbed die cutting: As its name implies, a hydraulic flatbed press pushes down blades that cut material to the desired shape.
  2. Rotary die cutting: A cylindrical die, with blades around the entire cylinder, cuts shapes out of the material, moving in a circular motion. This efficient movement cuts out numerous identical shapes as it rotates.
  3. Laser die cutting: Instead of using steel blades to create the desired shape, a laser’s light sears the material. The laser easily cuts complex shapes into many materials, yet this process destroys other materials and some adhesives.

New call-to-action

Pros and Cons of Each Die Cutting Method

Now that you understand each method’s basic mechanics, let’s dive into the advantages and disadvantages. Remember that just like any manufacturing process, the most efficient method is usually the one that best matches the project’s needs.


Simple can be very useful.

Arguably the most basic method of die cutting a material, flatbed die cutting is the method of choice for many projects. 

Flat bed die cutting machines stamp out simple shapes, like a cookie cutter. A cutting die is fabricated and placed in a hydraulic press, which allows it to cut thick material and material in a sheeted form. 

Tools can be changed easily and quickly, making flat bed die cutting an excellent choice for low-volume projects or if a product isn’t working correctly on a rotary or laser-cutting machine.


Best for high-volume projects.

Think of this method as taking the flat bed cookie-cutter approach and adding a rolling pin. A rotary die cutting cylinder allows for multiple and continuous shapes to be cut quickly from material provided in roll form.

The press’s rotating cylinder blade cuts the material to exact lengths, keeping tight tolerances by using servo motors to maintain registration. Rotary dies, known for their durability, can cut rolls of material that perfectly fit on same-sized objects, which is a critical advantage for parts in the medical, military, and aerospace industries, among others. 


No blades needed.

Not requiring any contact with the material, laser die cutting uses a high-speed laser to perform a variety of cuts. It’s a highly repeatable process that allows tiny details to be cut accurately.

Laser die cutting is often selected for the precision cutting of flexible materials (tapes, rubber, laminates). It’s also a go-to for materials that would otherwise damage traditional die cutting steel. 

One example of laser die cutting is converting sanding discs into round shapes that fit a flat sander. Those are cut with lasers because the sandpaper quickly wears down a rotary or flat bed die cutting blade. 

The Cost of a die cut

Which is the Best Die Cutting Method?

[  ] Speed and High Volume
Laser cutting is precise but not fast; it must adjust and follow its cutting shape. A rotary die already has the shape set and can quickly repeat that cut repeatedly. Flat bed has to index (start and stop) each time it wants to make a cut.

Cutting the same shape across many pieces of material can be challenging, especially if the material is thick. When converting bulk orders quickly, lasers fall short.
***Advantage: Rotary die cutting

[  ] High Precision
Laser die cutting is fantastic for intricate, complex shapes with tight precision and finishing; rotary and flatbed are limited by how close blades can be placed together.
***Advantage: Laser die cutting

[  ] Cleanest Possible Cut
Laser die cutting doesn’t win here because of laser ablation. The high-intensity laser beam melts or burns a material to get through it, leaving some residue behind, on the edge of the cut.
***Advantage: Rotary die cutting and flat bed die cutting

[  ] Prototype Friendly
When a quick prototype is needed, it’s easier and cheaper to use laser die cutting than to acquire and use hard tooling. If high volume is eventually required, an investment in rotary die cutting can be made.

Training on a laser die cutter is simple, and operation is easy. Both flat bed and rotary die cutters have more working parts. For instance, the die within a rotary die cutter must be physically replaced after it wears down.
***Advantage: Laser die cutting

[  ] Clean Air While Cutting
As mentioned, lasers burn/melt materials, which can give off fumes and smoke ranging from inconvenient to harmful, depending on the material. For instance, when PVC is cut with a laser, the byproduct is chlorine gas. Also, smoke can negatively affect the laser’s cutting performance, possibly producing an inconsistent cut.
***Advantage: Rotary die cutting and flat bed die cutting

[  ] Deep Cuts or Multi-Layer Cuts
Generally, laser die cutting isn’t effective on thick material or many layers. If you have to do multiple cuts at different times, it will require having multiple lasers, which isn’t always feasible. Having multiple dies, on the other hand, is much more economical.
***Advantage: Rotary die cutting and flat bed die cutting

[  ] Material Variation
Laser die cutting is limited by the material being converted more than other methods. It also depends on what type of laser is doing the cutting. Wavelengths differ, so some materials — conductive material, high-temperature plastics, polycarbonate, etc. — can’t be cut effectively by many lasers.
***Advantage: Rotary die cutting and flat bed die cutting

[  ] Minimize Maintenance
Rotary and flat bed cutters are like other mechanical equipment, requiring refurbishing or replacing when the metal-cutting dies get blunt. Continuous maintenance and potential downtime aren't issues with laser die-cutting.
***Advantage: Laser die cutting

Finding the Right Die Cutting Method

As you’ve seen, each die-cutting type has advantages and disadvantages. Deciding which die cutting method to use depends on the material you’re using and the quantity you’re searching for. 

Learn more about die cutting

Most converters count on their die cutting as their bread and butter service. Yet, not all invest in the latest equipment and in-house talent to offer flat bed, rotary, and laser die cutting expertise. 

You can find out more about what adhesive converters offer, or you can check out more information on flexible material processing, selection, and quoting in our Learning Center.


Scott Chambers

As the VP of Sales and Marketing for Strouse, Scott oversees Strouse's Go-To-Market Strategy. Scott has a BS in Business Management from Coastal Carolina, a JD from the University of Baltimore School of Law, and an MBA from Indiana University.