When submitting your tolerances, it’s tempting to take your drawing and throw on title block tolerances without much of a second thought– My converter can either make it or not!
However, when you are creating tolerances, you need to have the big-picture in mind. In theory, you’ll need thousands, even millions of parts, and you and your converter will need a rock-solid range of tolerances to make that happen. Creating one sample at tight tolerances is easy enough, but millions? Not so much.
Strouse helps customers from a variety of different industries solve hair-pullingly frustrating die cut tolerance issues on a daily basis.
After you read the following ways to fix your tolerances, you’ll be able to preemptively gather the information that converters ask for and handle your future discussions with ease.
Why Aren’t Your Die Cut Tolerances Working?
Tolerances are affected by several factors:
- Material choice
- Part depth
Picture the part you want inside your head. Now think to yourself, how perfect do I need these measurements?
While converters try to meet the exact dimensions of your part, all parts undergo slight variation. If your converter doesn’t know how important it is to match each of these tolerances, then they won’t have a solid frame of reference for how much they should be spending on your tight tolerances.
You can save time and money by telling converters how crucial your tolerances are.
TITLE BLOCK AND FUNCTIONAL TOLERANCES
It would be wonderful if each die cut part could be more precise than splitting hairs, but unfortunately there’s bound to be some variation.
The drawing of your part has a range of sizes called title block tolerances, which are default measurements for every drawing.
Title block tolerances are general, whereas functional tolerances, the tolerances you actually need for your production. Tolerances for CNC manufacturing are simply not the same as converting.
For instance, your part could have a hole in the center that must be very precise so the part can fulfill its function. Functional tolerances are what your process needs to consistently pass quality inspection. If we go by your title block tolerances, you may be looking at tooling costs of $50k+. However, the functional tolerances will allow you to spend significantly less in tooling costs.
Functional tolerances allow your converter to adjust their methods to avoid unusable parts and unnecessary costs. If you’re looking to decrease the time and long emails spent discussing tolerances, the easiest way to prevent them is by telling your converter which measurements are flexible versus which ones are essential to the functionality of your part.
DIE CUT VS. MACHINE TOLERANCES
The range of your tolerance can be affected mainly by the amount of automation a design undergoes.
Many die cut adhesive parts are applied by hand, meaning they won’t need the exact precision that a machine would need to register each part and align it automatically. A label applied by hand won’t require the same high budget for machine precision tolerances as a die cut that has to be read by sensors before the machine can use the part.
So, if you’re planning on automation, be aware that the die cut tolerances determined on account of your machines will likely be tighter and, therefore, more expensive.
4 Ways To Fix Your Die Cut Tolerances
Die cut tolerances become easier to define once you take a few preemptive steps before full-swing production.
These four ways to fix your die cut tolerances will set you up to succeed by showing you how to better your tolerances and speed up the converting process.
#1: SELECT THE RIGHT MATERIAL TO DIE CUT
Materials behave differently on a die cut press, and your converter might not achieve the proper tolerances if you use flexible materials like spandex or foam.
Stretchy materials will extend as they’re run through the press and snap back to their original form afterwards. This can ruin your tolerances and render certain parts unusable. Also, many materials are heat sensitive and will expand or shrink depending on their environment, which will also skew tolerances.
Generally speaking, it’s possible to cut complex materials. Still, it’s better to talk to your converter and check your options before committing to a difficult substrate.
#2: DECIDE HOW IMPORTANT YOUR DIE CUT TOLERANCES ARE
Before you contact a converter, it’s worth considering whether your measurements are set in stone.
Let’s say you need a label printed for the back of a box, but it’s applied by hand: nobody will fret over a tenth-of-an-inch margin when the labels are stuck on imprecisely. Frequently, parts applied by hand don’t need tight tolerances but only to fulfill their intended purpose.
Tighter tolerances are more expensive because the tooling cost increases as the part becomes more complicated. Each die cut tool is custom made and more difficult to make if it includes odd curves or angles.
If you run one million parts in a year, a $5,000 tool could be well worth your while, but ten thousand parts per year might not be worth the cash. Plus, although tight tolerances are more expensive, specific jobs need them. Think about the vinyl border for the screen of a diabetes monitor: any slight misalignment could obscure the data.
Based on the purpose of your die cut part, you can save time and money converting by clarifying the importance of your tolerances.
#3: REACH OUT DURING THE DESIGN PHASE
Although it might feel early, reaching out to a converter during your design phase can be a tremendous asset to the project.
If you’re at a flexible point in your part’s design, your converter can offer guidance to ensure it runs well on a die cut press.
Designs that lend themselves to converting will transition more easily to press production, which leads to fewer duds and a more straightforward set-up process. Better tolerances will reduce your spending on tooling and save you money in the long term.
If you’re unsure of your current tolerances, you can test run your design through die cut samples to see if we fit your project.
#4: INVITE THE RIGHT PARTIES TO THE CONVERSATION
You might not be the technical expert who designed your part, and that’s okay!
However, you should know that there’s a significant possibility your converter will have technical questions about your die cut tolerances and how they’ll translate onto a die tool.
In an effort to avoid getting caught in the painful stage of delivering our questions second-hand, Strouse suggests getting us in touch with your experts up front. Eliminate the stress of relaying critical technical information about your part by connecting us with other team members for a streamlined communication method.
Working With a Converter to Define Your Die Cut Tolerances
Die cut tolerances can be tricky, even when taking all the proper steps, so converters are a significant asset if you have any problems during your planning stage.
Already have a part in progress? Ask our engineers to evaluate your drawing for a more personalized evaluation of your die cut tolerances.
You won’t always be ready to dive into a part evaluation, especially if you’re in the midst of your design phase.
For those of you diligently working on designs, see how tight tolerances can be your best friend AND your worst nightmare: