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printing and die cutting
Lee K. HouseMar 4, 20246 min read

Printing In Die Cutting Services: How Does it Work?

You’re sitting there, head in your hands, trying not to panic about a new printing project. Why all the stress? It’s probably because you haven’t found an in-depth explanation of printing processes that are combined with die cutting services. Stress no more!

Printing has become a simultaneous step in die cutting for branding, instructions, and warranty information. By combining the two, you can create accurately printed custom products.

At Strouse, our engineers transform client designs into one-pass production processes to reduce the steps needed to build a product. Yet, different factors are involved depending on the type of printing. 

Today, we’ll explain how printing functions in die cutting, how it’s automated, and why a converter might suit you. 

What is Die Cutting in Printing?

Rotary die cutting is a production method that can be combined with printing to create identical printed components. By integrating printing into the process, you can increase the customizability of a custom die cut design.

Some examples of die cut printed goods include medical products with logos/instructions and industrial packaging labels for item inventory.

Custom Die Cut Printing: Cost Factors


Direct and indirect printing are two of the most popular modes of industrial printing.

  • Direct printing is the process of heating a chemically treated surface to turn the paper black in the shape of your desired text or image.

It may allow for the color black plus one additional color, but the heat-sensitive material is susceptible to extra warmth or light.

The speed and ease have popularized direct printing for many fast-paced applications such as shipping labels, but it runs the risk of overheating and ruining the paper, making it a poor choice for items to be stored long-term.

  • Indirect printing occurs when a proxy material is used to carry the text over.

Instead of the label being thermosensitive and transforming when heated, other methods are used to carry text over. In fact, thermal transfer printing is a perfect example.

Printing in Die Cut Production

There are many important factors to consider when it comes to deciding how to go about printing a new part. For instance,

  1. What kind of material are you buying?
  2. What type of ink will you use?

To better understand printing in production, we’ll first want to look at the different types and decide which one works best for you.


Flexographic printing, or “flexo” printing, occurs when ink is loaded into a tray, which is then connected to rollers that apply an even coat to the substrate, much like a rubber stamp.

Although its printing plates cause higher setup costs than digital printing, flexo printing is far cheaper than its competitors due to the low machine cost.

However, water-based flexo ink can be much messier because the consistency is more complicated to maintain. A converting team should use operators with extensive experience to guide them while making flexographic prints for minimum errors.


Ultraviolet printing has an increased turnaround time due to its drying process. While water-based inks are dried through thermal heating, UV printing uses LED UV light to cure gel inks in seconds.

One downside of this process is that the UV ink is more costly than water-based and won’t dry until cured. The LED UV lights are also costly, and although the quick ink-curing leads to increased tolerances, the overall setup takes longer to perfect.

If you’re looking for a quick, precise printing method and money isn’t an issue, UV printing may be the perfect choice.


Thermal transfer printing uses ribbons (though the ribbons are more like adhesive backings than the kind you put in your hair). These wax or resin-coated ribbons contain transferable text that melts onto the target material once heat is applied.

Unlike direct printing, the process of thermal transfer printing is quite long-lasting. For this reason, thermal transfer printed labels are often used for barcodes or clothes tags.

What Features Can I Add to My Custom Die Cut?

Thermal transfer printing is significantly more costly due to the replaceable ribbon but also enables colorful, weather-resistant graphics. Consider thermal transfer printing to create a label that won’t wear down.

Automation In Your Printing Process

One modern invention to increase production efficiency is the ability to guide a fresh die cut directly into the printer.

This is typically done by leading the product into a thermal transfer printer, which is then stamped with the proper design and sorted in with the other finished products. 


Variable or “random” printing occurs when working with a set pattern but the location of the printing isn’t necessarily critical. The printing will be there, but it won’t be in the same spot from part to part. 

In variable printing, a millimeter difference doesn’t mean life or death. Therefore, while the parts should still be very close in appearance, they aren’t 100% identical.

Alternatively, the process of fixed printing is much stricter with tolerances, with parts often marked with sensors to line up perfectly. If your product serves a critical purpose or branding is a value-added service, you may need to use fixed printing for the same results every time.


Depending on the field you’re operating in, you may benefit from using serial numbers in your print.

For example, say you have a small number of highly specialized parts to work from. Surely, you want to keep track of each part to ensure it ends up in the right place.

Serial numbers exist to follow specific products to study their performance. If one product has an issue, the manufacturer must contact other batches and check for errors.

We’ve seen the use of lot numbers and expiration dates as well, especially in the medical field. This type of traceability is oftentimes a firm requirement. 

Custom Branding

How is your business seen through the public eye? 

As you may already know, branding is the act of curating your company’s reputation. Part of this is through image association, such as your company logo or color scheme.

Your brand colors, the shape of your logo, and a multitude of other elements can help you build a strong reputation and recognizability.


“Spot colors” are the best way to acquire your desired printed color and are essential for product branding.

Different companies have different color schemes, making it necessary to print in the exact color that represents your brand. Yet, most printers run a few different shades of ink and can only create specific colors.

Ordering a specific shade is more expensive than the default options. However, an increased number of manufactured products can somewhat justify the pricing difference. Mixing a small batch of custom colors for a handful of parts will cost more in proportion than ordering a larger size.

Don’t sacrifice your brand reputation to find a color that’s close enough. With the right partner, you can strive for perfection every time.

Die Cut Printing and Converters

So, let’s say you’re hoping to find custom die cut printed designs— where can you find them? If you want custom die cutting services, consider a converter. 

Custom die cut Services

A converter is like a baker: you can purchase the raw materials yourself, but a converter will deliver you the finished product. If you needed a cake baked, you wouldn’t order it plain and ask a second bakery to frost it. 

Why have an object cut and shipped somewhere else for printing when it can all be accomplished in the same place? Converters have the experience to integrate your printing needs into a custom die cutting process to build a more efficient one-pass production

If you want to know more about what Strouse can do, feel free to take a look at our printing services above or see our full list of capabilities.


Originally posted: October 7, 2022


Lee K. House

Copywriter & Content Creator for Strouse. Lee graduated from the University of Alabama in the Spring of 2022 with a double major in English and Spanish.