Many flexible material converters partner with manufacturers in the automotive industry, a highly competitive environment in which precision is demanded. How a vehicle is built can be compared to die cut adhesives. Stick with me for a moment.
Building a car isn’t as simple as purchasing a block of steel and shaping, cutting, and grinding it into a vehicle, obviously. Instead of those additional labor-intensive processes, the manufacturer buys a chassis to add pieces all made separately. The way they assemble components is similar to a die cut adhesive. Instead of hand-cutting parts or laminating multiple layers, it’s all ready to go.
A Quick Overview of Die Cut Adhesives
You likely understand how a roll of pressure sensitive adhesive tape works. While “master rolls” are large, heavy, and not convenient to use in most manufacturing processes, when properly slit, rolls of tape are inexpensive and familiar. Die cut adhesives also create physical bonds — permanent or temporary — between components, yet these are regularly converted into custom sizes, shapes, and formats to make assembly processes easy.
Die cut adhesives create tight, clean, low-profile connections, and they can expand and contract as temperatures change. A powerful advantage of die cut adhesives is their ability to bond a wide range of items (see #5 below). Plus, possessing great versatility, there are many surprising applications of die cut adhesives.
Reasons Why Die Cut Adhesives Beat Rolls of Tape
OK, let’s discuss the main reason why rolls of tape are selected over die cut adhesives: they are priced lower. When materials are the same, a die cut piece will always be more expensive (because you include additional production costs). However, that material cost really doesn’t take into consideration your true cost.
If the adhesive needs to be a specific shape or size for the application, if you’re concerned about the speed of your process, or if your labor costs are climbing ... you must consider the next point: production.
Daily or hourly throughput can keep some production managers up at night. It’s always looked to as a baseline for productivity.
Handling and dispensing rolls of tape isn’t as simple and efficient as it seems. While some applications are straightforward and smooth, most have corners or odd sizes, which can slow down production speeds and increase the chances of error.
Die cut material better supports assembly operations, and it can be used without any speciality equipment. No one can argue that production is a lot faster using die cut pieces than it is with someone cutting strips of roll tape by hand. It’s also a lot more accurate.
This one is obvious. Cutting rolls of tape by hand can’t come close to the accuracy of a die cut piece, which is perfect every time. The difference in placing these two options is significant: an exact fit that’s easy to handle or a flimsy material that has to be measured and cut every time.
Your workforce will not only perform better, they’ll feel less stress doing it.
Usually, applying both die cut pieces and tape from rolls requires people power of some kind. Yet, helping your workers easily complete an application isn’t always top of mind.
Tabbing is a good example. Adding tabs to a die cut piece (something not possible with rolls of tape) makes using them easier and allows production to quickly start and stop: apply a die cut piece, handle the product as needed, wait until the next step is ready, and then use the tab to remove the liner and expose the adhesive. Rolls of tape are more difficult to apply and getting the liner off can be time-consuming.
5. DISSIMILAR SUBSTRATES
Unless both surfaces have the same surface energy, a roll of tape — for instance, a double sided tape or transfer tape with the same material on both sides — won’t help bond two different substrates unless it is an expensive differential adhesive that works for your substrates. A custom die cut can be designed to bond dissimilar substrates; these custom differential adhesives allow for bonding two different substrates more efficiently and cost effectively.
6. LESS WASTE
Waste is never a good thing. A die cut piece trimmed to an exact shape has no overlap and no wasted material. To cover a large area using a roll of tape isn’t only labor-intensive, it requires overlapping tape strips to create reliable masking. That wasted material adds up quickly and drives up a carbon footprint.
Plus, consistent performance results in fewer product failures or fallout (resulting in even more waste). If bonded together improperly, expensive components have to undergo rework or become useless. Imagine having to throw away microchips, especially during today’s shortages, because using a roll of tape resulted in improper bonding and damaged parts. That could also occur in a masking application if paint was applied where it shouldn’t, and the part became unusable.
Look at the Big Picture
Let’s finish by again looking to the automotive industry for a real-life example of surface protection and cost examination. Using a roll of tape, a worker (being paid $30 an hour) requires 30 minutes to mask off a section. Instead, that worker could use a die cut piece that requires 1 minute to apply. Yes, the piece costs a little more, but it saves a huge amount of expensive labor time.
So, the focus should really be on overall costs — the big picture — not just material costs. When you take a holistic view of production, you’ll see the extra cost for die cuts is offset by increased productivity and a happier workforce.
There are many reasons why die cutting is so widely used throughout many industries. You’ve just read about how six of those reasons stack up against rolls of tape, but there’s more to the story.
You’re invited to learn more by reviewing our guide, The Hidden Cost of High Tolerances. This question/answer format features six questions and answers that will help guide your projects. Need immediate help? Call Stouse today (800)-410-8273, or ask an engineer!