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Question and Answer

One-Pass Embossing and Diecutting

by Metal Magic

August-September, 2009
When doing embossing/diecutting in-line, is it better to order the complete die matrix from the steel rule die supplier, or work with each die supplier separately?
Most steel rule diemakers like to have input in how the embossing dies are engraved. This includes specifics regarding depth, overall dimensions, mounting holes, counter pin holes, and overall layout. It’s critical the engraver is aware of the area available on the die board for the embossing plates to ensure each die will properly fit inside the area that is bordered by the knife and score rules. If the brass die is too large, then there is difficulty in laying score matrix or not having enough room to have a lip for the score rule to create the channel score on a steel or phenolic counter. Diemakers often experience frustration when using embossing dies where they were unable to specify ahead of time exactly what size the die must be. Finally, it’s critical the embossing dies will register to the layout of the steel-rule diemaker’s design. This is best accomplished by either collaboration between the engraver and the diemaker or simply by having the diemaker create a master file for the engraver to follow precisely when making the embossing dies.

Are there limitations on the depth of the embossing die that can be used when embossing/diecutting in-line?  Can you use a multi-level die or only one level?
Often a simple analogy is used to explain the biggest disadvantage to embossing in-line as compared to off-line – inability to emboss with heat! To get the best results when ironing a shirt, heat is needed to relax the fibers into a flat position. A cold iron will get out some of the wrinkles but a hot iron will make it look great. The same applies when embossing paper – a decent emboss can be achieved with no heat on the die but if the image really needs to “pop” and great detail is desired, it is best to run off-line and add the heat. The heat allows for the paper to mold properly into the embossing die and hold memory as a result of the heat applied during the emboss. That said, there doesn’t seem to be any restriction on using single, multi, or even sculptured emboss dies. If spending the money on sculptured dies, it may be just as well to run off-line and get all the detail. Be careful of papers that will crack easily when deciding what depth or style to make a die. Staying a little shallower will help to avoid cracking and still have a quality piece. Most commonly, less detailed images are embossed in-line so the effect is not compromised as a result of embossing cold. Also, the area available to emboss is typically small due to the limitations of staying between score/cut lines and, therefore, smaller areas allow for less detail in the embossing.

Is diecutting/embossing in-line only suggested for multi-up jobs on large 40” presses, or is it also a feasible option on smaller foil stamping/diecutting presses?
Press time is valuable. If the job is a long run of 10,000 impressions or more and would normally have to go through the press two times for embossing and diecutting, getting a die set-up for in-line embossing would save money and time and allow for more competitive bids. In-line embossing supports an overall more efficient use of resources. Even if a job is one-up, reducing impressions and press time in half is a great savings. Furthermore, if the same job needs to be run again in the future, having an already set-up in-line embossing board that is ready to go will pay off even more – assuming nothing else changed since the first run. Essentially, if lack of heat is not a concern, then job run length is the critical measure to evaluate when deciding to emboss in-line or off-line. Regardless of how large/small the press may be, the decision should be made based on run length and efficient use of resources when considering running one pass or multiple passes.

What makeready tips are recommended when embossing in-line?
Many systems are manufactured to allow for easy makeready on press when embossing in-line. One in particular that works very well utilizes an embossing die and support block system with underlying shims. The brass die and pre-cast counter are produced in a normal fashion. However, instead of mounting the die directly to a diecutting board, the emboss die registers with a brass block (.250 brass mounting block), which in turn, is countersunk into the dieboard. If the emboss die needs to be adjusted to achieve perfect registration with the printed graphics, it can now be adjusted between the brass block and the emboss die without having to remove the emboss die for the permanent dieboard. Furthermore, shims can be added underneath the brass block to raise, lower, or adjust the depth of the emboss. When the job is complete, the brass dies can be removed while still in register with the brass blocks, which allows for the set-up to be in perfect register the next time it must run again.

How do I estimate the cost for purchasing an in-line embossing/diecutting board?
If mounting embossing dies to an existing diecutting board, then the engraver can provide a quote on the cost of the embossing dies and counters. Then, add that cost to the materials/labor for the diecutting die. However, if ordering a complete system, it is recommended to get one quote from the diecutting vendor and allow him to include the cost of the emboss dies in the total price quote. Typically, the diemaker will subcontract ordering the emboss dies and will be able to furnish a turnkey system.

InsideFinishing would like to thank Metal Magic for its help with this article. For more information, call (888) 593-6500 or visit www.metalmagic.com.