Waste is a concern for any industrialised country. For manufacturers it means money spent on materials that are not used. For governments it means the responsibility of managing the waste. For society at large it means common space and resources being lost.
The EU has understood the importance of managing waste for some time now. Its directive on packaging and packaging waste is almost 20 years old. It has been reviewed a number of times since then but the basic approach remains the same. The directive recognises that the management of waste must be taken into consideration in all parts of the manufacturing and production cycles.
This is reflected in their approach to incentivising the reduction of packaging waste. As summarised in this article on the packaging directive, the product manufacturer is considered to be responsible for the waste at all stages of production as well as post consumption, that is, after the customer has used the product.
The result is that the producer effectively pays for all packaging materials used throughout the production process of the packaging. This includes any cut-offs from die pressing. The purpose of the payment is to cover the cost of recovering the packaging for recycling.
The product manufacturer needs the product packaging to contain, present and promote their product. They do not need trimmings from the die pressing process. Any reductions to this particular waste benefit the producer twofold. First it lowers the total cost of packaging. Second it lowers the payment that must be made through the packaging waste directive.
Any advancement that helps to reduce trim and cut-off has obvious benefits. The same can be said for any advancement that reduces the volume of material used in the actual packaging itself. Both of these would reduce overall waste and therefore overall cost in both material expense and recycling costs.
Flatbed dies are a major part of the packaging production process. Modern techniques used to make these dies have the potential to bring ever greater reductions to waste and packaging costs. Two of the most significant advancements that have been applied to flatbed die making over the years have been laser cutting and the use of CAD.
CAD stands for computer aided design. It became prominent in use for architectural design but it plays an enormous role in machining and tooling in most every type of industry. A 2D or 3D model is created using a modelling program on a computer. In architecture this model is used to create detailed blueprints which are used to construct a building in the traditional way.
In tooling such as flatbed die cutting the model is sent directly to the tooling machine. The tooling machine reads the model and creates that final product, be that a machined block of aluminium or a laser cut flatbed die.
This has obvious advantages in terms of automation speed but it also produces numerous other efficiencies and benefits.
– CAD makes it easier to experiment with different layouts and designs before committing to production.
– It allows for very complex designs to be developed that would be much more costly and time consuming to develop without CAD
– It can provide much faster client response times by taking a design directly from the graphic designer and converting that model into a format the cutting machine can recognise.
– It reduces waste in dynamic ways such as finding more efficient layouts to use more material thus leaving less waste. Mathematical algorithms are developed to find the most efficient layout possible.
Laser die cutting works similarly to a household printer except instead of an ink nozzle you have a powerful laser and instead of paper you have your die backing, usually a thick sheet of plywood. The laser cutter reads the information from the CAD file and cuts the die to the pattern.
Again, the advantages in speed are clear compared to hand cutting or even machine cutting a die but the laser provides several other unique benefits.
– It can easily follow the most complex designs produced by CAD, creating very intricate flatbed die patterns.
– The laser allows for incredible degrees of precision that would be difficult or even impossible to achieve with machine heads.
– The added speed and precision in conjunction with CAD provides much faster turnaround times and lowers cost.
– Laser cutting is overall more versatile than any other method of cutting flatbed dies, with corners and difficult angles being easily cut.
– The precision and versatility of the laser cutter means that patterns can be made with very minimal waste.