These companies have also navigated a wave of new technologies. Digital printing, automation and rapid printing speeds all require supplies that can deliver for label printers. From flexible dies to laser diecutting, suppliers have evolved to boost manufacturing efficiency.
Wilson Manufacturing, a diecutting and tooling supplier based in St. Louis, MO, USA, has seen flexible dies gain in popularity as technology improvements allow them to handle more difficult-to-cut substrates.
The company has worked diligently to develop new products that meet various market demands. Wilson’s technology has had to grow along with different segments of the label and package printing industry.
“We build our own sharpening machines in house that allow us to ‘machine’ sharpen shapes and steels that could only be sharpened by hand in the past,” states Paul Karez, president of Wilson Manufacturing. “The tolerances that these machines hold are tighter than the tolerances that our customers can hold on their presses.”
Plus, converters have increasingly relied on thinner substrates. “The demand for thinner liners continues to increase,” notes Keith Chrisco, VP of sales at Wilson Manufacturing. “These thin liners need a perfect die strike or they will fail with the high-speed applications that are common today. Our machine sharpening produces tighter tolerances than in the past, ensuring the critical die strike on these liners.”
Of course, Wilson has engineered a host of new flexible dies, which have become commonplace in the industry. According to Chrisco, there are several advantages that flexible dies have over solid engraved dies when dealing with thin materials. For starters, the flexible die cost is typically 20% of the solid die cost, and the shipping cost is substantially less due to the drastic reduction in weight.
“Flexible dies take up much less storage space than solid dies, and turnaround times are normally 1-2 days quicker” says Chrisco.
With most traditional label jobs switching to flexible dies, Chrisco points out that a high percentage of Wilson’s solid tools are now deep-engraved, fully hardened tool steel dies. “Manifold style air-eject and vacuum dies are increasing in popularity as converters look for new ways to remove the scrap from their parts,” he explains. “These types of tools are commonly used in the automotive and medical industries. Because of the thick, complex materials that they cut, they require special blade angles and a machine-finished die.”
Customer service is also key when dealing with customer specifications, he adds. “We keep a history of every die that we have made in the past for each of our customers. When they go to transition from solid to flexible dies, we can tap into that history to provide the customer with common tooth sizes for their magnetic cylinders.”
With R&D occurring at a rapid pace, Wilson has engineered several new technologies for the label and narrow web marketplace. The latest addition to its product line is a “digital” adjustable anvil roll system, says Karez.
“This system allows the customer to adjust their diecutting depth to better utilize their existing die inventory and extend the life of their tools,” he explains. “We’ve also added a line of pressure gauges. These gauges give the customer better control of the diecutting process and extends the life of their tools. We’ve also added some new non-stick coatings to solve some of the converting issues created with aggressive adhesives. We are continually adding new steels and blade profiles that allow us to cut specialty materials and improve die life, as well.
“We are constantly investing in technology and increasing capacity to keep up with customer demands,” he adds. “Because of this, we are able to provide the quickest turnaround and best customer service in the industry while delivering a high-quality die.”