Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cutting Registration to Printed Fabric Materials

Written By Mark Batson Baril

A brief question:
I am in the promotional product's business. Currently I am preparing to manufacture a product where I will need to cut sheets of fabric, such as neoprene and ultraseude (polyurethane) into (140) 3 inch (76.2mm) X 1/2 inch (12.7mm) printed strips. I have contacted various die cutting facilities but there are potential accuracy problems since the sheets may not be perfectly shaped and may not align perfectly. I am assuming that some form of laser guided cutting would illiminate this concern?

And a brief answer:
Right off the bat I can think of a few ways to approach the project you are talking about. The fact that your printing may wander and not be in accurate/consistent registration to any corner of the sheet is the main problem.

Registration marks could be printed at the same time as your main printing. These could be designed as either simple slash marks or simple target type circles. This then opens up your options.

    1. Use the registration marks to align your materials in any type of cutting machine. Diecutting, guillotine, and laser immediately come to mind. A simple retractable and clear overlay that has been pre-struck acts as your line-up. Each individual sheet of material to be cut is lined up under the retractable sheet. Once the part is aligned and fixed to the cutting bed the clear overlay is moved away and the impression is made for a near perfect cut every time. 2. Other tooling methods would include using see through tools that could be registered one at a time on press by the operator. A clear Polycarbonate (*Lexan) or Acrylic based steel rule die or clicker type die may be your best bet. 3. Circle type registration marks can be used with a *Spartanics type machine that will automatically pre-punch a perfect hole at the mark. This can then be used in conjunction with a tool that has retractable registration pins. This method is used all the time in the membrane switch and flex-circuit industry.Optical registration is also an option on many diecutting machines and may be a good method for your particular job.

Each of these methods will result in accuracy of ± .010"-.015" (.254mm) depending on the operator. These ideas are slow but luckily your quantities are small. If you increase your quantities you will have to inquire about better ways to register to the flexible material you are using.

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