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How are stickers & labels cut and what are the limitations?

There are three ways to cut stickers or labels; digital cutting, die-cutting or with a laser.

Laser cutting

Laser cutting uses high-powered lasers to vaporise material in its path. It can cut any shape, is super fast (up to 100m/minute) and has a cutting accuracy of 0.1mm.

More of the digital printing industry is using laser cutting because it's so fast and accurate.

Digital cutting

Cutting stickers & labels is also done using digitally controlled knives.

Digital motors control a small, ultra-shape blade to cut stickers, such as on a flatbed like this:

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Popular suppliers of flatbed cutter include; Zund, Summa & many others.

These machines range from entry-level to costing £100,000+ and are used to cut leather, plastics, cardboard, fabrics and many other materials. 

Die-cutting

Traditional die-cutting had been around for hundreds of years. A metal 'die', which is a thin strip of metal, formed to the desired shape, is stamped into the sheet of printed media to cut the sticker. Like this:

Once the die has been made, it's super fast to cut thousands of stickers, which makes it an attractive way to cut labels, even today.

A more modern take on traditional die-cutting is semi-rotary die-cutting. It's used widely in the label industry. The die is attached to a roll, and as the printed roll of film passes under the roller, it cuts the sticker. 

It looks like this:

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It's great for simple shapes such as rectangles, squares, circles and ovals.