Category Archive: Services

A Guide to Die Cutting vs. Laser Cutting vs. Digital Cutting


die cutting vs. laser cutting vs. digital cutting

ESPE Manufacturing Co., Inc. is a fabrication company specializing in the production of electrical insulation materials and custom plastic components. Using advanced industrial die cutting and fabrication techniques, we manufacture washers, gaskets, bushings, and other high-quality parts from a wide range of non-metal materials. Our manufacturing capabilities also include electrical insulation parts and barriers that are designed and manufactured in compliance with strict quality and safety standards.

The Methods of Die Cutting at ESPE

Our die cutting services allow for the quick and efficient production of precise, uniform parts from various materials. To meet a range of customer specifications, we offer the following techniques:

Flatbed or Steel Rule

Flatbed die cutting, also referred to as steel rule die cutting, is a technique that involves cutting or perforating a custom shape from a workpiece using a flatbed press and steel rule. This type of die cutting is well-suited for handling thick materials, fabricating relatively large parts, and processing low-volume production runs. Compatible materials include everything from fabric, paper, plastic, and rubber to a variety of composites and laminates.

Punch Press

Punch press die cutting cuts or shapes parts from thin materials using a die set consisting of male and female dies. Placed on opposite sides of the workpiece, the two dies punch a hole through the material when mated. Punch pressing is ideal for producing hole-intensive parts, however, it is important to keep in mind that this process can generate a great deal of noise and is limited to materials with thicknesses under ¼ inch.

With customizable dies and various material options, die cutting can be used to create parts for a wide range of applications. A few of the most common materials used to produce custom die-cut electrical insulation parts include:

  • Fishpaper. Lightweight and easy to manipulate, electrical-grade fishpaper is commonly used to fabricate high-strength insulating washers, gaskets, bushings, and other products that can withstand harsh environments.
  • ITW Formex®. With its superior dielectric strength and flame-retardant properties, Formex® is a great option for electrical insulation barriers.
  • Vulcanized fibre. Vulcanized fibre is an impact- and abrasion-resistant material that is well-suited for washers, switch and appliance insulation, gaskets, and automobile parts.
  • Nomex®. The unique heat-resistant synthetic fibers of Nomex® make it an excellent choice for the fabrication of chemical-, thermal-, and radiation-resistant parts used in aerospace, automotive, and electrical power applications.
  • Insulating polymers. Nylon, Teflon, Polycarbonate, PVC, and other electrically- or thermally-insulating polymers can be used to fabricate protective electrical elements such as electric cables, switch boxes, gears, seals, and bearings.

types of laser cutting

What are Different Types of Laser Cutting?

Our laser cutting services include the following techniques:

  • Flying optics lasers. The flying optics laser cutting process involves holding the workpiece in place while a laser follows a computer-programmed path to make cuts along X and Y axes. The process is extremely fast and precise, making it ideal for projects requiring tight tolerances and quick turnaround times.
  • Moving material lasers. With moving material lasers, the workpiece moves along X and Y axes while a stationary laser beam performs the desired cuts. This type of laser cutting requires fewer optics than the other techniques and creates a consistent standoff distance between the beam source and workpiece.
  • Hybrid lasers. Combining the advantages of flying optics and moving material laser cutting, hybrid laser cutting involves moving a laser along the Y-axis while the workpiece moves along the X-axis. With this technique, a much more consistent beam delivery can be achieved, resulting in lower power consumption during the cutting process.

Laser cutting offers several advantages over other cutting methods, including superior precision, flexibility, speed, and cost-effectiveness. This makes it a preferred fabrication choice across a wide range of industries, including:

  • Automotive. The speed, accuracy, and repeatability of laser cutting make it well-suited for fabricating instrument panels, electronic components, interior covers, and other automotive products that require a high level of consistency and uniformity.
  • Die, mold, and tool industries. Lasers can make cuts at various depths with exceptional accuracy, making laser cutting perfect for creating extremely accurate dies and high-precision injection molds. In the tool industry, laser cutting is used to fabricate simple hand tools and engrave logo designs on rubber tool handles.
  • Medical devices. Laser cutting is commonly used to manufacture small, high-precision parts that are incorporated into sophisticated medical devices, surgical instruments, and diagnostic tools.

Digital Cutting

Unlike conventional die cutting techniques, digital cutting makes precision cuts without the use of a die. This technique offers many of the same advantages as conventional die cutting, using bits, lasers, and small blades to make precise cuts, scores, and creases. Benefits of digital cutting include:

  • Quicker turnaround. Digital cutting enables faster production and shorter lead times since it eliminates the need to switch out die shapes.
  • Enhanced precision. The digitally controlled blades, lasers, and bits used to perform the cuts enable a higher level of precision.
  • Reduced costs. By eliminating the costs associated with manufacturing and using dies, digital cutting can be performed at a lower cost than conventional die cutting.
  • Software integration. Digital cutting is compatible with a wide range of software programs, and the integration process is relatively quick and straightforward. ESPE Manufacturing will machine directly from a range of file types so the shape you send is the part you receive.

How Do They Compare?

Die Cutting vs. Laser Cutting

When deciding between die and laser cutting, it is important to consider the benefits and limitations of each method as it relates to your project’s needs. Some factors to consider include:

  • Cost and efficiency. Die cutting requires separate dies to perform each different type of cut, which can become expensive and time-consuming. An advantage of laser cutting is that the machine can be programmed to cut virtually any size or design without having to manufacture or change out dies. This makes it a cheaper and more cost-effective option for prototyping and small-scale production runs. For higher-volume production runs, however, die cutting can typically process materials at a faster rate and lower cost.
  • Material compatibility. While laser cutting is compatible with a wider range of materials, die cutting tends to be better suited for difficult-to-cut materials.
  • Design complexity. While die cutting is great for creating straightforward designs at high speeds, laser cutting is better suited for achieving more intricate or difficult patterns and details.

Die Cutting vs. Digital Cutting

Factors to consider when deciding between die cutting and digital cutting include:

  • Cost and efficiency.While tooling costs are more expensive with die cutting, using the die across a large volume of items helps offset this added expense. For this reason, die cutting tends to be more time- and cost-efficient for high-volume production runs, while digital cutting is better suited for low- to medium-volume runs.
  • Material compatibility. Digital cutting is generally preferred for processing thicker, tougher materials, while die cutting is better suited for thinner materials.
  • Design complexity.  When it comes to making highly intricate or detailed cuts, digital cutting tends to outperform die cutting. However, die cutting is the preferred method for rapidly and efficiently punching out a large volume of identical forms.

Partner with ESPE Manufacturing!

With a wide range of material options and cutting techniques available, ESPE offers customers the design flexibility to create custom parts in the most cost- and time-effective way possible. We can perform simple or complex cuts on a range of plastics, electrical insulators, and other non-metallic materials, producing high-quality products that conform to exact technical specifications and strict industry standards. Several decades of experience in our field allows us to provide personalized guidance and innovative solutions for the most complex design challenges.

To learn more about our capabilities, please view our services pagecontact us, or request a quote today.

plastics cutting & fabrication services

Stamped Parts for Electrical Insulation

At ESPE Manufacturing Co., we provide high-quality electrical insulation materials and fabricated plastic parts. In addition to stocking and distributing a large inventory of non-metallic materials, we offer custom fabrication capabilities ranging from prototype to full production runs.

Stamping is one of our fabrication specialties. We produce a wide range of stamped products made from electrical insulation and barrier materials—including ITW Formex®, ITW Statex®, and Nomex®—as well as from other non-metallic materials such as plastics and aramid papers.

Stamping Process for Non-Metal and Plastic Parts

Stamping is a manufacturing technique that involves using a custom-designed punch and die block set to punch out parts from the workpiece. The stock material—typically in strip or coil form—sits in-between the punch and the die block. Once the material is in position, the punch forces through it into the die block, stamping out the part.

ESPE’s stamping operations include slitting the material down, then feeding it into the presses where the stamping takes place at 50-200 strokes per minute. In a single press stroke we can produce up to 5 blanked parts.

When selecting a plastic or other non-metal material for a stamping operation, it is important to keep in mind a few factors to ensure optimal part performance and production. These considerations include the material’s:

  • Mechanical, electrical, magnetic, and thermal properties
  • Performance characteristics, including durability and performance under normal and high-stress operating conditions

Careful consideration should also be taken for other design elements, including ensuring the design fulfills the absorption, compression, and alignment requirements of the application.

A wide range of insulation materials are used in non-metal stamping operations, including:

  • ITW Formex® and ITW Statex®. These materials are suitable for applications with a high electrostatic discharge (ESD) profile. They are effective barriers to static electricity since they prevent its build-up and dissipate it. They are a good choice for parts used in computers, consumer electronic devices, medical equipment, solar energy components, and telecom appliances.
  • Nomex® paper. This material is used in flat-panel TVs, tablets, and mobile phones due to its excellent electrical and thermal insulation properties.
  • Fishpaper/vulcanized fiber. This material is lightweight and performs well in environments with alternating high and low temperatures. Some of the items commonly made using fishpaper include circuit breakers, gaskets, and bushings for motors.

Two Advantages of Plastic Stamping for Electrical Barriers and Insulators

There are a couple of advantages to using stamping for manufacturing non-metallic parts and products, such as electrical barriers and insulators. These advantages include:

  • Higher accuracy and tighter tolerances. Depending on the state of the die, the stamping process can produce high volumes of identical parts with very strict tolerances.
  • Greater reusability and flexibility. Although the initial process of producing a custom die set is time-consuming, once a die is ready, it can be used for multiple production runs or swapped out quickly for different parts. At ESPE, these process qualities allow us to offer our customers a typical lead time of 5–15 days with emergency and rush options on a case-by-case basis.

Applications of Stamped Electrical Barriers and Insulators

Due to its numerous advantages, stamping finds application in a wide range of industries. Industries that utilize stamped electrical barriers and insulators include:

  • Aerospace
  • Agriculture
  • Architecture
  • Automotive
  • Defense and military
  • Dental and medical
  • Electronics
  • Food and beverage
  • Machine tools
  • Marine
  • Oil and gas
  • Packaging
  • Renewable energy

Stamped Insulation Solutions From ESPE Manufacturing

Stamping is a quick and cost-effective method of manufacturing high volumes of high-quality non-metallic parts, including electrical barriers and insulators.

As an industry-leading supplier of electrical insulation and barrier materials, ESPE has the knowledge and experience to fabricate custom parts from these substrates. Our stamping capabilities allow us to form parts from these and other non-metallic substrates.

To learn more about our stamping capabilities or to partner with us on your next project, contact us or request a quote today. We typically respond to quote requests in 24 hours or less.

Is There a Difference Between Blanking & Punching?

At ESPE Manufacturing Co., Inc., we provide a wide range of high quality stamping services for a broad spectrum of materials, including nylon, vulcanized fibre, and neoprene. Our robust, quality-driven stamping capabilities include:

  • Forming: This process utilizes forces such as compression, shear, and tension to deform and ultimately transform materials into desired shapes or forms.
  • Scoring: Scoring employs a machine tool to cut a groove into the substrate. The groove is then utilized to facilitate other processes, such as acting as a breakage point, decorative flourish, or guideline for a finishing operation.
  • Impression stamping
  • Blanking
  • Punching

The similarities between the two latter processes often lead many to wonder: “Is there a difference between blanking and punching non-metals?” The following information will answer that question.

Blanking vs. Punching

Both blanking and punching are material forming processes that involve the precise removal of material from a workpiece. The main difference between the two processes lies in the end product produced.

In blanking operations, the final part or product is removed or “punched-out” out of the larger sheet material, with the remaining material being discarded as scrap. On the other hand, in punching operations, the material removed is discarded, and the final product is the remaining material which then undergoes further processing.

Delineating between blanking and punching is analogous to the following:

  • If you punch a hole out of a piece of paper and keep the circular piece, then you have blanked the paper.
  • If you keep the sheet of paper and throw away the punched-out piece, then you have punched the paper.

Another difference between the two processes is how manufacturers approach processing the initial sheet material. In a punching operation, they typically remove the smallest amount of material necessary from the original workpiece to minimize material waste. In contrast, blanking operations are most efficient when the maximum amount of material is removed from the workpiece.

Punching and blanking are both highly cost-effective production methods for medium to high volume orders. While the punched out slug in a punching process may not be part of further operations, in many cases it can be recycled or otherwise reused, resulting in significant cost savings.

Which Blanking and Punching Materials for Manufacturing Do We Provide?

At ESPE, we use several materials in our blanking and punching operations. The three primary materials that we work with are:

  • Formex:This is a highly versatile, flame-retardant electrical insulating material.
  • NomexThis material’s meta-aramid polymers provide excellent electrical insulation, as well as chemical, thermal, and radiation resistance. Nomex also offers enhanced strength and durability.
  • Vulcanized Fibre/FishpaperElectrical grade vulcanized fibre, or fishpaper, has many unique properties, including a lightweight design, ease of forming and punching, and resistance to heat or cold. ESPE’s fishpaper is comparable to other brands of vulcanized fibre, such as NVF’s Forbon brand, or Spaulding Composites’ Armite brand.

Partnering with Blanking and Punching Experts

While at first glance, blanking and punching may seem like identical processes, there are subtle but significant differences between the two, both in intent and in operation.

As an industry leader in electrical insulation materials and fabricated plastic parts, ESPE Manufacturing Co., Inc. has the experience and expertise to provide both blanking and punching services to each of our customers. Family owned and operated since 1948, ESPE is here to serve all of your fabrication needs. Our commitment to providing excellent service and delivering premium products has made us the top choice for many companies in need of customized non-metallic parts.

If you’d like to learn more, contact us, or request a quote today.

Blanking vs. Punching | ESPE Manufacturing