Die cutting is a versatile manufacturing process that is used across a broad range of industries. In this process a cutting tool, or die, is used to cut a shape out of a sheet of material with great precision. Die cutting can be used to create all kinds of products from labels to insulators to electrical components, although today we will be focusing primarily on the industrial applications of die cut parts.
The materials used for die cutting industrial parts are usually flexible substrates, like rubber, soft plastics, and foam. However, there are many cases in which urethane sheets simply do the job better than any other elastomer or comparable material. In today’s blog we’ll be taking a look at when to use urethane sheets for die cutting to maximize production efficiency and improve overall product quality. The first use that we’ll be covering may surprise you.
Extend Die Cutting Tool Life with Protective Urethane Sheets
Although polyurethane is a great material to use as a substrate from which to cut your die cut parts (for reasons we will cover in the next section), it also finds an excellent use in another key area of the die cutting process. Precision urethane sheets can be used as a protective mat for die cutting surfaces, to both protect the work area below and also maintain the integrity of your die cutting tool.
Urethane sheets produced by PSI can meet extremely tight tolerances, within up to ±.005” if your application calls for it. The uniformity of our precision cast urethane sheets allows die cutters to apply less pressure to get an even, high quality cut for their parts. With less wear on the cutting surface and cutting tool, the lives of both can be elongated while also improving tool performance and cutting accuracy.
A unique advantage of choosing polyurethane sheets to protect your cutting surfaces is that polyurethane is self-sealing. This means that the surface can effectively recover from previous cuts to maintain a smooth working surface. This reduces the amount of surface “chunk out”, or material lost due to wear from repeated cuts over time. It is also easy to remove excess material with a simple wipe down between uses. For these reasons, urethane is a relatively clean cutting material that decreases contamination between any substances that are brought to the working area.
Die Cut Polyurethane Parts
Our precision urethane sheeting doesn’t only make a great cutting surface- it is also an excellent material to use for your die-cut parts. This allows us to provide not just the material to be cut on, but also the material to be cut itself. The uniformity of our sheets ensures that no matter what part you may be die cutting, it will be produced with a high level of accuracy.
Die cut polyurethane parts are used for a vast range of applications thanks to urethane’s customizability. With our custom formulations, we can engineer urethanes for use in industries including metal forming, automation, and food processing. Knowing the intended use of the finished product is key to developing an effective formula. We classify our urethanes into two broad categories which share similar properties: polyester, and polyether. To get a better idea of the types of parts that can be produced with die cutting, let’s dive into those categories a little deeper.
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Properties of Polyether Urethane
The first category we’ll discuss is polyether urethanes. This class of urethanes shares the following properties:
- Excellent impingement abrasion resistance
- High rebound
- Can withstand dynamic heat buildup and cold temps
Polyethers display excellent resistance to impingement abrasion, more commonly known as impact abrasion. This makes it a good choice for heavy duty applications or use in harsh environments.
Part of what contributes to polyether urethane’s impingement resistance is its high level of rebound. When compressed, it easily bounces back to its previous shape.
Lastly, polyether urethanes can withstand a wide range of temperatures, including those that change drastically in a short period of time. This is especially important to consider in applications in the food industry where it is common for die cut parts to interact with cold and hot items, or in automotive applications where temperatures can rise quickly.
This set of properties makes polyether urethane a good choice for parts like bumpers which will be subjected to repeated impingement abrasion. Polyethers can find a place of their own in the automotive industry, marine industry, automation industry, and more.
Properties of Polyester Urethane
Polyester urethanes share their own set of desirable properties, including the following:
- Sliding abrasion resistance
- Shock absorption
- Cut & tear resistance
- High tensile strength
- Chemical resistance
Where polyether urethanes do well with impingement abrasion, polyester urethanes are the preferred choice for uses in which a part will be subjected to repeated sliding abrasion. Not to be confused with resistance to impingement abrasion, these urethanes also display great shock absorption in high vibration applications.
Polyester urethanes exhibit a high tensile strength, which makes them a sound choice for high-stress applications where flexibility is a must.
If your die cut part is to come into contact with any harsh or abrasive chemicals, including oils, solvents, and vapors, a polyester urethane will be the right choice thanks to its superior chemical resistance. For a more in-depth guide to how urethanes behave with common chemicals, you can click here to view our chemical compatibility chart.
Due to their excellent shock absorption and chemical resistance, polyester urethanes are commonly selected for die cut parts such as gaskets, washers, rings, and couplings. These parts are often subjected to vibrations, oils, and solvents in applications in the automotive and aerospace industries.
Want to learn more about the differences between polyether and polyester urethanes for your die cutting operations? Click here to view our direct comparison between the two.
Whether you’re looking to improve the efficiency of your die cutting process with a protective urethane sheet or cut higher quality parts from a polyurethane substrate, PSI Urethanes can develop the right material for your needs.
No other material has the diversity to suit your die cutting needs like urethane.
Contact PSI Urethanes today to discover what our formulas can do for you.
About PSI Urethanes
Since 1966, through our own independent research and activity in the Polyurethane Manufacturers Association, PSI Urethanes has stayed on the leading edge of urethane technology – including developing advances in new materials, comprehensive designs, and processing technologies. Today we are among the most respected and trusted suppliers of custom polyurethane products.
We operate from our 45,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas, which houses an extensive stock of polyurethane products. Our fully equipped manufacturing facility includes a versatile range of processing machinery, which allows us to work on unique, one-of-a-kind projects, as well as high volume components. Our in-house engineering, tooling, and custom mold shop, produces custom and stock production orders with exceptionally fast turn-around times. From conception to prototyping, to final production runs, our technical representatives and design engineers will work closely with your staff to meet your critical tolerances and specifications. You are guaranteed to receive experienced, professional, and personalized service from the first contact through your on-time delivery, with complete confidentiality and dedication to protecting your good name.