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Proper Set-Up Tools and Other Tips

Randy NormanEditor’s Note: This is the fourth and final article in a series about how to set up an efficient die cutting press system. Following are excerpts of a presentation made by Randy Norman, Preco Applications Specialist, at the 2007 Odyssey Exposition.

Article 1: How to Avoid Common Press Set-Up Problems
Article 2: Standard Tooling and Board Thickness Can Make Your Die Cutting Operation More Efficient
Article 3: Making Your Die Cutting Operation Run Smoothly


Having the proper tools handy can increase the productivity of your die cutting system. You should not have to go from one end of the shop to the other because you forgot something. Store your tools conveniently in a cart that can be easily rolled up next to your press.

The following should be included in your set-up tool kit:

  • Tool box
  • Pen or pencil
  • Shim tape adhesive
    (.001" & .002", Placed
    under the cutting plate)
  • Shim tape Steel
    (.001" & .002", Placed
    behind the die)
  • Cellophane tape
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Pliers
  • Allen wrenches
    (Both Metric and Standard)
  • Tape measure
  • 12" Square
  • Carbon Paper
  • Makeready sheets
    (two types, soft & hard)
    job dependent
  • Knock out table hold downs
  • Feeler gauge for
    roll feed tension
  • Screwdriver with adjustable bits
  • Material hold downs
  • Ejection rubber
    (most likely only strips to spot rubber tooling)
  • Ejection rubber glue
  • Super glue
  • Die shims for quick change tooling (5⁄8" boards and
    ¾" boards)
  • ¼" airline hose clamps
  • Other tools that are helpful: jig saw, rotozip

Put it in writing
I strongly recommend writing on the back of the die the job number, date, set up time, what you're cutting against, the micrometer stop reading or whatever reading is used for a stop block on your press. Also include the operator name and the number of impressions of the tool. Determine how many parts are running before the tool is changed over. This will help to quantify who your best operator is so that operator can then train the others. It will also allow you to gauge steel rule die life with specific materials you are die cutting.

Knock outs and hold downs
In a knock out system, the knock out board is on the back side of the Preco presses. A picture frame is cut out on it that allows insertion of a knock out board. This knock out board actually fits in the framework that would knock out a part. Relocating pins are inserted that allow the top (male knock out) to match perfectly with the bottom fixture. A die maker can laser cut the knock outs. Typically the knock out board should be 1⁄8" (3.17 mm) bigger than the part itself. The upper knock out fixtures are cut 1⁄8" (3.17 mm) smaller and are then attached to the male board. With the exact placement on the board, the male fixture can be locked into the die. The top framework has two 6" (152.4 mm) air cylinders on top. When the top board is matched, aluminum extrusion pieces are then slid in. With a Preco, inserts go into the die board and then the die board is screwed with the air cylinder into the die board. This makes it easier as these pieces can be slid in and then hand-tightened. This reduces the necessary tooling and also the additional holes that need to be drawn allowing for an easier set up.

Hold downs can also be attached to the knock out board. In the old days foam was used for knock outs. We would die cut foam around the knock out and that would hold down the part while it’s being knocked out. Now hold downs (such as SpeedBar from Atlas Die) lock the edge of the material down when it’s being knocked out and that allows the material to be held down on both sides and compressed, while it knocks the part out and then comes back up. That stops the scrap or web of the material from going into the web and jamming up the dies. Knock outs and stacking fixtures can be stored with your tooling.

Saving time saves money
Some customers were cutting a part on a Preco at 30 strokes a minute with a two cavity die. They had to run 30 strokes a minute because the person on the end was pulling the parts out by hand and couldn’t do it any faster. After the part was removed, the slugs and the holes in the middle were manually stripped. They then had to manually count all the parts and package them. This was a 12,000 part run that took about 15 hours to run.

The exact job was then set up using a redesigned tool that had feed through punches in it that allow the user to remove the slugs inside the tooling. Now the small punches clear the back of the die. After the punches clear, the part goes through a set up stage where the larger slug is knocked out, and then after knocking out the large slug, the finished die cut part is knocked out and automatically stacked and counted. One person could do this job in approximately two hours—a 12,000 piece run. We have filmed this process, and it is called “Preco–Die Cutting Gaskets.” It is available to view on YouTube. It does take 30 minutes to set the part up, but even if it took an hour or two, you’re still ahead of the game. If you can decrease your labor, you can increase your bottom line and increase your profit margin.

Another idea is to use pneumatic core chucks to facilitate quick changeover of rolls on unwinds or rewinds. In the past, you had to undo a set screw, pull the roll caps off to remove a roll or core of material, put a new roll of material on unwind and put the set screw back on. Now unwinds and rewinds use a quick air chuck—just put a roll of material on the chuck and use an air switch to hold the material core. You can change a material roll in a matter of seconds, and again, roll changeover in seconds compared to minutes saves time and money.

Another method is using a stacked dual unwind where the material can be spliced and run continuously. However, the height and weight of the roll of material can present a problem. An adjustable material handling cart that can be easily moved and loaded helps with that problem while keeping operators safe and reducing strain on their backs.

Material costs, labor costs and overhead costs are predominately the same for each and every industry. Of these three major expenses to any company, only one, labor costs can be dramatically reduced by using automation and reducing set-up time. By decreasing labor costs, you can increase your total company profits. The more efficiently you run your equipment, the more profit to your bottom line.

Your Preco die cutting press system can save you time and play a powerful role in your production line for many years—especially when you take the time to set it up properly, learn how to maximize its operation and make sure the right tools are readily available to make the necessary adjustments.


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