Have you ever wonder how do manufacturers cut every jigsaw puzzle piece?
Like, do they cut it one by one using a pair of scissors?
Or, do they literally use “jigsaw” to cut a pattern?
If so, we are on the same boat!
I always wonder how do they cut it so precisely in every piece. And because of that curiosity, I decided to search on how it is really done.
Fortunately, I have searched the answer that we are all looking for. The common process of cutting used for jigsaw puzzles is known as die-cutting.
WHAT IS DIE CUTTING?
Die-cutting is a type of cutting technique where it uses a soft and yet sharp type of metal known as steel rule die. This process is intended to use in materials that are easily cut using the right amount of pressure like metal sheets, leather, adhesives, cloth, plastics, foam, paper, and cupboards.
Most of the time this is used for mass production of easy-to-cut products to shorten the time of the process. We can compare this to a cookie-cutter used in our kitchens which makes it a lot easier to produce a certain shape in one stroke alone.
So, when did die cutting approach invented?
Die-cutting was invented in the 1800s when the leather shoe industry is in demand.
Since it was the time when leather shoes were famous, the number of orders were overflowing and the production cannot really compensate for that for everything was hand-made. It was all hand-made, time and labor are taking their toll on expenses of all shoe factories.
That is why it was decided to use a sharp metal and put pressure on the pile of leather to cut holes all in one go. Not only it is a fast process, but it also gives standard sizes on holes on those leather shoes.
Since then, advances in the technique took place. It was not until Bob Eichenberg and LaDorna Eichenberg where the first machine for die-cutting invented in 1977 making the process faster than it used to.
WHAT ARE THE MATERIALS USED IN DIE CUTTING PROCESS?
There are three materials needed for this cutting technique: steel rule die, die board, and die cutting machine. Let us discuss each below.
Steel rule die
Steel rule die is basically a measured sharp blade-like instrument used in die cutting.
You may wonder why it is called “die” in the first place, right? I, too, was dumbfounded when I saw the word “die” in the die-cutting. It may seem hilarious at first glance for we all know what “die” means in our own minds.
However, because of some thorough research, the “die” word in die-cutting does not literally mean “removal of life from something” or “have been in the state of death” instead, it came from the Latin word “datum” which means given.
It is also said that the word die was referred to as the molds or stamps for creating metal coins. Therefore it was used altogether with the word “cutting” which literally means to cut shapes.
Now, prior to embedding on the die board, this metal should be bend first to form jigsaw puzzle shapes. It may be done manually or by an electronic machine. This process is too complex that it takes 400 hours to create a single piece of design.
Did you know that shaping a steel rule die into a jigsaw puzzle piece design takes about 400 hours??
Die board is a strong wood where the steel rule die will be attached.
This plain wood will be subjected first into a laser-cut process to create the jigsaw puzzle shape. In fact, some of the manufacturers before used their own hands to create such shapes when the laser technology was not yet around.
After engraving the desired design, the steel rule die will be pounded on the die board per line and when it is done, the cutting procedure is next.
Die cutting machine
When the steel rule die is attached on the die board, it will be finally attached on the die cutting machine.
A certain amount of pressure will be exerted on the jigsaw puzzle paper with its cupboard so as not to cut only the whole image but also create light engravings on the paper cupboard.
After which, it is readily disassembled, packed, and delivered to the retail stores for selling.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF DIE CUTTING?
Based on my research about die-cutting machines, there are 3 types of them in the market. In fact, some of them are now highly advanced and can be used at home if you wanted to. Below is the description of each different type of this machine.
This one requires steel die rule that is manually shaped then attached to the die board to be put inside the machine.
The machine used maybe a manual one where the operator will steer the wheel or lever to press it down or maybe an automatic one where a computer is needed to start the operation.
This type does not literally use a die cutter because it already has a cutting tool (it may be a blade or laser) inside the machine itself.
The process requires software on a computer to where you will be the one who will choose what shape of cut you wanted to happen. This is one of the most purchased types for personal or home use.
Aside from it is easy to operate, its size is small enough to fit on your desk at home. You can use it to cut stickers, papers, or anything made of paper-like materials you wanted.
This type is usually used by large companies such as Jigsaw Puzzle companies because it can cut numerous amounts of thin sheets in one go.
Of course, as the name of it implies, this one is not for personal use for the obvious reason. Now, there are 2 types used in industrial settings, these are the rotary cutter and the flatbed cutter.
- Rotary Cutter
Based on the word itself, this one uses a round cutter to cut the material underneath it. We can compare it to a circular saw we used to see in our father’s garage if we happen to see him working on one of his “wooden projects” on a Sunday afternoon.
- Flatbed Cutter
As the name of it implies, this one needs a “flatbed” or a flat surface to where the material to be cut should be placed. Most of the time, this one is used in the factories.
Steel rule die used in this one are all custom-made depending on the shape needed for the product. Once done, it will then be attached to the die-cutting board. This board will now be placed on the machine prior to the cutting process itself to secure the intact shear and cut of shapes on the product.
HOW DOES DIE CUTTING DONE FOR JIGSAW PUZZLES?
Now, when all the materials necessary are all ready, the next process is assembling each and perform the cutting itself. Below is the infographic process on how it is done for your convenience.
The die-cutting procedure is a laborious step in jigsaw puzzle making. It may look like an easy job to do but it is not. It requires a lot of patience and handwork to shape the die into its right orientation. We can say that it is a piece of artwork as it is as well.
In my opinion, people who are in the die-cutting industry should also be praised for their job well done. I mean, without them, we cannot literally play our jigsaw puzzle game, right? We will not be able to enjoy putting each piece to make one whole image. We will not be able to appreciate our own efforts in finishing our game., right?
So, I thank you for the people behind this step in making jigsaw puzzles! You are really one of the unsung artists of this game! Thank you for your hard work!