In the simplest terms, a laser diecutting machine uses a laser to completely cut through paper. Since no physical cutting tools make contact with the paper, the level of detail possible in the laser cut design is primarily limited by the durability required of the finished product. Designs are created when the moving laser cuts intricate designs into the paper.
Success Story: In the picture above, you can see delicate hairline thin pieces of the design. In the planning stage of this job, we tried three different coloured blue cover weight stocks. While a member of the graphic arts industry might note the difference, the different stock would appear identical to a lay person. The first stock we tested had a light blue burn line a quarter an inch wide around the image, which was unacceptable. The next stock we tested, the hairline connector pieces disintegrated. The third stock was successful and we produced 7,000 laser diecut portfolios.
The Future of Laser Diecutting
Laser diecutting, as a graphic arts medium, is still relatively in its infancy. Though it has been used successfully by most greeting card companies for over 20 years, it is just now beginning to find a much wider use in the graphic arts industry.
Features of Laser Diecutting
• Unbelievably, intricate fine detail
• Wide range of applications
• Great for short runs
• Creates a lot of opportunities for a designer’s imagination
Benefits of Laser Diecutting
• Can produce more intricate and finer designs that cannot be done by other methods like steel rule die cutting
• No dies are needed, which can shorten the production time because the time to create a die is eliminated
• The process is chemical-free and there is little to no waste
Factor to Consider
Many companies provide laser diecutting services for trophies, signs and plaques made out of glass, wood and steel. Laser diecutting on paper, however, requires a different skill set since the heat of the laser can sometimes create some discolouration or laser burn around the design on one side of the sheet of paper. This can be worked around by printing a neutral colour on the target side, designing the piece so that the target side is not seen or using the discolouration as part of the design, such as an ‘antique’ look to a lace pattern. The best way, however, to avoid laser burn is to choose a paper stock that cuts cleanly in the early design stages.
Having the stock you plan to use tested is the best way to avoid quality surprises later on. Testing should ordinarily be a free service, and I encourage customers to supply various stocks for testing. In the quoting stage, we often recommend two or three different stocks.