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Printing Plates and Cutting Dies: What are They?

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One aspect of purchasing packaging is often confusing to newcomers: printing plates and cutting dies. When you get your quote, you may notice extra charges for these items… but what are they? No worries, here’s a quick overview!

a cutting die for a custom insert design
the steel rules on a cutting die cut and score board the same way over and over

Cutting Dies

Cutting dies are what we use to cut out your boxes; think of them like giant, elaborate cookie cutters. Using them allows us to create the exact same box over and over again. Basic shipping boxes (RSCs, HSCs, FOLs, OPFs, and 5PFs), pads, and scored sheets do not usually need a cutting die. But anything beyond the capabilities of standard box-making machinery does. This includes: mailer boxes, POP displays, custom inserts, boxes with cutouts and windows, and most styles of trays. For these items, you will see a cutting die charge included in your quote. This is a one time fee to buy the die, which can be reused for any later orders.

flexographic printing plate
printing plates apply ink to packaging like a stamp

Printing Plates

We use printing plates to print your packaging using a process called flexography. If your packaging only includes one to four colors and doesn’t need photo-real printing, your quote will likely include a printing plate charge. Printing plates function like giant stamps, allowing us to print the same design over and over again cost-effectively. Each color requires a separate printing die. This is why you will see your printing plate charge increase for multi-color designs.. Like cutting dies, printing plates are a one time charge, and the plates are reusable.

Still have questions? Our customer service team is always happy to help! Let’s get in touch.

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