Die Cut Vs. Laser Cut: What Makes the Difference?

Just as the title suggests, one of the processes is manual while the other is digital.

A die cut refers to a cut on a surface or object using a very strong razor called a steel rule. And, a laser cut on the other hand uses an exceptionally strong laser beam to perform same cut.

While the steel rule is guided by hand, the laser beam is guided by use of a computer using a pre-determined path or direction. This is done on the computer screen using software that comes with the laser cutting tool.

There are pros and cons that come with both cutting tools and there are principal factors that highlight these qualities in each of the mentioned tools.

The Main Difference Between Die Cut and Laser Cut

Operating Skills

One is manual and another one is digital. It goes without saying that it is easier to use a die cut as opposed to a laser cut.

It however may not be a hundred percent correct. Let’s explore.

Using a die cut simply involves manually setting a marked pattern on the material to be cut by hand and it is a process you personally carry out and monitor. A laser cut involves the use of technology which may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

One needs to have some level of technical literacy first of all to understand the principle behind the tool and secondly how to operate the tool. Lack of sufficient skills and knowledge may easily lead to physical injury if your hand gets in the way of the laser.

It could also lead to defections in the material being cut if the laser is not properly guided.

However, if not keen, the same operation manually could also lead to bad cuts if you do not keep within the indicating line.

On the other hand, once personnel are properly trained to operate the laser cut, it is much easier and less tiring than a die cut.


While the laser is definitely a generally superior tool to the die cutter, it is not affordable to most individuals and would usually be found in bigger settings such as a factory.

Few people have access to this tool whether by virtue of ownership or leasing. This has got a further implication. The tool is not as exposed as the die cutter because of the limited access that people have to it.

You will be surprised at how many persons who have used cutters for years have only maybe just heard about the tool but never seen one before.

It is restricted to a few individuals who can either afford it or work at a facility that has one of them. However, one may argue that the rotary die cut is in the long run more expensive to maintain as it requires replacement of certain parts and periodic sharpening of blades.

It would be up to the user to make a decision based on the functions of the cutting tool and consider other pros and cons too to make an informed decision.


A laser cut follows a specific path charted on a computer screen that is very specific. Unless in the unlikely event the computer program malfunctions or there occurs a mechanical fault with the hardware the cut is perfect.

There are bigger chances of such errors occurring when using a die cut; man is prone to error.


It is generally much faster to use a die cut by hand. The laser cut just like any other computer operated accessory of this kind is much slower because of the mechanical parts that can only move so fast especially being guided by a computer program.

The fast pace of the die cut makes it very suitable for bulk assignments that are time sensitive; you cannot rush a laser cut.

Variety of Materials to Cut

The laser cut is very strong and uses a totally different principle to cut through material compared to a die cut that uses mechanical force applied by the hand.

Regardless of how strong or sharp the cutting tool may be, you will always be limited by your physical ability against the strength of the material you are cutting.

Multiple Layers

The laser tool can cut through multiple layers of material because of its strength and piercing properties while a die cut will only cut through one or a few layers.

Even where the die cut is able to cut through several layers of material, it leaves untidy edges that end up causing warping of the same.

Complex Shapes and Designs

A laser – given its strength and mode of operation – is able to cut shapes that would present a challenge to the manual use of a die cut. It is also able to cut holes that a blade would not cut or make a big mess.

The design of the blade makes it very difficult to use for such a purpose. On the other hand, think of the laser as a very hot needle piercing through a piece of plastic.

It would not take you much effort to pierce through and cut out whatever shape assuming the needle stays hot. The same principle is applied by the laser cut only through a larger variety of materials and depending on the strength of the beam even certain types of metals.

This however has an implication on the speeds at which the laser works. It is much slower when performing complex assignments as it is constantly reading information like density of the material, how hard it is, how deep the cut is and so on.

It feeds this information to the computer that then gives it instructions on how to perform the particular task. A die cut is manual and operates at a very near same speed irrespective of the task.

Physical Contact

There is no contact with the material being cut when using a laser beam as a cutting tool.

This reduces chances of compromising in terms of dirt or mishandling during the cutting causing fault lines. A laser process maintains the integrity of the material being cut.

Different Assignments

The laser cut can quickly be adjusted to new settings so as to work on a new project.

It is easy to change such settings on the computer screen as opposed to the more physical process that is also quite cumbersome and tiring when doing such changes on a die cut.


The die cut is very heavy and cumbersome to handle and store. You will definitely need a much bigger space to store your die cut machine as opposed to a laser cut. This will significantly take up your time which you could apply to something else more useful.

Machine Upgrades

People have much more interest in technology and digital equipment as opposed to manually operated machines. There is a race in the digital world to keep upgrading computer software and the hardware that work hand in hand with them.

Every day sees new developments and as such, the laser cut is more likely to benefit from such upgrades that are always looking to counter the limitations of the functionalities of such tools.

It is the opposite in the case of manual machine such as the die cut. Given the nature of such equipment, there are real and serious limitations as to their upgrades.

The fact that it is easy to perform, this function on a laser cut means you can either upgrade your machine with the latest software and hardware to go with it or purchase an upgraded version of the same.

Manual die cuts will perform the same functions and may only come in varieties of makes and colors.

Here is a comparison of the two tools against each other;

Die cut

Laser cut

Operating skills








Variety of materials to cut


Multiple layers


Complex shapes


Physical contact


Different assignments






Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

1. How much does die cutting cost?

The cost depends on size and complexity. Usually, a custom dye can cost from somewhere between $50 to $500. After that, the cutting process is very cheap. It would cost around 25 cents to $1 per piece. This cost depends on the cutting material, quantity and size.

2. What do die cut mean in printing?

It’s a process where one takes ​​​​a cut out from an already printed object. It can be any ordinary square or rectangular sheet of paper. It’s used for low strength objects. It’s best used for achieving creases in card and plastics.

3. Why is laser cutting preferred over die-cutting? 

The laser makes more precious cuts in tiny designs. Material density isn’t an issue at all for laser cuts. For bulk production, it’s more efficient and less time consuming, and the customization is much easier.

4. What is die cutting good for?

Die cutting will offer you your required shape. It provides more flexibility over laser cutting, and you can create some unique designs with this process. It’s also much affordable. This method is good for making a unique and complex shape as well as multiple layer cuts.

To wrap up, the Laser cut seems to have carried the day and this is not surprising because of the digital component that gives this tool general superior quality to the die cut.

It would be the tool of choice for anyone using such and could afford it.

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