Brass Dies are the most versatile of all the engraving metals. They also are extremely durable and generally used when the highest quality die is required. Brass is most commonly used for hand-tooled and machined embossing engravings (multi-level or sculptured), but it also is cost effective for any flat stamping jobs. Because it is easily tooled, brass is an ideal metal choice when an image needs to be 'opened' up so that the foil stamps cleanly without the image filling in.
Brass engravings are the industry standard for combination (foil and embossing) dies as well. When an image can be foil stamped and embossed in one pass, brass is the best choice because it can be easily machined to create the needed relief to apply foil and emboss the image simultaneously.
Brass is the ideal choice for CNC engraved dies (an engraving process utilizing a computerized program to machine-tool dies,) CNC engraved dies are extremely precise, and eliminate the chemicals used in photo-etching dies. In addition, engravers can store the die-creation files for easy re-ordering.
Copper Dies are produced by a photo-etching process and are most commonly used for flat stamping and single-level embossing. Copper is an extremely hard metal with good etching attributes, which makes it an excellent choice for medium to long foil stamping runs. Copper is a good heat conductor and, therefore, maintains heat very well. This is especially important when foil stamping on high-speed equipment, where the speed and action of the press are more likely to cool the die temperature. In addition, copper is recommended for medium to larger solid areas of foil, where more tonnage and pressure are necessary on press. This helps ensure that the die does not begin to crush under the pressure of the stamping press. Lastly, if you are using a textured or recycled stock for a foil stamped image, copper is most likely the metal to use.
Magnesium Dies are most commonly photo-etched. They are a fast, cost-effective and versatile choice for flat foil stamping and some single-level embossing applications. They are ideal for short runs, depending on the size of the image and type of stock. If the surface area of the foil stamped image is relatively small to medium in size, magnesium will yield excellent results. In addition, when working with magnesium dies, the paper stock should either be smooth or coated.