5 Things We Can’t Live Without: Machine Knives in Action

Tin cans

Machine knives are some of the unsung heroes of the manufacturing process.

They are silent, dedicated workers that help cut and shape our products from raw material to packaged product.

Without them, all the engineering skill, all the experienced labor, and all the automation in the world would yield a whole mangled heap of unfinished everything.

I’m not sure why the tools and parts that make our processes work don’t get more attention. Maybe they’re not as fun to watch as high-tech robotic automation. Maybe they’re less easy to relate to than a line of skilled workers laboring at a factory.  Maybe both are true, but that doesn’t make knives any less important.

To illustrate my point, here are just five simple things we use every day that without machine knives would be, at the very least, much less convenient.  At the very worst, they’d be impossible to use.

1. Labels on Cans (and other containers!)

Can with tabEver fallen for the “10 cent mystery can” sale at the grocery store? Perhaps you’re the type to let one languish in the back of your cupboard?  Maybe you’re “sure it’s chili,” but in a famished stupor dig in to find out it’s really dog food … It’s happened to the best of us. I promise!

Unlabeled cans may be an adventure, but for the most part are a serious hassle.  Without cutoff knives to help cut and finish those labels, well… Let’s just say I don’t want to be the the one holding a stencil and utility knife trying to finish thousands of labels an hour.

Come to think of it, I wouldn’t want to sit there cutting sheets of metal into can-shaped pieces, either. Would you?

2. Sheets of Paper

Sheets of paperRemember those rolls of flimsy craft paper we all used for elementary school art projects? Imagine that roll 500 times bigger.

Now imagine your printer tray is empty and that paper is all you have to refill it.

You’re right.  I wouldn’t want to do that, either.

Printer paper, notebooks, sticky memos, you name it.  Without circular knives on our slitter-rewinders and cut-off knives further down the line, neatly cut and ready-to-use paper just wouldn’t happen.

3. Pants

Stack of colorful clothingPants. Everybody needs ’em.  If not pants, maybe skirts.  Or coveralls. Or dresses …You’re getting my point, right?

Much like paper, textiles begin their journey on very large rolls.  It’s tools like circular slitting knives that help cut fabrics down to size: whether they’re headed onto bolts to be sold at a craft store or being sent straight to the factory to become the finished clothes we all need.

Unless, of course, you’d like to volunteer your ninja scissor skills to cutting the world’s textiles down to manageable pieces

… I didn’t think so.

4. Trash Bags

Can floating in waterAs much as we love to push our inner eco-warrior to its limits, the fact remains that a world without trash bags is a world we don’t want to live in. It’s an ugly world with a little more litter than we’d like to imagine.

Even as we continue to reduce waste and take more care with what we do waste, the fact remains that what’s left needs somewhere to go. Or, at least, a better way to contain it on its way to the dump (or preferably, the recycling center).

Whether you buy yours boxed or choose to reuse retail bags, remember to thank a well machined knife for making your trash handling adventure a little more manageable.

Speaking of buying things boxed, probably the most important knife-intensive product we need every day:

5. Consumer Packaged Goods

Boxes around a globeMedicines. Electronics. Food. Nearly everything we need to get by comes to us in some kind of packaging.

Packaging is an amazing thing – it helps us learn about the product it contains. It makes buying anything more convenient. It keeps our product safe from shipping damage & other outside elements.  It helps maintain freshness in foods & sterility in medicines. It comes in millions of shapes, sizes, and materials.

Packaging is also the perfect opportunity for machine knives to shine.  Tray knives, circular blades, cut-off knives – every packaged item you buy was helped along its way to you by the skilled engineering of a high-performance machine knife.

Knives are like everything else: the best of them are the result of years of product development, countless hours of skilled engineering, and the dedicated labor of those who design, test, forge, and finish them.They’re an important piece of the big picture.  An important, shiny, often sharp piece that moves along, cutting our world down into more consumable bits.

So next time you reach into the freezer for a quick lunch, send a birthday card to your mom, or check your aspirin bottle for recommended dosage, remember to thank the knife (and the engineer that designed it) that helped put that product on your market shelf.

Authors Note: I imagine those of you in the machine parts business nodding your heads as you think “well, so are my widgets!” – While I can only truly speak for machine knives, know that I dedicate a little piece of this to you, as well : – )