Cutting Corners with a Tangential Oscillating Knife

by | Nov 6, 2020 | Diversified Machine Systems, Freedom

Scissors cutting corners off a page

At Diversified Machine Systems (DMS), we’re all about cutting corners. But before you quote us on that, let’s be clear—we’re talking about literal corners here.

With a CNC machine, the kinds of cuts you make are as diverse as the projects you take on. Unique tasks require unique applications. That’s why DMS recommends our tangential oscillating knife for your trickier cuts.

Why Not Just Use a Drag Knife?

Of course, a drag knife is the bread-and-butter option for cutting a pattern. With a drag knife, your CNC machine pulls the blade along an X-Y axis, dragging through soft materials like vinyl or cardboard with little difficulty. This is a cheap option that works for many products, but it also has its disadvantages.

With certain materials, drag knives are prone to distortions or fraying. Because the CNC uses a lateral pulling motion, a drag knife cannot cut as quickly or neatly as other applications. When it cuts a corner, a drag knife executes multiple moves by lifting and resetting, rather than turning cleanly around a 90-degree angle. This wastes material and costs unnecessary time. For these reasons, a drag knife isn’t the right tool for every project.

The Benefits of a Tangential Oscillating Knife

DMS recommends a tangential oscillating knife for more robust uses. A tangential knife actively positions itself, moving in sync with the CNC to make sure that the knife’s direction has a full range of motion. It also forces a proper geometry and gives the machine better functionality. This gives you complete directional control and allows you to cut sharp, square corners with less wasted resources, effort, and time. You get clean and accurate lines.

To meet a customer’s needs, DMS can turn a 3-axis CNC into a 4-axis CNC with a C axis. This gives the user a lot more options. A C axis can work in conjunction with aggregates to position along a variety of angles, pairing with a CNC to open up a number of possibilities.

By incorporating an oscillating application, a knife can cut denser, more robust materials with greater ease and efficiency. While a drag knife creates friction along a material, especially if the blade is not perfectly sharp or aligned, oscillation alleviates this friction coefficient by cutting with a vertical motion. A tangential oscillating knife doesn’t only rely only on the sharpness of the blade. Rather, the oscillation allows the blade to actively cut through the material—all while benefiting from the tangential knife technology.

Ideal for Many Materials

A tangential oscillating knife is ideal for many materials, from foam to rubber, textiles to fibreboard. It can also be applied to advanced materials like aluminum honeycomb, a fairly difficult material that a traditional CNC might struggle to give a finished cut.

A tangential oscillating knife from Diversified Machine Systems expands your capacity to make better parts with a range of materials. That’s the kind of creative freedom we always strive to give our clients. It’s the freedom to cut corners—and every other shape you can imagine—with confidence.

If you would like to discuss adding a tangential knife to your DMS CNC, or have any other application questions, please contact our team of experts at or

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