Category Archives: Vinyl Plotter Reviews

Reviews of popular vinyl plotters for sign making businesses.

Graphtec Vinyl Cutter / Plotter FC8000 Review

Graphtec plotters are considered some of the best in the industry.  They are rugged and have tons of features that can make a sign makers job much easier.  These machines are especially suited for the sign, vinyl graphics and aftermarket auto striping industries.

The FC8000 is a newly designed machine.  It features a 3 inch wide easy to read LCD control Panel and a dual configuration function so that two users can save their custom configurations.  It has an optional Ethernet capability so it can be tied into other computers and machines.  It also features additional push rollers with 3 tension settings and an enhanced registration mark detection system. The FC8000 series features a maximum cutting speed of 58.5 in/sec, 4.0G maximum acceleration, and 20 to 600 grams of selectable cutting pressure. This allows users to cleanly cut diamond grade, high-intensity reflective film, rubber sandblast resist, automotive window & paint protection films, self-adhesive vinyl, and a variety of other media types.

The FC8000 is a very fast machine and can turn out high production when necessary.  It is also very exact and good for detail work.  Each unit includes a standard media roll rack for holding vinyl rolls a floor stand and dual media catch basket for dust-free, continuous long length or repetitive jobs.

If you want the best and foresee needing all the options then a Graphtec is a great choice.  They are not the cheapest machines but they are well priced for the features, speed and performance that you get.  I have a 30″ model and am very happy with it.

Ioline Smartrac I/S 60 85 110 130 Plotter Cutter

Ioline SmarTrac I/S machines are high-performance sign plotters designed to handle heavy workloads and a variety of jobs ranging from vinyl signs to sandblast mask. All machines feature Ioline’s smart track technology for long runs. They employ powerful servo motor and the smart track system ensures accurate tracking and continual trouble free operation. A high-speed processor and 1 megabyte buffer give the SmarTrac the power to blaze through even complex files. The Ioline systems carry one of the longest 100% warranties in the industry and also have lifetime technical support.

The Ioline Smartrac comes in 4 models. The I/S 60 which is a 25″ model and can handle up to 28″ wide material. The I/S 85 which is a 31″ cutter and can handle up to 34″ wide material. The I/S 110 which is a 41″ cutter and can handle 44″ wide material. Lastly, the I/S 130 which is a 49″ cutter and can handle 52″ wide material. All can cut material as narrow as 3″. The machines are simple and do not come with fancy LCD displays. The buttons on the front are functional and easy to understand. All models can cut everything from standard sign vinyl to thick sandblast or glass etching resist up to 35 mils thick.

There’s relatively little to maintain on the SmarTrac.
– Lubrication: There is no oiling or lubrication required. Wipe dust and lint off the machine periodically.
– Blades: Simply use an air gun to remove lint that builds up around the blade.
– Proven performance: Friction-free head tested nonstop for 300,000,000 cycles which is the equivalent of twenty years of normal shop use.
– Maintenance-free design: The actuator is not susceptible to bearing failure and the servo motor is sealed and enclosed. This eliminates the need for periodic adjustment.
– Quality components: The Ioline is Manufactured in United States with 95% of the parts also being U.S. made.

ProCut CR-630 Vinyl Cutter Plotter Review

The Procut CR 630 Vinyl Cutter is a very low cost vinyl cutter with prices starting at $500 for the basic 25 inch model. Machines at this price range are normally made overseas (this model is made in China) making parts and service sometimes a little difficult to find. However, the price is hard to beat. For a starter machine it should suffice. Especially if you are on a tight budget.

Also, this machine is often packaged with a laptop and sign cutting software. I have seen packages as low as $1,250. This comes with a laptop, the cutter and vector software. A tempting deal.

Details on the Procut CR-630 are as follows:

Brand: ProCut
Model: CR630
Max Paper Width: 28.7” (730mm)
Max Cutting Width: 24.6” (625mm)
Max Cutting Speed 400 mm/s
Motherboard: 32-bit ARM7 CPU
Driver: PWM Micro Step Driver
Cutting Force: 0-800 Grams
Mechanism Precision : 0.05mm
Repeatability: <+-0.1mm Command Set: DMPL, HPGL Interface: USB Three Pinch Rollers Power Requirements: 110V AC Will cut up to 30 mil This video from jzgraphics.com is very informative and will give you an idea of how the machine performs.

Roland GX-24 Vinyl Sign Plotter/Cutter Review

The Roland GX series 24 inch cutter is one of the most popular sign plotters in the graphics industry. This has been the case for at least the last decade. There are several reasons for the machines popularity.

First, it is a workhorse machine. Mine has been running for over 10 years now and all I have ever had to do is replace the blade. Shops that need reliability often choose Roland.

Second, it is simple to use. It only takes about 30 minutes for a new sign maker to get up to speed and be making signs with this machine. The controls are up front and easy to understand. Aligning the material is also quick and easy.

Third, the price is very reasonable. The Roland GX-24 is priced at right around $1,700 for the table top model and $2,000 for the cutter and a stand. This price includes basic cutting software. (see our article on sign cutting programs) This price puts the GX-24 well within the reach of most sign businesses. If you already have a computer then all you would need to add is vinyl and some substrates and you are ready to make signs.

Here are some specifications on the Roland Model GX-24

Width: Accepts material from two to 27.5 inches wide
Mechanical Resolution: 0.0005”
Speed: Cutting speeds up to 20 inches per second
Power: Max down force of 250 grams
Optical Registration: Recognizes crop marks produced by a variety of print-only devices and automatically aligns media so that printed graphics can be accurately contour cut.
Materials: Vinyl, paint mask, reflective vinyls, twill, heat transfer, and sandblast
Roland CutStudio™ Software included

Note: Most cutters come with a basic software package that is adequate for cutting letters, numbers and basic graphics.  When you purchase a machine, that would be the best time to upgrade to a more powerful sign cutting program.  The seller will be motivated to give you a better price on the package deal.  We have an article on sign cutting programs in our “Sign Business Startup Articles” section.

Roland Stika Vinyl Sign Plotter / Cutter Review

The Roland Stika is a portable vinyl plotter / cutter designed for the home user or small office. The can be used in a commercial shop but are not designed for high production work. For what they are designed for they are great and very inexpensive.

The STIKA is available in three models. The SV8, SV12 and SV15. The SV-8 accepts 8.5″ wide material and cuts up to 6.2″ wide. The SV-12 accepts 12″ wide material and cuts up to 9.8″ wide. The SV-15 accepts 12″ – 15″ material and will cut up to 13.3 inches wide. All of the Roland Stika sign cutters will handle adhesive vinyl, paint mask, reflective vinyls, twill, heat transfer material, and etching resist.

The STIKA machines, in addition to cutting vinyl and other materials, make an easy-to-use and cost-effective print/cut solution. You can print a design with your desktop printer and along with that design print registration marks. Then you load the printed graphic into the cutter and send the file to the STIKA. The little cutter will contour cut the graphics. It is a great solution for creating colorful POP displays, decals and iron ons.

Here is an informative video on the Sticka from Roland DGA.

The video below is also from Roland DGA and covers making a vinyl decal for a glass window.

Summa Vinyl Cutter / Plotter Summacut Review

Summa Vinyl Cutters are going to be at the top of the line when it comes to plotters. The Summa plotters are going to be comparable to Graphtec machines. This will be a machine that will last you the rest of your life. The company has been in business for over 25 years and will be around to provide parts and service if necessary. The bad news is that like Graphtec machines, Summa machines are very expensive. The cheapest model runs $2,500. The most expensive cutter only model runs $10,500. (64″ machine)

Summa Machines are chosen by professional sign shops because of their speed, precision and reliability. Specs on the basic 30″ model D-75 are as follows:

Cut Type – Drag-knife with TurboCut and Tangential emulation modes
Tool Compatibility – Blade,Pen,Pounce Tool
Cut Width – 30.7-inch maximum
Cut Speed – 44 inches-per-second maximum
Cut-force – 0-400 grams, in 5-gram steps
Standard Accessories –
WinPlot or MacSign cut software
Cutter Control parameter control software
Standard 36 drag-knife blade holder
2 standard 36 degree drag-knife blades
1 fiber-tip pen
USB (serial available)

Specs on the Model D-120 (48″ cutter) are as follows:

Cut Type – Drag-knife with TurboCut and Tangential emulation modes
Tool Compatibility – Blade,Pen,Pounce Tool
Cut Width – 48.4-inch maximum
Cut Speed – 44 inches-per-second maximum
Cut-force – 0-400 grams, in 5-gram steps
Standard Accessories-
WinPlot or MacSign cut software
Cutter Control parameter control software
Standard 36 drag-knife blade holder
2 standard 36 degree drag-knife blades
1 fiber-tip pen
USB (serial available)

Here is a quick promotional video by Summa.

Vinyl Express Q Series Plotter / Cutter

The Vinyl Express Q Series vinyl cutter / plotters are a great value for the money. This brand is carried exclusively by Sign Warehouse and are available in a package or machine only. My sister has one of these machines and is happy with it. It is my understanding that the Vinyl Express Cutters are manufactured by Graphtec. The quality of the Vinyl Express Q series is not quite the quality of a Graphtec but it is good. The models are the Vinyl Express Q24, Q30, Q42, Q54, and Q64.

Specifications:

Cutting Method: Friction-fed, high-speed drag blade with Soft Blade Landing and Tangential blade control mode
Maximum Cutting Speed: 50 inches per second
Maximum Cutting Pressure: Up to 400 grams
Minimum Character Size: 0.125″ high, alpha-numeric characters, varies with type of film and font
Tools Accepted: Super steel and ceramic blades, water-based fibertip, rollerball and ceramic-tip pens, and pouncing tool
Buffer: 2 MB
Media Supply: Integrated Accuload media supply system, optional media racks for tandem holding of up to 4 vinyl rolls.
Support Package: 90 days Premium Support Package (PSP)
Warranty: 2 years, parts and labor
Maximum Cutting Width
Vinyl Express Q24: 24 in.
Vinyl Express Q30: 30 in.
Vinyl Express Q42: 42 in.
Vinyl Express Q54: 54 in.
Vinyl Express Q64: 64 in.
Maximum Media Width
Vinyl Express Q24: 30.3 in.
Vinyl Express Q30: 36.2 in.
Vinyl Express Q42: 48.2 in.
Vinyl Express Q54: 60.2 in.
Vinyl Express Q64: 72.5 in.
Weight (shipping)
Vinyl Express Q24: 103 lbs
Vinyl Express Q30: 113 lbs
Vinyl Express Q42: 132 lbs
Vinyl Express Q54: 149 lbs
Vinyl Express Q160: 164 lbs