Choosing a Vinyl Cutter / Plotter

One machine every sign shop needs is a vinyl cutter or plotter.  These machines are controlled by a computer which we will discuss in a separate article.  A vinyl cutter utilizes a very sharp blade to cut into a sheet of vinyl and form letters, numbers, shapes, etc..  These cuts are made to where the vinyl is cut all the way through but the paper backing is left intact.  Precise pressure makes this possible.  Once the vinyl has been cut the sign maker can peel out what they don’t want through a process called weeding, then transfer tape the rest and apply it to a substrate thus making a sign.  Good quality machines do this well.  Cheap machines do not.  You may save a few dollars on a cheaper machine but you will give it back in extra time spent correcting bad cuts.

In looking for the correct vinyl cutter for your sign shop you need to take a few things into consideration:

First, how large will your average sign be?    The size of your average  jobs will dictate the width machine that you need.  If most of your jobs are going to be banners and basic signs then you may not need to spend the extra money for a wide machine.

Second, what types of materials will you be cutting?  Reflectives, foil based, sand blasting resist, stencils, etc..?  Some machines have more pressure capability than others.  Also, some utilize tangential emulation which creates cleaner corners for thick material. For example, if you were going to make sand blasted signs your would need machine like the one pictured on this page.  It has tangential emulation and a lot of pressure when needed.  These two things are important when cutting thick material like resist.   Make sure you purchase a machine that will perform clean cuts on all the types of material you will be using.

Third, how skilled will the operator be?  Some machines are easy to use and have only a few settings.  (example – Roland)  Some machines have many options and are more complicated. (example – Graphtec)  There are advantages to both but one disadvantage is that a complicated machine makes training an operator more important.  If you do not need all the features then a simple but rugged machine may be the best option. The machine pictured on this page is a 30″ Graphtec.  It has a lot of options and I am always having to find the manual.  My smaller Roland 24″ is simple and my son learned to cut with it after about 30 minutes of basic training.

Lastly, what is your budget?   Your machine has to be rugged and capable.  There are a lot of machines that fit this description.  Figure out what your budget is and make a list of all the qualifying machines.  Then look at the features of each and make a decision.  A 24″ machine with a lot of features may suit you better than a 30″ basic machine.  Get what is best for you and your budget.

We have vinyl cutter/plotter reviews in our “Vinyl Plotter Reviews” category.  CLICK HERE.