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View Full Version : Plotters, Cutter and Ink Jet



Brian Robison
08-21-2007, 3:40 PM
Any one have any opinions they would like to share?
Is it a mistake to get a small vinyl cutter?
What brands are the best for parts and service?

Joe Pelonio
08-21-2007, 6:00 PM
When I started in 1993 I had a 15" plotter for vinyl cutting. After a year or so I upgraded to 24". Currently I have two 24" and one 30". It really depends on what kind of work you do. In my case a lot of signs I do are big enough that I always use at least 24" vinyl. For the small stuff I save scraps that I can use because I have friction feed. People that use 54" plotters typically are doing a lot of billboard type signs and vehcile wraps. With the 30" it's only one seam so to me not worth the extra money and space.

Pretty much the same applies to large format printers, though the seams are harder to match up and more obvious if you have a smaller one and do a big job. I have stayed away from printing. I have a good relationship with a company that does just printing with 60", and trade work. I do vinyl and laser for them, they print for me.

For plotters I have found the best for heavy duty, 8 hours a day work to be the Graphtec. For the money, for someone starting out, and in my case for a backup, the Copam from U.S. Cutter is a real bargain. I had bad luck with Ioline a few years ago, and Gerber is expensive but good until it breaks down, then the parts and service are really expensive.

Brian Robison
08-22-2007, 1:49 PM
I just might look at the US Cutter Copam.
Is 24" the best size to start out with? I could see
where getting one too big is a mistake and one too
small a mistake.

Joe Pelonio
08-22-2007, 3:22 PM
Yes, I'd do the 24". Another member recently bought that model and maybe he'll chime in.

If you get larger letters, say 30", you just cut them in pieces and overlap slightly when applying the vinyl. A 24" plotter allows you to cut up to about 22.5" and rarely do you need anything larger.

Brian Robison
08-22-2007, 3:52 PM
Thanks Joe, that's useful advice. I didn't want to go to big or too small if I buy one.

Brian Robison
08-22-2007, 4:14 PM
Joe, it looks like US Cutter has several models. I'm looking on e bay and I can't tell what the one I'm looking at is. I'll get on their website.
The Graphtec seems to be reasonably priced.

Joe Pelonio
08-22-2007, 4:36 PM
The Copam I have here is the CP-2500, I think it's under $700.

Graphtec has an entry level machine for about $1,800, but their better one is
more like $2,500 (my FC-5100 30" was $3,500).

Mike Ross
08-23-2007, 12:54 PM
I have had my Copam 2500 for 6 months and really like it. The software (SigncutX-2) bundled with it is also very easy to learn and use. Exports from Coreldraw perfectly. Was up and running in 2 hours and I had never seen a cutter work before that. Paid for itself with the first job.

Mike Ross

Scott Shepherd
08-25-2007, 8:04 AM
Yes, I have the Copam as well. Works like a champ for the most part. One thing Chinese machines haven't worked out well yet, in my opinion, is the communication ports. There is no USB, but rather a USB adapter, which I can't get to work and their tech support can't get to work for me either. So I'm forced to use a Parallel cable, but that's fine. However, it comes with a 6ft cable and I can't locate my machine 6ft from my computer. Bought a longer cable, high quality cable, and it only works 50% of the time. When it doesn't work, I have to roll the machine next to my computer and put the short cable on and then it works.

I had one small problem, they corrected it immediately, and I had to open the cover up. Open one up and you'll instantly go red in the face trying to understand how anyone would have the nerve to charge $3000 for one of these. There's just nothing to it. I think I paid $650 for my Copam.

I am happy with the Copam and if I had a big job, I'd buy another one without thinking about it. It's paid for itself many times over now and I've only owned it for several months.

AL Ursich
08-28-2007, 4:04 PM
I am in the market for a cutter and have been doing my research. Was looking at a CE 5000-60 24 inch but talking to a salesman today we talked about my interest to do sand blasting masks and that was where the 5000 couldn't do the thicker stuff and I leaned toward the 7000.

Was sniffing around eBay. What model Copam would do the 25 or 35 mil sand blast material? Back to studying.

Thanks,

AL

I will use Corel 12.

Joe Pelonio
08-28-2007, 5:23 PM
That's mostly a function of the maximum cutting force. On Graphtec's entry level 5000 series machines it's only 300 grams, on the 7000 it's 600g. The Copam 2500 goes up to 500g which should handle as much as 45mil stencil.

Are you planning to do large sandblast masks? With 3 plotters and a laser I find it's often easier with large jobs to plot the design on paper, apply to the mask on the substrate and hand cut. (Make sure the plotter can handle a pen, all of these do)

With very small copy none of my plotters will do as well as a laser for cutting stencil. Any text below about 1/2" I use the laser.

AL Ursich
08-31-2007, 5:09 PM
I was leaning back to the 5000 series but the mask issue brought me back to the 7000 MK2 in a 24 inch for $2395 on special.

Never thought about printing on paper and hand cutting them.... That's interesting... I have a 30 and 20 watt laser. They don't get much use yet.

Thanks for the input.

AL

AL Ursich
08-31-2007, 8:33 PM
Looks like the Copam 2500 is the top runner in my list.

Missed the call back from US Cutter on the West Coast.... Glad I did NOT commit to a order today for the 7000.

I am planning to do a bunch of reflective vinyl and I am guessing it is no problem. What about the prism quality reflective? Don't plan to use that but just asking.

We have a inactive blue stone quarry on the property and I thought of sand blasting scraps for house numbers and tourist products in the future.

Thanks,

AL

Scott Shepherd
08-31-2007, 9:25 PM
Just got another a job which is really 3 jobs (3 different projects). Each project will pay for the cutter by itself.

I've read a lot of forums where people buy expensive plotters and bad mouth Chinese plotters. Maybe one day I'll understand the importance of a over priced name brand unit. Until that day, I'll just keep doing work and making money with my cheap Chinese plotter.

I wouldn't dream of buying a Chinese laser, but I'll take the plotter every day of the week.

AL Ursich
08-31-2007, 9:47 PM
I have 2 older Epilog units and read with an eye to caution about the Chinese Lasers too. Yet I have 2 Sears Compucarve units, Made in China and couldn't me happier. One has been humming all day making carved Bears out of 1 x 12 #2 pine scraps.... Tourist goodies...

Will order the 2500 on Tuesday. Glad I waited.

AL

Scott Shepherd
09-01-2007, 8:26 AM
One way I phrase it is that if you are not mechanically inclined or somewhat good at tinkering with computers, then you shouldn't get a Chinese product.

All you have to do is read the posts by people who have bought them and they are mostly all based around the same thing. Setting up the machine and getting it to run the first time. The Chinese dealers do a horrible job at writing manuals that are even remotely close to being helpful.

I had never used a plotter, so I thought it would be a step by step in the manual, but that didn't really exist. You'll almost certainly have to struggle with getting the computer to communicate with the machine, and then you'll have some figuring out to do on how it's all supposed to work. Things like setting the blade (kind of important) and how it all works together, and using scrap pieces would all be helpful information.

But, that's the price you pay. I personally knew that issue up front, so it wasn't near as frustration to me as if I had bought it thinking it would be a plug and play operation.

I'm a newbie with all of this, but if you get it and have any issues, I'll be more than happy to help if I can. Just ask here or send me a PM (or call me if you need to).

Joe Pelonio
09-01-2007, 11:34 AM
This particular plotter (Copam) has support based in Redmond, WA, even have a user forum for more help and tips. I would not want to have to turn to the people in China for support as you might have to if you import any kind of machine directly.

AL Ursich
09-01-2007, 12:35 PM
I am not shy about the hands on maintenance required. I fixed weapons systems, computers and radars in my Navy career. Then Sony making picture tubes fixing factory automation with lots of classes on everything from basic DC to Fanuc Robot programming. Then off to the Sony Service Center for 4 years fixing everything from DVD's to Play Stations.

So digging into my Sears Carve Machine was second nature with a power supply, Z encoder and bearing problem.

AL

Scott Shepherd
09-02-2007, 10:29 AM
Yes, the support in WA is quite good and they have always resolved any questions I had. I've had nothing but pleasant dealings with them.

Al, with your background, you should be just fine.

Craig Hogarth
09-04-2007, 1:40 AM
I purchased a 24" US cutter through ebay from the guy in Redmond. Shipping was immediate and the customer support has been superb. I couldn't ask more from a seller.

That being said, the cutter absolutely sucks, although it could just be my particular one. The vinyl has a tendency to slip offsetting words sometimes to the point that it's rendered useless. It helps having two people work it. I stand in front to watch the cutting, my wife in the back guiding the vinyl. If we keep the weight of the vinyl off the cutter, shifting is minimized. Doing shading or letter borders is not possible since the registration marks are always off and the letters rarely match.

I'm working on windows tonight and one section I've cut was 60x18. It has two rows of text, the top row coming out right, the second has letters all over the place. Keep in mind, this was the best of 3 attempts. Once we weeded it out, we decided to hang it as it actually looks like it's supposed to be that way. ;)

The cutter only works with Signcut X2 and it came with a one year subscription, but stupid me lost the paperwork, so I've been buying short term subscriptions when needed.

But overall, it was worth it for my needs. I did a few paying jobs, but gave up on those now. I paid $350 for the cutter and $400 for a vinyl starter kit. I've made almost $200 in jobs, but have also made 3 banners, car lettering, and store signage including windows for my business. I figure this is well over $2k worth of work, so I'm happy, but often frustrated.

If you're looking for income, go with something else. If it's for your personal use and you have time, it's not a bad deal.

Scott Shepherd
09-04-2007, 8:24 AM
That's just the opposite of the experience I have with that cutter Craig. Sounds like a bad cutter. Have you tried to get it swapped out for a new one, or sending it back to be looked at?

I cut a bunch of stuff that was about 50" long not too long ago. Worked perfectly. Yesterday I was cutting small text, again, no issues at all. Sounds like a roller issue where it's not feeding correctly.

They should fix it.

Joe Pelonio
09-04-2007, 8:40 AM
Craig,

Was that a Copam or one of their less expensive plotters? The other ones are definitely hobbyist tools but still shouldn't do that. There's definitely something's wrong if any plotter won't track straight for you. Could be something simple like the pinch rollers not in the correct spot. Also, even with my expensive graphtec it will be thrown off by pulling the weight of a full 50 yard roll of vinyl, it helps to unroll 4-6' so it's sitting loose behind the plotter.

Craig Hogarth
09-04-2007, 11:42 PM
Craig,

Was that a Copam or one of their less expensive plotters?

I'm not sure which it was, but I'm guessing it's not the Copam. On the cutting software, I use the Refine M7(something or other). I would definately classify it as a toy and not a reliable source of income, but still, it was worth what I paid for it.

Plus, it really made me happy that I splurged on a US engraver instead of the chinese import I was originally looking at. :D

Scott Shepherd
09-05-2007, 7:58 AM
Ahhh, the Refine. It's had less than glowing reviews on that model. I had to laugh when I read the description on the Copam as part of the selling point was that it used all new parts, unlike the Refine. Huh? Used parts? Apparently they used a lot of reclaimed parts from somewhere to make them.

If you look at the uscutter forum, there's very little activity on the Copam section (mostly all to do with USB communication), but the Refine section is very active and people are always having problems.

Stay away from the Refine model.

Craig Hogarth
09-05-2007, 9:14 AM
Scott, you may be right on the used parts thing. The usb plug looks like it was an afterthought and the hole appears to have been cut out by a utility knife.

Lisa Koselak
02-01-2008, 12:26 AM
I sandblast in flagstone raw granite and quartz so I need to use soft pliable thick rubber without a Mylar backing (Anchor 125-36ml.)
I used to have the Graphtec FC7000-75 30Ē Cutter before my extook off with it. With funds being limited I opted for the Copam 2500. I spoke with their technician Ken in WA , nice guy. I told him what I needed this machine to do for me. I need characters to be accurate at 3/8Ē and as tall as 20Ē. And handle graphic designs that stretch out to 24-48Ē without slipping and loosing track.
Well I received the Copam 2500 a couple weeks ago. Out of the box I had major problems linking it in with my current design software (Vinyl Master Pro or SignLab cad). After days of being on the phone with Australia and Washington the plotter finally understood what my computer was telling it to do.
Then the nightmare began when I actually started cutting rubber with it. Anything smaller than 1Ē is distorted. And an 18Ēw. fine lined outline graphic of a Golden retriever was totally out of alignment, (Both of course being jobs that I had counted on not having to cut by hand.) Iíve tried everything to make this thing cut right. The pen and paper test comes out great but the blade on 36ml sucks. Yes I unroll a few extra feet of rubber off the roll before I cut, yes Iíve tried using a sheet instead of a roll, and yes about the roller adjustment, etc
Iíve been leaving messages and sending email pleas to Ken the Ďniceí guy in WA for the past 5 days practically begging him to call me back and help me out with this messÖ to no avail. My 30 trial is almost up and if I canít get help getting this thing working properly Iím going to have to send it back. Can anyone out there help me get this cheap Chineese plotter on track?

Joe Pelonio
02-01-2008, 8:11 AM
One of my plotters is a Graphtec FC5100-75 and I have done a lot of sandblast stencil on it. There are some tricks to it that I learned after having similar problems with it and other plotters I have had before it.

If there is a powder coating on the rubber, that gets onto the back of the release liner. I wipe it down with alcohol before running so that the rollers grip better. Then slow down the speed to a crawl. Most important is to change to a 60 degree blade.

For very small (3/8") letters I will use a cut sheet, and apply transfer tape to the back, it gets much better traction than the clear hard backing when moving around so quickly.

Lisa Koselak
02-01-2008, 9:40 AM
Iíll try the alcohol trick. Slowing it down before didnít seem to help. And yes Iím using a 60 degree blade. I donít have a clear hard backing (mylar?) on my rubber because it needs to be able to stretch and be pliable to the rough stones I carve on. Instead it is a very thin piece of orange vinyl or some other kind of material, not sure.
I just donít think this cheap cutter can cut it so to speak. Iím looking at the FC7000Mk2-60 even though I canít afford it right now.

Ray Uebner
12-19-2008, 7:17 PM
Well I just got a phone call of someone that wants to sell their master xy300p with computer and vinyl supplies and software. They want $520.00 for everything. I have never done vinyl cutting before and thought it might add to the shop. Was wondering if anyone had any input as to if this is a good deal or not. I have seen them as high as $1000.00 but no computer or supplies. What input do you have for me that would help. Thanks in advance.
Ray

Joe Pelonio
12-19-2008, 9:57 PM
What size?

You need to find out what kind of use it's had. If it's "low mileage" then it might be a good deal. I have seen the 28" with software, vinyl and transfer tape as a package new for $900.

The problem with any used plotter that's had hard use is the cutting head will wear, and may cost more than it's worth to replace. At the least I'd make him demo cutting small letters, say times new roman .5". If the serifs remain flat and they weed easily then the head is still OK.