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Thread: Vinyl Cutters

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    WV
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    Vinyl Cutters

    We have a customer that we have been CNC'ing a lot of parts for that is now asking about having vinyl masking cut as part of a larger order that would include shop made/assembled parts that would be packaged with a roll of vinyl mask (the mask would have to be cut through the mask leaving the backer, mask to be weeded by the end user). To date the bit of mask cutting we have been doing is with a drag knife on the CNC because its rare and when we need to its usually a larger cutout. Im thinking of jumping off on an 18" or 24" plotter type cutter but honestly am in no-mans-land with regards to the whole thing and the internet is a boggy swamp for research by the looks.

    Anyone care to give me some input on options that will see some use for a period and then may sit for a while. I dont have any desire to bring in a machine that will fight me from day one but I also dont need a machine thats going to cut a mile of material every day.

    Thanks
    Sometimes I just want to look at pretty pictures,... Thats when I go to the Turners Forum

  2. #2
    Roland's stuff when I last used it was quite good and very reliable. Software was a bit primitive (I'd work around its limitations by making custom fonts), but was easy and reliable for the basics (and is probably much better now).

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    WV
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    So to expand on my naivety.. This means you can not use any font or are these machines vector based? For instance we are running odd text/font regularly through VcarvePro on the CNC.. are we going to be looking at learning a new software? I had somewhat romantically hoped this would be nothing more than a glorified office printer trading ink cartridges for cutters (not that it would be that simple with regards to connecting fonts/script/etc).

    We are investigating sub'ing this work out and having it shipped in where we would bundle it with our work however given the fact that each bundle would have a different, and specific, font and name specific wording, it seemed like it would be best to keep it in-house.
    Sometimes I just want to look at pretty pictures,... Thats when I go to the Turners Forum

  4. #4
    There used to be (probably still is) a place called US Cutter in Washington State. They imported the cheaper Chinese machines. We started with one of those on a recommendation on this forum. It was $600. It paid for itself on the first job. After a short while, we upgraded to a Japanese made machine (Graphtec), which was about $1500-1800 if I remember correctly. That machine was light years faster than the Chinese machine.

    You do need vector files for the most part. For the Chinese, there was some 3rd party software that worked. X-Cut or something like that. It was easy to use and worked well. For the Graphtec, I think it used something called Cutting Master. They also used plug ins for various programs so you could cut directly from design software.

    I would think the Chinese machine would work at the low end and for the higher end, a Graphtec CE line plotter (different sizes available). We have a Summa and that thing is bulletproof and expensive. No need for that.
    Lasers : Trotec Speedy 300 75W, Trotec Speedy 300 80W, Galvo Fiber Laser 20W
    Printers : Mimaki UJF-6042 UV Flatbed Printer , HP Designjet L26500 61" Wide Format Latex Printer, Summa S140-T 48" Vinyl Plotter
    Router : ShopBot 48" x 96" CNC Router Rotary Engravers : (2) Xenetech XOT 16 x 25 Rotary Engravers

    Real name Steve but that name was taken on the forum. Used Middle name. Call me Steve or Scott, doesn't matter.

  5. #5
    There are different ways to control the machines --- I was working with them a very long while ago --- options include printer drivers which allow you to use pretty much any font, or front-ends which may be limited in their capabilities (I was working around character set limitations which may not be valid now that Unicode is more prevalent). There are commercial programs for controlling the vinyl cutter which can do pretty much anything.

  6. #6
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    Scott, US Cutter is still in business and has a "healthy email marketing program", too. LOL They seem to cater to the smaller operator in my observation, but do have some larger machines. Local sign industry suppliers often have the bigger machines, too.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  7. #7
    Join Date
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    Location
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    US cutter is all over the place, especially Ebay,.. I had looked into these a long while back and from all the research it seemed like the software, and long tracking (8' or longer) were the achilles heel of the budget machines. Im sure life span is a close third. There is no way we could swing a $1K+ machine as we would likely be printing a day or two a month and there may well be months where it sits under a dust cover. The hard part is, I have contacted several larger shops around about cutting these and their cost per sheet for a 24x36 even if we supply a vector file (still will require a little editing Im sure) wont work out but 30 sheet orders arent anything that would command volume pricing.

    At the moment we are thinking of giving one of the mid-range 30"-34" machines a go. The money isnt horrible. I'd rather find someone local to run them and just pick them up and bundle them with our work but that doesnt look to be an option.
    Sometimes I just want to look at pretty pictures,... Thats when I go to the Turners Forum

  8. #8
    Mark, that's how we got started in vinyl. We tried subbing it out. We only had 1 or 2 small things a month. I found a local sign company, they had a $25 minimum and we took a couple things to them. No matter what, it was $25. Didn't matter if I gave them the file, provided the material or anything else. $25. After 4 trips, spending $100 to get 3 numbers that were about 3" long by 1 1/2" tall, I started looking into it. We bought one. I'd never seen one before, never used one before, didn't even fully understand how they worked.

    Shortly after getting it, we started getting inquiries for vinyl work and now we were able to quote it directly. Then we got 1 job that was several thousand dollars in total which more than paid for the machine. We used that machine for a year or more, I guess, and it produced so much money, we thought "Well, if this cheap Chinese machine makes us this much money, I bet a higher quality, faster machine will make us even more", so we did that

    Now we're into the tangential cutting knife and cutting thick rubber masks for sandblasting, as well as printing and cutting custom shaped decals with the eye on it that picks up the registration marks.

    They can make you some good money.
    Lasers : Trotec Speedy 300 75W, Trotec Speedy 300 80W, Galvo Fiber Laser 20W
    Printers : Mimaki UJF-6042 UV Flatbed Printer , HP Designjet L26500 61" Wide Format Latex Printer, Summa S140-T 48" Vinyl Plotter
    Router : ShopBot 48" x 96" CNC Router Rotary Engravers : (2) Xenetech XOT 16 x 25 Rotary Engravers

    Real name Steve but that name was taken on the forum. Used Middle name. Call me Steve or Scott, doesn't matter.

  9. #9
    I bought a new Roland Camm-1 a couple of years back. It's just set up like a printer.... I can cut directly from CorelDraw.. I'm stupid with computers, so had my computer guru set it up.
    Way back when Gerber came out with the 4B, you had to buy fonts for the plotter. No more .... not since the 80's anyway.
    Since most signshops "print & cut", our choices for plotters have diminished. There are Chinese brands, Roland, Graphtec, & Summa.

  10. #10
    We have 3 Rolands and a Mimaki plotter. A polite suggestion is to avoid the Chinese or P-cut models, or anything named after an animal or a bird.
    The Mimaki is terrific, but I'd say the Rolands are a mite easier to learn, if you're starting out. They are also made to last about forever.
    The three we use are all about 1992 vintage, and still going strong.
    Best wishes,
    Ian



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