Make Your Vinyl Cutter an Old Friend
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Supply 55 BannerPRO, EcoPRO continuous ink supply system, guardian laminators, quickmount


Make Your Vinyl Cutter an Old Friend

Sometimes the oldie but goodie can out-do the best modern technology

By SignIndustry.com Staff

What about a vinyl cutter that exceeded everyone's expectations? Now there's a news flash!

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  • The moral of this news flash is that "modern" doesn't always connote progress and that sometimes the best technology is the kind that's been tested through and through.

    We live in a world that assumes that new-and-different is better. In this case, that is not necessarily true.

    There once was a vinyl cutter that was purchased nearly a decade ago. By and by, it is still going strong. A fellow sign maker in a different neighborhood has a cutter he bought five years ago that is still working like a champ.

    What kind of fairy tale are we living in? Have we been touched by an angel? Should we head to Las Vegas with our extraordinary luck?

    Interestingly, for the most part, most sign workers are very happy with their vinyl cutters. They are the sign makers who carefully shopped for their vinyl cutter.

    For those shops that had cutter problems, the most common problem was electronic. Unfortunately, electronic parts are often the most expensive parts to replace. In some cases, repairs can be so expensive that it can be cheaper for the shop to buy a new cutter rather than repair the electronics.

    As with most equipment, taking care of the basic needs of your vinyl cutter will dramatically improve its life span. Preventative maintenance and loving care are essential no matter what price you paid.

    Vinyl cutters, for example, are very sensitive to dust. So, when your cutter is not in use, put a dust cover over it.

    Vinyl cutters are also sensitive to power surges caused by lightening storms. Invest in a surge protector to guard your vinyl cutter against preventable voltage damage.

    But, even with good care, any old friend and champion cutter will one day cut its last piece of vinyl.

    So, when it gives up the ghost and you're finally in the market for a new vinyl cutter, keep in mind the important qualities that make vinyl cutters reliable and long-lived.

    Be careful, it's a jungle out there when you are shopping for new equipment. It is too easy to get caught up in the new gizmos and bells-and-whistles that cutters can be equipped with these days.

    Certainly, some of these gizmos may be vast improvements over your old cutter that lasted nearly a decade. Design or operation flaws may have been removed. But "new and improved" can be a slippery slope to unnecessary expense and aggravation.

    To help keep your focus as you shop for a new cutter, it might be a good idea to write down a list of the qualities that made your vinyl cutter especially efficient. Know what you want and what your shop needs. A cutter that can do brain surgery might be nice for your cranky customers, but is of little use in your shop.

    RENOLIT Calendered Vinyl - Top performance for various applications

    It might also be a good idea to list what kinds of thing your old vinyl cutter didn't do and what is important that your new vinyl cutter be able to do.

    For example, you might a vinyl cutter that can cut out more intricate designs. In this case, you will probably need a tangential cutter as opposed to a swivel-knife cutter.

    A tangential cutter steers the blade as it cuts while a swivel-knife cutter drags the blade and depends on an offset blade to turn corners. Or you may not want to weed the detailed designs that a tangential cutter is capable of. In this case, a less-expensive swivel-knife cutter will suit your purposes.

    Another choice you will have to make is between a friction-feed cutter and a traction-feed cutter.

    Although the design has improved significantly over the years, fraction-feed cutters have a tendency to skew a piece of vinyl. Some friction-feed cutters even include guiding systems. Fraction-feed cutters, unlike traction-feed cutters, make it much easier for you to use scarp material.

    On the other hand, traction-feed cutters seldom feed incorrectly and are better for cutting small detailed designs. One of the limitations for traction-feed cutters is that they are limited to 15-inch and 30-inch vinyl. Both options are viable ones.

    The key to your choice is your ability to decide which attributes best meet your shop's needs.

    One more option that will increase the cost of a vinyl cutter is how fast the machine is. If you're running a shop with multiple employees, then speed is probably an appropriate attribute. But, if you're running a one-man shop, there are plenty of other things to do while your vinyl is being cut. You may not need to spend any extra money on speed.

    Once you've decided what kind of vinyl cutter you want to purchase, you're going to have to figure out how to pay for it.

    Some manufacturers provide financing programs that could influence your choice of machines. In this case, it is a good idea to do some comparison shopping for your financing as you look at different brands of cutters.

    If you don't think you can afford to purchase a vinyl cutter, you might consider leasing a vinyl cutter. Your accountant will know what kinds of tax breaks are available to you if you lease.

    You hope you will have as good of luck with your vinyl cutter. The hope is that it will become a trusted friend with a long life of service to you and your sign shop.

    Buying a new vinyl cutter is an experience that you do not want to have too many times. Shop carefully. Be rational and calculating. Get what you need. Get what suits your shop's needs.

    There are a great many good vinyl cutters on the market, but there's no need for you to have owned that many of them.

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