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Anyone here know about vinyl cutters for signs ?

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  • Anyone here know about vinyl cutters for signs ?

    Just wondering if the under $1,000 ones would produce same quality results as the more professional models...allbeit slower and with less helpful software ?

    This would be for occassional light use for machine decals and the occasional office and truck sign.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/24-NEW-VINYL-CUT...QQcmdZViewItem

  • #2
    " We never make any false claims in our listing and misleading you to nowhere..."

    Gene

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    • #3
      Those are nifty machines. Looks like a converted plotter, basically.

      FWIW, a number of people are also using their CNC mills to do this kind of thing. They make a drag knife and leave the spindle off. Here is one such thread:

      http://www.cnczone.com/forums/showthread.php?t=647

      I suppose you could also co-opt a CNC router table to do this kind of work if you have a drag cutter for it.

      I don't know if you have a suitable mill available or would want one or whether this purpose-built cutter is more well suited to your needs, but it is something to think about.

      Best,

      BW
      ---------------------------------------------------

      http://www.cnccookbook.com/index.htm
      Try G-Wizard Machinist's Calculator for free:
      http://www.cnccookbook.com/CCGWizard.html

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      • #4
        Originally posted by BobWarfield
        FWIW, a number of people are also using their CNC mills to do this kind of thing. They make a drag knife and leave the spindle off.
        Seems like using dynamite to kill a fly if thinking in terms of cutting typical sign vinyl....maybe useful for cutting thicker materials such as those used in sand blast etching processes.

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        • #5
          I used a machine like this years ago, but I think it was one of the "fancy" ones. These machines are, as Bob Warfield said, basically converted plotters.

          Personally, I wouldn't bid on that particular item. Why is it a private auction? Also, since you're a bit unsure of the quality of this class of sign-making machines, it would be nice to see one like it in operation, first. You can probably find one online for a similar price, and possibly locate one in operation, or find someone who has one. Perhaps you can follow the thread that Bob mentioned and find someone familiar with the "retail" machines.

          And slightly OT, here... The "hot lick" for installing the resulting vinyl lettering: Before you try to stick the vinyl cutouts to say, a car window or truck door, spray the surface with window cleaner and leave it wet. This will allow you to slide the letters around and get the placement just right without having to fight the glue, sticking and peeling off, etc. When it's where you want it, hold it in place and wipe over it with a squeegee or a dry paper towel - this will drive out the window cleaner. The letters will still be able to move a little bit, but after a short while, the window cleaner will dry up and they'll be stuck just like they should be. I've done this with the "county sticker" in my car for years. It's supposed to be mounted on the inside of the glass, in the middle of the bottom edge of the windshield. The sticker is thin, fragile, has a really aggressive adhesive, and it likes to "jump" to the window due to static or whatever. They're also a big hassle to replace.

          This process can save you a lot of aggravation. Oh, and window cleaner is just alcohol and ammonia - you can probably whip some up and leave out the stupid blue dye.
          The curse of having precise measuring tools is being able to actually see how imperfect everything is.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by D. Thomas
            Seems like using dynamite to kill a fly if thinking in terms of cutting typical sign vinyl....maybe useful for cutting thicker materials such as those used in sand blast etching processes.
            Oh I don't know. I use my mill as a drill press and even a measuring device sometimes - it's the only thing I have that can allow me to measure something longer than 6" (the size of my calipers) to an accuracy of less than a thou... It drills great holes, and it can always put them right where I want them. (Damn, I love that new DRO!!)

            If you already have a CNC machine, the only drawback I can see in using it to cut signs is that it ties up the machine while you're doing it. Aside from that, it seems like it wouldn't be so hard to come up with a drag knife that mounts up in the spindle. The spindle motor doesn't need to run, either.

            Of course, I wouldn't purchase a CNC just for the purpose, but I might claim that as another useful "feature" to justify the expense. YMMV

            -Mark
            The curse of having precise measuring tools is being able to actually see how imperfect everything is.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Wirecutter
              Oh I don't know. I use my mill as a drill press and even a measuring device sometimes - it's the only thing I have that can allow me to measure something longer than 6" (the size of my calipers) to an accuracy of less than a thou... It drills great holes, and it can always put them right where I want them. (Damn, I love that new DRO!!)
              Seems like basic setup holding the vinyl perfectly flat would be a PITA, plus the need for etching software then upload...time consuming compared to dedicated plotter cutter situation.

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              • #8
                Who does your vinyl now?

                Ask them if they have an old machine they want to sell.

                I see them at auctions all the time.

                They are a little more than a converted plotter, but only because the head rotates the cutter blade also.

                Do you really need that much vinyl? I've never actually priced it, my best friend's family owns a sign shop, I generally get what I need for cost.

                Vinyl is not cheap. The blades are not cheap. Weeding takes patience, as does placement. 1,000 seems like a lot for someone who is only going to make a few signs a year.

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                • #9
                  cost justification

                  Well, now....If we have to just the money we spend on our machines, this would be a pretty lonely forum!

                  Sometimes we just like the ability to be able to do things for ourselves, on our time.
                  For example, I have about $1000 invested in a tire changer and electronic balancer. I use them about 3 times a year on the tires on my race cars - a job that would cost me about $70 to have done at a tire shop. But I can do it on my own time, I don't have to load up the tires, drop them off, watch them to make sure they do it right, load them up and haul them back.
                  Economically, I'd be better off hiring it done, but that's not everything.

                  And yes, I'd also like to have a vinyl cutting system
                  Last edited by Rex; 06-14-2006, 02:46 PM.

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                  • #10
                    The advantage of having it yourself is that you would be able to mess up
                    your own stuff and start again till its right, rather than have the sign maker screw it up,call ,complain ,return ,start mark 2 screw it up call complain return.
                    Everytime i have anydealings with vinyl and sign makers its a screw up
                    causing a lot and back and forth.
                    And then there is the point when you have it all ready and you stick it in the wrong place-start again.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by snowman
                      Who does your vinyl now?

                      Do you really need that much vinyl? I've never actually priced it, my best friend's family owns a sign shop, I generally get what I need for cost.

                      Vinyl is not cheap. The blades are not cheap. Weeding takes patience, as does placement. 1,000 seems like a lot for someone who is only going to make a few signs a year.
                      It would certainly be more cost effective to just sub out this sort of thing, but I encounter many situations where a bit of "experimentation" is in order to get it right...trying to avoid multiple trips to the sign guys. Also encounter situations where I need it "right now" and I'm 30 miles away from the nearest sign shop.

                      (on edit) I now see thistle knows where I'm coming from on this !
                      Last edited by Milacron of PM; 06-14-2006, 02:50 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by D. Thomas
                        Seems like basic setup holding the vinyl perfectly flat would be a PITA, plus the need for etching software then upload...time consuming compared to dedicated plotter cutter situation.
                        Well, yeah, I suppose that's true. If I were to do this, I'd make a "bed" for the vinyl out of some nice hardwood, and that'd be what I'd fasten to the mill table.

                        The hard part would probably be the software. There are plenty of ways to go from computer screen to G-codes. With a "drag knife", you'd need some kind of compensation in the software to account for the knife "lagging behind" the spindle center. Otherwise, you'd have errors whenever you change direction.

                        The other approach would be to rotate the knife. Every time you make a direction change, you have to remember to point the knife in the right direction. Yeah, that's the easier way to go.

                        Ok, it would probably be easier to convert a plotter.
                        The curse of having precise measuring tools is being able to actually see how imperfect everything is.

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                        • #13
                          Some plotters do vinyl.

                          instead of the pen a blade is substituted ..........the blade is on a swivel ...that works a bit like a weather vanes . but instead of always pointing with the wind ..this thing points with the direction of cut..what ever direction the plotter heads off on, the pivot swings around under its own steam so the cutting edge always faces forward.

                          so look out for a big plotter ....it may be far cheaper .

                          all the best...mark

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                          • #14
                            Re converted plotters.....I knew a fellow back in the mid 1980's near High Point, NC who supposedly invented the first rotating knife as a replacement for the pens in plotters. Back then when the only alternative were the $12,000 and up Gerber machines, this was a big deal and he was selling these things with design/draw software packages like hot cakes. Dunno what ever happened to the guy or his business.

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                            • #15
                              Hi D,

                              I have an older Roland Camm-1 plotter and use the SignGo lite software. I got mine in trade from a buddy for some programming for his website. The SignGo lite software is around $100 and works pretty well. I use it just as a driver for the cutter and use Illustrator to do the artwork.

                              I am looking at upgrading to their newer Camm-1 Servo GX-24 which runs $1,995. It's quite a bit but doesn't compare to the $18,000 engraving laser I use.

                              One of the things about an actual cutter compared to a converted cutter is that it's designed to keep the vinyl straight for 30' to 60' lengths. You also have a floating cutter with an adjustable downforce setting which let's you tune it for different types of vinyls. On tangential cutters the blade is mechanically rotated to keep it in line witht he cut. This lets you make true 90 corners that are slightly radiused in a drag cutter.

                              Vinyl itself is cheap (per in) but gets costly in the rolls. The cheap, cheap stuff will run $11-$15 for a 15" width and 10 yards. The expensive stuff runs $34-$280 for the same thing. It's better to install vinyl dry whenever possible and you have the skill to lay it without bubbles. Liquids like Windex and such will leave a slight film which reduces the lifespan of the installation. I use an installers spray when needed which is designed to work with the adhesive, but when you have a large area of solid vinyl, it's a bitch getting the liquid squeeged out from under it.

                              Sometimes you'll see equipment like that one auctioned as a loss leader to get you to their company where they hope to make up the cost in vinyl. It'll probably work - but I doubt it'd stand up for long in a commercial shop before wearing out something.

                              Kevin

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