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A vinyl plotter, also known as a cutter, works much like a standard plotter with one significant difference: it uses a blade instead of a pen. Typically used by graphic designers, these machines make precise cuts in plastic and vinyl media and are an extremely popular, effective tool for making signs, billboards, bumper stickers, and more.
Used for everything from home crafting to commercial graphics, there many different types of vinyl plotters available, with wide variations in price and durability. Professional grade plotters are designed for heavy, near-constant use; therefore, they come with a steeper price tag. Quality and features vary, so do plenty of research before purchasing.
Pros of Vinyl Plotters
If you perform lettering and rely on stencils, hand-cutting, and hand-painting and then make the move to a vinyl plotter, you'll soon wonder how you lived so long without one. These machines are incredibly efficient and accurate. What's more, they create more attractive results.
Your cutter also works well with printers and computers. Technology advances have made them much more affordable. Today, smaller businesses, clubs, schools, churches, and even homes, use vinyl plotters. With a cutter, you can make wall art, exhibits, posters, signs, and more, making them extremely cost effective for graphic design applications.
Points to Consider when Looking for Vinyl Plotter
- Size: This factor influences cost more than any other, so consider your size needs carefully, as options vary widely.
- Speed: Next on the list for affecting cost is speed. What's more, getting the job done more quickly is one of the main reasons people choose vinyl cutters. Consider your production needs to determine your speed needs, since you want a machine that's fast, but you don't need to pay for excessive speed if you only knock out a few jobs each day.
- New or used: You find both new and used models, and each option has its benefits. If warranty and service are important to you, new is the way to go. If you're looking to get the best machine at the lowest price, you might do better with used, especially if it's been refurbished and comes with a guarantee. Newer used models are typically easier to find parts for, so consider how "used" you want to go, as well.
- Features: These also have a significant effect on price, so consider carefully which features you'll actually use. Talk to the people using the machine, too, to get a true picture of what you do and don't need. Your vendor rep should also provide good information about the unit's extra features.
Sample Prices of Vinyl Plotter
Prices vary widely, based on brand, size, speed, extra features, and more. Newer models typically cost more, since they feature the latest technologies. Consider carefully all of the features you need and obtain quotes from multiple vendors to ensure you get the most value for your dollar.
- A used vinyl plotter starts as low as $100, but you're more likely to find models in the $500 to $600 range, depending on the features and age of the unit
- New models start at around $200 with prices going up to around $4,000 for larger, faster machines with plenty of extra features
- The Vinyl Express R series has a cutting speed of 24" per second, with 16" tracking and tension-adjustable pin rollers, at an average price of $300 to $650
- The Vinyl Endura has a cutting speed of 24" per second and 400 grams force, with an LCD control panel and 4 Mb buffer, with prices ranging from $600 to $2,000
- The Vinyl Express Qe6000 with whisper quiet digital servo motor has a cutting speed of 24" per second, up to 300" tracking, and 300 grams force, at a cost range of $1,500 to $3,000
- The Vinyl Q series has a cutting speed of 50" per second, up to 600" tracking, 400 grams of force, and a price range of $2,000 to $4,000