What is the Right Cutter For You?

17 10 2011

Whether you are buying a cutter for the first time or buying additional cutters for your company, there are many factors to consider.   The cost, cutting width, maximum force, tracking length, cutting speed, software, additional functions are all factors that you will need to consider.

Some of the factors are obvious such as cutter size, while others such as tracking length and maximum force are not.  So here’s a brief explanation of each one.

Cost
The cost is one of the biggest factors when purchasing a cutter.  However if you purchase the wrong cutter, you may end up paying more than you wanted in order to get the right one.  A great cost effective starting cutter if you are just cutting vinyl is the GCC Expert.  It is basically a stripped down version of the GCC Puma III.  What’s more is that the GCC Expert comes with 3 pinch rollers for better tracking!

Cutting Width
This one may seem obvious because this is the maximum width your cutter can cut.  When buying a cutter, you should always take this into consideration the maximum size you need to cut.  Most T-shirt designs are 8” x 10” in size.  So most users would think an 8” or 10” cutter would suffice, but that may not be the right choice for you.  The reason is that most t-shirt vinyl will come in 15” or 20” wide rolls.  So you will need a cutter that can cut at least 15”.  It is possible to cut vinyl down to 10”, but this method is normally costly and time consuming.  Also you have to consider wastage.  If you cut a 10” wide design on a 15” wide vinyl roll, you will waste 5” of vinyl.   So it may be better to use a 20” vinyl roll so you can do a 2UP design to maximize your vinyl usage.  We recommend buying a vinyl cutter that can cut at least 20” wide rolls such as the Roland GX24, GCC Puma III, GCC Jaguar, or GCC Expert.

Maximum Force
Most cutters will have a maximum force of 250gf or greater.  250gf is normally enough force to cut through most material.  Most cutters are built to cut to their maximum force with no problems.  However it is recommended that you don’t use the cutter at maximum force.  This is because you are pushing the motor to cut at its limit which in some cases may cause it to wear out faster.  It’s like driving a car, if you keep driving the car at 200km/hr, the engine will more likely wear out faster than if you were driving at 100km/hr.  If you plan to cut material that requires 220-250gf, it is recommended you get a cutter with a higher maximum force than 250gf.  The GCC Puma III has a maximum force of 350gf.

Tracking Length
This is the guaranteed maximum length a cutter can cut while still maintaining accuracy of the cut lines.   This is important if you are cutting multiple designs on a roll of vinyl.  Say you have a customer who orders 50 of the same shirt; you would want to cut all 50 logos at once without interruptions.  This is where the tracking length is important.  If you are cutting one or two logos at a time, the tracking length would not be as important.

Cutting Speed
This is how fast the cutter can cut.  Of course the cutter will not be cutting at maximum speed all the time as complicated cut lines will slow the cutter down.  The faster the cutter, the more graphics you can cut.  If you have one person weeding, it won’t matter how fast the cutter is because chances are, the cutter will cut faster than the person weeding the vinyl.  If you have three people weeding, then it might be a good idea to get a fast cutter or to get an additional cutter, as this will increase productivity.

Software
This is what kind of software is included with the cutter.  This includes the driver and any other software that comes with it.   The Roland GX24 comes with Roland CutStudio, while the GCC Puma III, GCC Jaguar and GCC Expert come with GreatCuts software.  If the cutter you choose doesn’t come with software, then you would also have to buy the software which should also be factored into the cost of the cutter.  Some software is a lot more user friendly than other software.  If you are just starting out, you may want to get a cutter that has user-friendly software included.  Roland GX24 is a great cutter that comes with user friendly CutStudio software for the beginner.

Please note that even though some software is easier to use than others, there will be a small learning curve, and you will need to set aside some time to learn and test the cutter before doing any jobs.  We recommend giving yourself a full day to learn and test your cutter.

Additional Functions
These include whether the cutter has an optical eye.  The optical eye allows for precise and accurate print-n-cut functions for full color printable material where the cut lines will need to line up with the printed graphic.  The optical eye function is available in the Roland GX24, GCC Puma III, and GCC Jaguar.

How many pinch rollers does the cutter have.  The more the better, as this allows for better tracking meaning the vinyl will move less when it is being cut.  The GCC Expert & GCC Jaguar has 3 while most standard cutters have 2.

Does the cutter have an Overcut functions?  The Overcut function allows for easier weeding and makes up for incomplete cut lines.  It is necessary if you plan to cut lots of small lettering that are less than 1.5 inches.  But most shirt graphics will be more than 1.5 inches because shirts are meant to be seen from far away.  The GCC Puma and Jaguar cutters have an overcut function.

Other Factors
Other factors you should consider when buying a cutter is your long term and short term goals.  You may be cutting small t-shirt graphics with one color vinyl in the beginning, but you may end up cutting bigger T-shirt graphics with vinyl or printable vinyl(requires optical eye) later.  So it is best to plan ahead.  So when buying a cutter, ask yourself if this is for long term or short term.  Sometimes it is better to plan to upgrade your cutter as your business grows.  If that is the case, you can buy a cheaper cutter (GCC Expert) at first, and then as your business grows buy a new one (GCC Puma III) so that you minimize your start-up costs and risk.  Of course, if you buy an expensive cutter with an optical eye right at the start, you won’t have to upgrade and you will save some money but your start-up costs would be higher.

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