Phil Neale, director of Graphtec GB, explains how to get the best out of your cutting plotter
In its most basic form, a digital cutting plotter is a computer-driven device that is capable of cutting thin, coated heat transfer and self-adhesive vinyl – the primary materials used in the printwear sector. In default mode ‘straight out of the box’, most cutting plotters are already set up to process these materials. However, the default settings are unlikely to work if you’re attempting to cut thicker flock materials, with the cut images – particularly those involving intricate corner details or circles – becoming distorted. It is important, therefore, to have a system that will detect precisely the registration marks on the printed image and automatically compensate for any distortions or other imperfections.
Typically, the Graphtec CE6000 or the latest smaller format Graphtec CE Lite- 50 cutting plotters meet this requirement perfectly, with their ability to ensure perfectly cut printed images at all times, regardless of the thickness or complexity of the materials used. There are several factors to consider when choosing the most appropriate cutting plotter for your business’s needs. Apart from machine reliability and price/performance, it’s important to always deal with a supplier that has total confidence in the chosen cutting plotter, and can offer both comprehensive on-site performance warranties and a fast response capability on parts and general maintenance requirements (in order to minimise expensive machine downtime).
Don’t automatically assume that high quality implies a correspondingly high cost. Even the most technically advanced cutting plotters are now available at a remarkably low cost in comparison with other production equipment. For example, Graphtec GB can supply cutting plotters with prices starting at around £300. Furthermore, with the addition only of a relatively inexpensive heat press and desktop printer, an integrated print-and-cut solution can be created that will meet the requirements of any small start-up company without the need for a huge upfront investment.
The cutting head on the Graphtec CE Lite-50 cutting plotter
Again, by comparison with other production equipment, a cutting plotter is also extremely easy to understand, operate and maintain, with all of the technology housed within the machine itself. One area that may require a degree of expertise is in mastering the supporting software. This, however, has been simplified by Graphtec’s own brand Studio Pro, Studio Plus and the optional Cutting Master 4 software programs, which are supplied as standard with each cutting plotter. These programs are based on the popular FlexiSign software developed by global specialist SAI, for which Graphtec GB is a preferred business partner and distributor, and they are capable of integration with other popular industry software solutions, such as CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator.
Maintaining cutting plotters is simplicity itself: keep the machine clean and free of dust and other pollutants; and ensure that the cutting blades are always set to the correct depth for the material being processed, and replace them regularly to prevent dulling of the cutting edge (replacement blades can cost as little as £15). Follow these guidelines and your cutting plotter is likely to perform continuously without any major problem for many years.