How to Choose a Vinyl Cutter

By Juliet Kalmeta, Training 

Choosing a cutting method for heat transfer vinyl, twill, felt, and other fabrics is not a simple choice, so we are breaking it down to the top things to consider.

  1. Computer compatibility
  2. Type of materials your cutting
  3. Top feature that will expand your transfer offering
  4. Supplier support

1. Computer Compatibility

Not all vinyl cutters work the same on Macs as on a PC, but most major industrial brands are compatible with both.  There can be additional costs to make certain vinyl cutter brands work properly on a Mac system; for example, you may need to purchase Illustrator.  There’s also the computer system version that will determine compatibility, so the decision may be obvious.  As a leader in this industry, we stay on top of compiling this info in our Vinyl Cutter Comparison Chart.  Visit the chart and look under the Operating System section to see which specific programs are required along with the compatible versions.

2. What type of material are you cutting?

A roll-fed vinyl cutter requires the heat transfer material to have a carrier so it can be fed through the cutter as the blade cuts through the material only and not the carrier.  The type of motor will determine the capability to cut vinyl type materials or fabric type materials.  A servo motor is best for cutting fabric when using a blade as a stepper motor will burn out quicker on thicker fabrics.

The potential of a laser cutter is based on the laser tube wattage and you only need a minimum of 20 – 30 watts to cut most heat transfer materials and fabrics.  When using a laser as the cutting method, only cut PVC-Free materials.  If you are cutting fabric, lasers can sometimes singe the edge of lighter colors.

Laser systems always cut on a flat section of the machine and “vinyl cutters” come as roll-fed or flatbed.  The advantage of cutting on a flat, motionless area is that you can cut stacked materials; for layering multiple colors of material to achieve offset cutting.  Roll-fed cutters require you to feed one at a time.  Flatbed cutters limit the nesting area and may require you to cut down rolls of material into sections.  Roll-fed cutters allow you to continuously feed rolled material through for faster production.

3. Top feature to expand your transfer offering

Vinyl Cutters work with vector art.  In this business, you’ll most likely have to work with raster art at one point.  Unless you have a print/cut system, a vinyl cutter with an optical eye feature is the best way to achieve the digital transfer look for the fraction of the cost.  Use Inkjet transfer paper to print and then precisely contour cut around the image.  This process is done with registration points that are printed on the transfer paper so the optical eye sees where to contour cut around the raster image.  Transfer papers come on carriers or not on carriers, so you must make sure you have a transfer paper that can be roll fed through the vinyl cutter.  If you’re using a flatbed cutter with an optical eye, you don’t require paper with a carrier since most flatbeds keep the paper in place with tack sheets or suction.

4. Supplier Support

It’s important to do research when shopping for a piece of equipment that will essentially support your livelihood.  Stahls’ is known for their service and support, so we are very proud of our abilities to help our customers grow and be successful.  Finding information about cutters is easy, but what happens after you make the purchase is what counts.  When shopping around for a vinyl cutter, ask suppliers these questions.

  • What tools do I need to successfully produce vinyl transfers?
  • How will you teach me to cut material properly?
  • If my cutter is not working, how can you help?

We want you to experience all the advantages Stahls’ will offer.  We know what it’s like; we cut the materials we manufacture all day too.  Stahls’ has the products, tools, and support you need to succeed.

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