Discover how digital cutting systems work and how various models differ.
By Lori Leaman
In the race to stay one step ahead of the competition, many screen printers find themselves searching for unique products to add to their mix or ways to improve their turnaround time and service in order to gain an edge in an increasingly competitive marketplace. One way for screen shops to both broaden their product offerings and secure new clients is to add digital cutting equipment to their operations.
You can use computer-driven cutting machines to produce shaped P-O-P graphics, signage, decals, and other indoor and outdoor products that you might not have considered offering before. And as you'll learn in pages that follow, the benefits of adding this equipment to your operation aren't limited to the production department.
Types of cutting systems
Cutting plotters, frequently referred to as vinyl cutters or computer-aided-signage (CAS) systems, can be used for a variety of applications in a range of markets. Cutting labels and decals, trimming posters and banners, producing packaging prototypes, and contour cutting and routing rigid graphic displays are examples of jobs suited to digital cutters. Before we get into the opportunities your shop can pursue with the addition of digital cutting equipment, let's take a close look at the types of cutting systems available and the technology behind them.
Although cutting plotters come in a variety of sizes and styles, all machines fall into one of two general categories: flatbed or roll-fed. Flatbed cutters are large-format systems that use a vacuum bed to hold materials in place during cutting (Figure 1). The cutting head on a flatbed system moves in X and Y directions across the surface of the media. Flatbed cutters can be used with vinyl film and other flexible media, but they are used mainly for thick, rigid, sheet-fed materials. These devices are ideal for applications that require a high amount of cutting force.
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