Whether printing out a banner for a store front or printing up a billboard for advertising by a highway, you need a vinyl plotter. Still, on jobs that require a more detailed cut rather than an array of printed colors, a vinyl cutting plotter, or vinyl cutter, is necessary. While all vinyl cutters are plotters, not all plotters are cutters and these cutters feature several differences.
The major hardware difference between a vinyl cutter and a vinyl plotter is the use of a knife rather than the use of a pen, as is common in regular vinyl plotters. This allows the machine to cut a pattern rather than simply printing a design over the top of the vinyl. The result is a vinyl print that fits perfectly over the side of a van or into odd shaped shop windows. This knife sits on bearings that can move about in the same way as the printing pen and, depending on the quality of the particular vinyl cutter, can cut elaborate shapes including calligraphy and other script.
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Because a vinyl cutter cuts instead of printing, the vinyl paper is either printed before it is put through the vinyl cutter or it retains its original pattern before printing. This means the vinyl paper put through a vinyl cutter depends more on the elaborate cut than the color. This is notable in car decals that often use one color and an elaborate shape.
One way designers use vinyl cutters to achieve a colorful and dramatic design is by overlaying several different sheets of vinyl. Each sheet is cut into an individual shape and laid as part of a pattern onto other sheets. The result is a colorful image that features more depth than a printed image on a single sheet of vinyl.
Vinyl cutters and other vinyl plotters are used for different purposes, since they feature different tools. Because printing a sign on a single vinyl sheet is less expensive and time consuming than creating an overlay image, many billboards use vinyl plotters. Jobs that require mono-color or translucent vinyl, such as window tinting or vinyl coverings for cabinets, use vinyl cutters.