Maker 101: What is a VINYL CUTTER? (… and what they are used for?)

What is a Vinyl Cutter?

What types of materials can Vinyl Cutters Cut?

What are Vinyl Cutters used for?

Should you get a vinyl cutter?

… today on Maker 101 we are talking about Vinyl cutters and how we make use of them at the #Makerspace. We have used a Cricut Vinyl Cutter before, and primarily use our larger Roland Vinyl Cutter. Both are great!

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What is a Vinyl Cutter?

A Vinyl Cutter is a machine in the class of precise, computer-controlled equipment. The tool head is a cutting blade that rotates while in motion to cut through paper-thin materials such as vinyl, some thin plastics, foils, paper and sometimes fabrics. The most common use of this tool is cutting vinyl stickers from a large sheet of vinyl. You can cut custom and complex shapes which you then peel off the vinyl’s backing paper to make very cool stickers.

What are the parts of a Vinyl Cutter?

Unlike other CNC equipment, the vinyl cutter only controls the tool head position along the X axis. The Y axis is controlled by feeding the vinyl sheet in and out of the machine using another set of rollers and motors. The tool head of the vinyl cutter has a multidirectional blade and height sensor to achieve precise depths for individual materials. The tool head is attached to a 1-dimensional gantry that controls the X position with motors and timing belts. There is a set of rollers on the main body of the machine that feeds and retracts the vinyl to control the y-position of the cutting head. The material is placed on a cutting tray that is fed into the machine.

What can vinyl cutters do?

Vinyl cutters are good for cutting very thin material. Their primary purpose is cutting vinyl stickers out of vinyls of different types. You can modulate the force and speed of a vinyl cutter for different materials such as thin rubber, aluminum foil and sometimes fabric. The tool head of some vinyl cutters can be replaced with a pen attachment which can be used to draw on paper.

How do I design for a Vinyl Cutters?

Because vinyl cutters follow simple 2D paths, you can generate these files in a lot of ways. One of the most common workflows for this process is using a vector editor like inkscape or adobe illustrator to make shapes with lines and fill colors: the lines are cut lines and the fill color signifies an engraving. If you only wanted to engrave, you could generate a file using jpegs, pngs, or even pdfs that have a discrete colors. You can also generate another 2D cut file type called a DXF using Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. You can make DXFs from sketches in your CAD models. Designing a multi colored sticker is a bit trickier because you have to design your sticker in layers. This can be tricky to visualize, but separating the colors into groups using a vector editor tends to make this process a lot easier. If you are using the pen attachment for drawing, you will often have to make sure you have a software that can convert your images into paths for the pen tool to follow.

Safety involved with a Vinyl Cutter?

Safety is super important. Luckily vinyl cutters tend to be very safe. Make sure you do not put your fingers near the blade when the machine is in motion. Make sure when you are storing a blade that you place the appropriate guards over it.

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