What Is A Vinyl Cutter And How Does It Work?
If you have taken up embroidery or a large sewing project, you will probably need a vinyl cutter at some point.
This is a simple and compact machine that will ease up your life to a great extent, save time and make some of the steps of designing much less complicated.A vinyl cutter isn’t very expensive, and it is quite a small machine that you will be easily able to fit on your work table and not even notice unless you need to use it.
But before that, you need to understand what a vinyl cutter is and how you can use it.
What is a Vinyl Cutter?
A vinyl cutter is a computerized machine that is, primarily, used to cut material. Depending on the model, it can be small like a handheld sewing machine or slightly bigger like a personal desktop printer.
It has sharp blades inside that can cut and create any design on adhesive vinyl material that you can later use in your sewing or embroidery work.
A vinyl machine is not just used in sewing and embroidery businesses, but also making labels and stickers, car stickers, glow in the dark labels, stencils, paper crafts, screen printing, and many more crafts and activities.
Depending on the type and build, some vinyl cutter machines can also be used in cutting wooden planks, plywood, acrylic or MDF planks.
How Does a Vinyl Cutter Machine work?
Just like a desktop printer, a vinyl cutter machine is also controlled by a computer. It needs to be connected to a computer to take commands from it. A vinyl cutter works like a printer that prints patterns, pictures and drawings on paper but instead of just printing on paper, this machine cuts out the drawings on vinyl material.
Any kind of design that you can draw or download on Adobe Photoshop or Corel Draw, the vinyl cutter machine can duplicate on vinyl machine. The designs can be stuck to any material – cotton, plywood, paper or denim.
In sewing or embroidery work, the designs can be stuck on the materials of your preference to guide you through.
How does a Vinyl Cutter help in sewing and Embroidery works?
In some sewing and embroidery work, especially in applique works, a vinyl cutter machine can be quite helpful.
Applique is a special designing technique in sewing where a material is placed on another material in a particular shape to make a design. Making quilts also become quite easy with a vinyl cutter machine, especially if you want to place applique designs on them.
When your vinyl cutter machine can produce the exact design you want on an adhesive vinyl material, you can use your computerized sewing machine or embroidery machine to reproduce that design on fabric in two ways:
- You can use the adhesive covering with the design cut out of it, place it on your fabric, and embroider inside the empty spaces, using the adhesive covering as a guide.
- You can take the design out of the adhesive vinyl material, place it on your fabric, and embroider over it, maintaining the colors of the thread with your sewing machine.
- You can take the design out of the vinyl material, place it on the fabric, and sew it to the fabric around the edges. The vinyl material will stay stuck to the fabric as you sew it to the cloth, and add a new design to your clothes. This technique is usually applied to sports jerseys and college jackets.
What are the qualities of a good Vinyl cutter machine?
If you are thinking of starting a sewing or embroidery business, you are definitely going to need a good quality vinyl cutting machine. Without a vinyl cutter, making embroideries will be harder, more time consuming and honestly, not very professional looking unless you are a genius at this job.
You can find a number of brands and models in the market in a variety of prices, but before buying the ideal vinyl cutting machine, you need to think about some aspects of it.
Are you only going to use this machine to cut designs for your sewing and embroidery business? If so, a basic vinyl cutter that only works on adhesive vinyl material is enough for you.
If, however, you want to use the same machine on wooden planks, plywood or plastic, you are going to need a bigger, commercial-grade machine that will work on a number of surfaces. For only using on vinyl material, you will need a much smaller, more affordable, personalized machine that can be used in your business.
The more the width of the vinyl cutter, the larger design you can create with it. While the length of the design can be unlimited with any machine, depending on the size of the vinyl material you feed it, the width of the design will be limited to the machine’s width.
The more width the machine has, the larger design you can get from it. Even if your business works with smaller designs for clothes, T-shirts or pillow covers, the option of the extra space is a good thing to have.
However, extra width also means that the machine will be a little larger than the normal desktop ones.
The depth at which the machine can cut, i.e. the pressure that the machine blade can apply is also a good thing to consider. If you plan to work only with adhesive vinyl material, you won’t need machine depth more than 2mm, which is the standard for most vinyl cutters in the market
A few advanced cutting machines have more depth that you can use to cut designs on thick paper, cardboard or leather.
- Motor Options
You have two options in the driver motor of a vinyl cutting machine: servo or stepper. Servo motor is digital and more precise in cutting intricate designs, since the motor runs more smoothly. This is the type of motor that is used more in home and small-scale businesses, but they tend to be more expensive, too.
Stepper motors, on the other hand, are run by mechanical gears and they are noisy during operation. It is more used for large and wholesome images and patterns than for intricate designs.
- Material Compatibility
The more depth the machine blades have, the more materials they can cut through. You might just want a simple vinyl cutter that works on vinyl materials, but having more options can be important if you want to expand your business someday.
While buying a machine, if it advertises compatibility with a number of materials other than just vinyl, it can be an added bonus for your business.
For example, if your machine can cut through fabric, it will make it easier for you to work with appliques.
While some models will just come with an USB cable and an instruction booklet, other models also include important accessories such as a spatula, a vinyl trimmer, roller, transfer tapes, hooks, special scissors, magnetic blanks, pickup tools, etc. While you can buy these accessories separately, getting them with the machine is handier.
While most machines have to be connected to your computer via an USB cable, some models work with Bluetooth connectivity as well. This makes it easier to connect your vinyl cutter to your computer or laptop that is in a different room or at least, at a distance from each other.
Your vinyl cutting machine can of course malfunction sometimes, so it is helpful if you get a good warranty with the purchase.
Common Mistakes you can Make in Using a Vinyl Cutting Machine
If you are new to the use of a vinyl cutter, you might make a few common mistakes that you’d want to avoid. These mistakes may not sound very serious, but if you want your vinyl cutting machine to last long and work perfectly, it is important that you don’t make these mistakes.
- Not to Make Test Cuts
A common mistake to make is to start your final design directly on the vinyl material you want to use for your design. Always, always practice your cuts on an extra vinyl sheet rather than on the one you are thinking of using for your design.
Especially if you are new at this, you should practice your design on several other pieces – vinyl or any other material – until you get your shape right. You can practice the same design on another material, or you can try making some simple cuts for practice. When you feel confident enough to make the final cut, you should do it on the final piece of vinyl.
- Not Test the Machine First
Before you start working on a design, make a few random cuts on a spare piece of vinyl to see if the machine is working properly. There can be a lot of things that can be wrong with a vinyl cutter machine, especially if you haven’t used it for a few days.
Starting on the design you want may waste valuable vinyl material, so it is always important that you test the machine first to see if it is working correctly. For this, you may keep a few random pieces of unwanted vinyl material around for testing.
- Not Investigating the Problem
If, and when, the designs come out wrong for some reason, the most common mistake to make is to immediately start on another piece. The right thing to do would be to try and see what went wrong, to pinpoint the mistake before trying again.
Even when you are not really a technical person, a simple investigation can reveal if something is wrong with the machine. So instead of automatically reaching for another piece of vinyl, take a moment to see what went wrong.
- Not Paying Attention to the Blade
Sometimes, we don’t pay enough attention to the exposure of the blade. We exposure the blade more or less than we need it too.
When the vinyl material is a thin one but we have exposed the blade too much, it might cut into the mat as well as the vinyl. In the long run, this will dull the blade and create problem the next time you want a precise cut.
On the other hand, not exposing the blade much when the vinyl material is thicker will result in a partial cut. You will end up with only half a cut on your vinyl material, which is a bigger problem. Trying to make another cut on the same vinyl material is definitely going to ruin it completely. Result – complete loss of material and time.
- Not Stabilizing the material before Cutting
Unless you are using vinyl or iron, you need to make your material absolutely stable before you use it on a vinyl cutter machine. This is especially applicable if you are using paper or thin leather.
You need to stick these materials (paper, thin leather, silk, etc.) on a sticky mat before running it through the machine. Sticking the material on a sticky mat will keep it stable enough to make your cut on it. You can easily remove it from the sticky mat after you are done with the design.
- Not Understanding Blade Offset
Not many people who have not used a vinyl cutter – or a similar machine – before exactly knows what blade offset is. Blade offset means the distance between the center of the blade to the tip of the blade.
Sometimes, the reason behind a bad cut is the wrong blade offset; managing the blade offset to adjust with the design will give you the correct cut you are looking for.
- Deciding on a Wrong Reason for a Bad Cut
Sometimes, after a wrong cut with your vinyl cutting machine, you might suspect that you are stuck with a bad or dull blade, or a chipped one. But it can just be that the exposure of the blade was wrong, not the blade itself.
Therefore, before making the final cut, it is recommended that you check the exposure of the blade, and whether the exposure is right for the material you are about to use. Test cuts also help; if you can make a few random test cuts on a similar piece of material, you can be sure if your blade exposure is right for your material/design.
- Not Studying the Manual
Almost no one reads the manual they get with a technical or electrical appliance, which is always a big mistake. Manuals always have the correct instructions to follow if you want to use the machine perfectly.
Besides, manuals also have instructions on what to do in case of a troubleshoot or how to take care of your machine.
- Not paying attention to the machine while Working
It is recommended that you should always be near your vinyl cutter machine when it is in use. Even the most complicated designs don’t make much time to complete, and the user should always keep an eye on the machine while it is being used.
- Not cleaning/servicing the machine
Like most other technical/electronic appliances, your vinyl cutter machine will also need regular cleaning and professional servicing. Don’t let too much time pass between cleaning and servicing sessions.
You may be able to clean the machine regularly by following the instructions that comes with the manual, but the servicing should be left to the professionals.
A good vinyl cutting machine is what you need for your sewing and embroidery business, but you can use it for many other purposes. Home business or personal use – a vinyl cutter can help you make a lot of things you never knew possible at home.
If you ever want to expand your business or try something else – another kind of handicraft – you are definitely going to need this machine.
This article was all about knowing the right vinyl cutting machine for your business. Follow these tips and you’ll know just which cutting machine is the right one for you and for your business.
Your sewing and/or embroidery business cannot be a success if you don’t have the right machines, and a vinyl cutter is one of the essential appliances that you are going to need.