Discover how digital cutting systems work and how various models differ.
By Lori Leaman
Some manufacturers differentiate between axial and diagonal cutting speeds. Most measure cutting speed in diagonal terms (where all axes are measured), but others measure speed along a single axis. In general, cutting accuracy on most digital systems falls at ±0.001 in. Mechanical resolution ranges between ±0.0001-0.0002 in. Resolution may be defined as mechanical or programmable. The former refers to the resolution that the cutting device can achieve mechanically. The latter refers to the resolution that can be addressed by entering in a desired number.
Bells and whistles
Cutting systems may be equipped with a registration and alignment systems that use laser beams or CCD cameras to optically locate and analyze registration marks and other targets that are printed along with graphics to align the cutting path (Figure 5). These systems are designed to automatically compensate for any distortions, material changes, and dimensional changes in the material. Some cutters even come with a remote alert system that sends a text message to the operator's mobile phone during unsupervised operation.
Plenty of optional accessories are available to extend the cutter's functionality and improve efficiency. Conveyors and sheet-feeding systems, media baskets, blade and pen holders, and pouncing tools are examples. Pouncing tools can be used to apply a design to substrates with irregular surfaces. Instead of placing vinyl or another material onto the cutting device, users place a piece of paper onto the cutter, and with the pouncing tool, pounce out holes for a graphic design. Users then place the piece of paper against the irregular substrate and rub special chalk or charcoal over the holes in the paper, which leaves an outline of the graphic design on the surface, over which users can paint the final design.
Some manufacturers offer cutting systems that perform both printing and cutting functions (Figure 6). These machines combine inkjet printing and high-speed cutting for applications such as banners, vehicle graphics, signage, and more.
Many companies offer graphic- and sign-design software programs for use with cutting devices, as well as routers and engravers. The software, which usually is designed for creating images for output on inkjet or thermal-transfer printers, also can be used to send information to the vinyl-cutting device. Several manu-facturers bundle software programs with their cutting devices.
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