Cutting down the Cutter

Cutting specific shapes onto vinyl is a big part of sign making. Vinyl cutting plotters come in a variety of sizes and functions, and knowing which vinyl cutter is suited to your needs is an essential part of the purchasing process.

Here are a few important questions to ask yourself before you make your purchase:

  • What type of drive motor should your cutter have?
  • Is tracking an important element to have for your cutting projects?
  • Do you need to contour-cut your printed images?

These questions can help you save money and time, and help you create exceptional work.

Drive motors:

There are two types of drive motors that can be found in vinyl cutters: mechanical stepper motors and digital servo motors.

Mechanical stepper motors, as the name suggests, use a physical gear function to work. They are very economical as they allow manufacturers to produce vinyl cutters more affordably. The downside of stepper motors though is that they can be very noisy to operate and they lose precision on small graphics.

Digital Servo Motors on the other hand use a digital encoder that decodes the command to be cut onto the vinyl. Servo motors are quieter to operate than stepper motors because of their digital function. They also allow for more precise cutting of the vinyl, especially for small graphics and cutting around intricate turn points. Servo motors also allow for more superior tracking, which we will cover more in the next point.


When cutting medium and long graphics, it’s imperative to have a cutting machine that can track the graphics accurately. As mentioned above, servo motors have superior tracking because of their digital function. Another important factor that influences tracking is the quality of the pinch roller assemblies, the features in the control panel, and the presence or absence of a floor stand. Knowing the size of the graphics that you intend to cut is imperative in ensuring that you don’t waste time and material because of inferior tracking.


Other features of vinyl cutting machines are the ability to cut intricate images and being able to turn printed images into contour-cut decals. Both these features require advanced hardware in order to be able to produce the desired cut outs.

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