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A vinyl lettering machine is a device that one can use to cut vinyl or similar materials into various letters and shapes. The machine is approximately the same size as a printer, however they can be as large as a billboard to print billboards and other large projects. Some devices must be connected to a computer a cable, others are standalone and rely on cartridges to receive information. Cartridges contain information on the graphic design that the vinyl cutter must cut out.
The vinyl plotter relies on information contained within a cartridge or sent from a computer to know how to cut a certain design from the vinyl material. It works much like how a printer works but instead of pressing ink, it is making tiny incisions along the material. Once the printing is done, the material is to be removed, and any excess vinyl should be scraped off, leaving behind only the completed design. This technique can be used for card making, sign making, scrap booking, sewing, and various other crafts.
Some devices are bundled as part of a kit that includes a single vinyl cutter and many cartridges for it to use. Machines that rely on cartridges do not connect to the computer. All it needs is a power source, a cartridge, and some vinyl (or similar material) to be fully operational. Vinyl graphics printers that rely on cartridges can be limited in the designs it creates because the designs in a cartridge are finite. The user may also simply not have access to certain cartridges that they want. However, this model of cutter is generally inexpensive and can be a good foray into the world of vinyl lettering.
Users who want a more specific design must either have the specific cartridge that contains the design they want, or else they need a model that can connect to a computer. Machines that require a cartridge cannot operate without one. If the user loses or damages a cartridge, a new cartridge needs to be purchased. No designs are stored in the device’s memory. Thus, one must carefully select which cartridges they want and take better care of their cartridges.
Other models of vinyl cutters must be connected to a computer to function. This gives the user freedom to create his or her own designs to be cut out by the plotter. Since the machine relies on the computer for instructions, all of the designs are stored on the computer instead of cards or cartridges. Once again, no designs are kept in the machine’s memory.
For larger projects, one can find large-format vinyl cutters to help make big signs or other such projects. These machines can generally only work with vinyl. Rolls of large-format vinyl can be bought from specialty retailers. These devices can only work with specific software instead of bundling it up as part of the package when the cutter is purchased.
Typically, several materials can be fed into the lettering machine. These cutters can handle vellum, cut paper, card stock, and of course, vinyl. Some devices can handle fabric that has a special interfacing backing. Before making a purchase, you will need to determine which material the cutter can cut, whether or not it relies on a cartridge or computer, and if you require special software to run it.