What is a blade offset and how does it impact my cutting? Answer : The blade offset is the distance from the center of rotation of your blade holder and the point on the blade that does the cutting. The distance will vary somewhat from blade to blade and cutter to cutter but a good starting point is 0.3 mm (.012"). If your corners are rounded, your blade offset is too low. If your corners have little tails on them, the blade offset is too high. Your corners will be nice and sharp if your blade offset is set just right.
What is an overtravel, why do I need to set this? Answer : Overtravel is the distance that the blade travels beyond a fully closed loop to make sure that the loop is completely severed from the weed. If your vinyl sticks to the graphic at the loop start / stop point when you weed it then increase your overtravel. A good starting point is 1 mm (0.040").
Can static electricity impact my vinyl cutter? Answer : Static electricity can cause erratic behavior with your vinyl cutter including cutting lines that don't exist in your artwork, spilling vinyl on the floor, missing cut loops and stopping during cutting. What happens is that static accumulates on the vinyl as it rubs on the cutter surfaces. This static then discharges usually through the USB port disrupting communications. Vinyl cutters are best used at a humidity above 25%. If you are in a dry environment, get static string to place on top of your vinyl. Ground this static string to the ground of the cutter to safely dissipate the static charge.
Where do the pinch rollers go? Answer : The rubber wheels on the pinch rollers MUST line up with the knurled rollers on the bottom of the cutter. There are white indicator marks showing valid roller positions. The pinch rollers will slide left to right when they are in the raised position. You may need one hand in back and one in front to pull / push / slide them along the track. Make sure the rollers are centered on the grit rollers when there is no vinyl inbetween. When the pinch rollers are lowered, the rubber wheels should not spin or move. If they do, you will need to tighten the pinch roller by rotating the nut in the back of the roller.
Where do I place the vinyl? Answer : The vinyl should be placed just over the roller on the rightmost side. About 1/2 to 1 inch. The first pinch roller should be set at this first roller position. Do not place the vinyl against the right or left side plates on the cutter. As the vinyl rolls front to back it could bind against the plate and crinkle. Make sure your vinyl is aligned with your cutter by rolling out 6 feet or so. If the vinyl walks left / right then raise the pinch rollers and rotate the vinyl. Repeat this until the vinyl walks less than 1/8" from left to right.
Why do I want a servo motor cutter instead of a stepper motor cutter? What is the difference? Answer : Servo cutters are more quiet, faster, stronger and more accurate than stepper motors. They should be chosen when your work is more detailed or when you are using thicker materials such as sand mask or paint mask. The servo motors have an encoder on them for position feedback to the cutter computer. Stepper motors have no feedback.
What parameters affect my cutting quality? Answer : Parameters such as blade quality, cutting strip quality, blade angle, dirt and debris, speed, blade offset, overtravel, blade force, pinch roller pressure and other parameters will impact the quality of your cutting. There are no perfect settings that are universal. All parameters will vary to achieve optimal cutting for a given material.
How long do blades last? Answer : Blades can last a very long time if you are cutting normal sign vinyl. Sharper angle blades dull quicker. Cutting more difficult to cut materials such as carbon fiber or sand mask will dull your blades sooner. Always look at your blade tip under a magnifying glass before placing in your cutter. The tip of the blade is very small and delicate and blade tip damage can really only be seen with a magnifying glass.
What maintenance is needed for my vinyl cutter? Answer : Your vinyl cutter requires very little maintenance. Change your blade when they dull or get damaged and maintain a good smooth surface on your cutting strip.
Can you cut a picture from the internet? Answer : Pictures from the internet such as JPEG's, Bitmaps, etc. must be vectorized prior to cutting. DragonCut, InkScape, Corel Draw, Adobe Illustrator can all vectorize bitmap artwork for cutting.
Can I cut directly from Corel Draw or Illustrator? Answer : Yes, Saga cutters have a plug in which allows you to cut from Corel Draw or Illustrator. The plug ins can be downloaded from www.SagaCNC.us
How long does it take to vectorize an image? Answer : Vectorizing an image is a quick process however, complicated artwork with lots of colors will require cleanup. Cleanup can range from 30 minutes to a couple days work depending on the complexity of the image.
How do you vectorize an image? Answer : Using a trace algorithm available inside a graphics program or vinyl cutting program such as Dragon Cut, Adobe Illustrator, InkScape or Corel Draw will allow you to vectorize.
How do I get multiple colors for a vinyl cut image? Answer : Multiple color images are done by layers in vinyl. For each color, you will separate and cut a single layer along with registration marks in the corners. Each layer is then stacked up on top of one another to create a multi-color image.
How do I make a vinyl decal? Answer : The process is straight forward. Create artwork or download an image. Vectorize the image if needed. Open the vectors in your cutting software such as DragonCut. Prepare your cutter for cutting (place blade in cutter, put vinyl in cutter). Send the artwork to the cutter for cutting. Weed the artwork (remove the vinyl that isn't part of the decal). Place transfer tape over the decal and apply pressure with a squeegee. Lift the artwork from the substrate with the transfer tape. Apply the decal to the target surface. Squeegee the decal to transfer it. Save the transfer tape if possible for your next decal.
What is the difference between Calendared and Cast vinyl? Answer : Calendered vinyl is the most common. It is thicker than cast, lasts for 3-5 years, and will shrink somewhat over time. Use this vinyl for everyday signs. Cast vinyl is thinner than calendered, more durable, lasts longer (5-10 years), is more pliable, more dimensionally stable, comes in more colors and is more expensive. Use cast vinyl on cars and boat applications and other long-use needs.
What is weeding and how long does it take? Answer : Weeding is the removal of vinyl that is not part of your decal. For most decals, weeding is a fairly simple process and takes a few minutes. For some very intricate decals, weeding can take a few hours. In general, weeding is a manual process.
How do I get text on an arc? Answer : Most graphics programs such as InkScape have a command called Text To Path which is used to get text on an arc. First, create an arc or a circle or an ellipse or a hand sketched curve. Next, type your text with the text tool. Finally, select both the path and the text and invoke the text to path command. This will place your text on the path. Using the path editing tool, you can modify the arc and the text will move real-time. If the text is not in the correct position, add spaces in front of it to slide it along the path.
How do I make a stencil? Answer : You create a stencil the same way you create a decal. When it comes time to weed the artwork, simply remove the decal portion and you will be left with the stencil. Stencils can be used in etching, bead blasting, painting and a variety of other applications.
What can you cut with a vinyl cutter? Answer : Decals and signs, stencils, heat transfer vinyl for shirts and garments, rhinestone templates, protective covers, window tint, contour cut paper and graphics
What is an ARMS system and what does it do? Answer : An ARMS system will automatically detect crop marks on printed vinyl. This automatically allows the cutter to register the graphics to the cutter and allows for the automatic contour cutting of pre-printed graphics.
Can you cut paper with a vinyl cutter? Answer : Yes, you can cut paper however, you will need a tacky backer board to serve as the surrogate release liner. Adhesive backed paper that comes on a release liner can be cut like regular sign vinyl.
What is the best size vinyl cutter to get? Answer : For heat transfer vinyl, a 15" vinyl cutter is well suited for most applications. For cutting sign vinyl and masking materials, a 24" cutter is a good choice as most materials are available in 24" width. For window tint, a 48" cutter recommended. For vehicle wrapping, 48" to 64" cutters are needed.