A vinyl cutter is a device that is used to cut vinyl or other material into shapes. The device is about the size of a desktop printer. Some machines are connected to a computer with a cable. Others use cartridges to determine the graphic design that is to be cut by the machine.
The machine uses the information that it gathers from either a cartridge or a computer to cut a specific design from vinyl or other material. It functions similarly to a printer in that it moves along the material to be cut, making small incisions in the material. Once the material is removed from the vinyl cutter, the design may be removed from the material sheet. This design may be used for scrap booking, card making, sign making, sewing, or many other crafts.
Certain machines are sold as part of a kit that typically includes a vinyl cutter and a number of design cartridges. These machines work on a stand-alone basis. The machine requires a power source and a cartridge to begin cutting the design onto the chosen material. The designs cut by these machines are limited to the cartridge or card used to insert the design choices into the machine. These machines are generally a less-expensive initial investment.
Individual design cartridges or cards must be purchased for each design or group of designs to be cut using the vinyl cutter. These cards must be inserted in order for the machine to function. If a card is lost, it must be repurchased, because the designs are not stored in the machine’s memory. Purchase and storage of cards should be considered when choosing a vinyl cutter.
Some machines must be attached to a computer in order to function. These machines allow the user to design his or her own graphics to be cut from the material on the vinyl cutter. All designs are stored in the computer rather than individual cartridges or cards. No designs are stored within the cutting machine’s memory.
Large-format vinyl cutters are available for those using the machines to make signs or other large-format designs. These machines tend to cut vinyl only. The large-format vinyl is usually purchased on rolls from specialty retailers. These machines may work with specific programs rather than including the software for the cutter as part of the package purchase.
Most craft-cutting machines support the use of several materials. These vinyl cutters will cut paper, vinyl, vellum, and card stock. Some machines will cut fabric that has been backed with a special interfacing product. One should consider the intended use of the machine prior to purchase in order to select the machine with functionality that best matches intended use.