Often we get confused between these two terms – Vinyl cutting & Laser cutting. There are some modular laser cutters that offer vinyl cutting as an add-on. In such circumstances, this is really important to brush up on our knowledge of both terms.
Vinyl cutting is a mechanism to cut adhesive plastics as per the given pattern. Usually, a sharp blade moves according to the computer program to make the cut-outs of the adhesive plastics according to the design. Normally, a vinyl cutter can cut the normal sheet with different thicknesses, plastic sheets, and vinyl papers. For example, if you have a nameplate made with cardboards, you can easily paste some vinyl papers with the same shape and pattern to make it more lucrative.
How Vinyl Cutters Work
Vinyl cutters (also known as cutting plotters work the same as a normal printer. You first need to make the pattern and specify the size and cutting diameter on the software that comes with the cutting plotters. The software communicates and instructs the vinyl cutters in exactly the same way as the laser cutters. After that, a sharp blade moves accordingly and makes what you have been waiting for.
After making a vector-based image, the software instructs the cutting blade to move at a specific X & Y axis over the vinyl or other paper & plastic-based materials. The cutting materials come through a roller under the blade at a required speed which is automatically adjusted by the printer cutting plotter itself.
Laser cutting is a laser beam-based mechanism that cuts, engraves, or, marks over tough materials such as wood, board, and even steel. Normally, CO2 laser cutters can perform over any solid materials except heavily thick metal & aluminum. The laser can either burn, melt or, evaporate the cutting material based on need and specifications.
How Laser Cutting works
Laser cutters work through a laser beam which gets in connection with different gas before making the final laser. Which gas should you use will completely be different based on the cutting materials you are going to work on.
For example, CO2 helps in working with wood and Nitrogen makes the flame stronger when the metal sheets need to be melted first.
Laser cutters Vs Vinyl cutters
There are a few differences between laser cutters and cutting plotters. These are:
- Laser cutters can handle different materials that a cutting plotter cannot
- Laser cutting is a more efficient and faster method
- The laser can handle complex shapes that a vinyl cutter often struggles
- A laser cutter can do the work of vinyl cutters; however, a cutting plotter cannot overtake the job of a laser cutter
- Vinyl cutters are more inexpensive than the laser cutters
- The laser makes lower wastage
- You can always upgrade a laser cutter
- Vinyl cutters cannot make markings or even the engravings like the laser cutters do
- Cutting blades require regular replacement which is an additional cost
- Often cutting plotters fail to work on corner edges
- Laser offers higher precision than the cutting plotters
- The laser cutters can handle a variety of materials than the vinyl cutters
Can you convert a laser cutter to a cutting plotter?
Not all laser cutters come with the flexibility to convert them into a cutting plotter; however, there are some. Earlier, we reviewed Xtool M1 which gives the freedom to use the machine as both a vinyl cutter and laser engraver.
There are some limitations to such combined cutters
- Normally, such convertible cutters are not as solid as professional laser engravers.
- These cutters cannot be as equal to 60W laser cutters
- CO2 lasers are not available in such machine
- There might be size limitations that can restrict you to work with wider materials
Recommendation for the Small Crafting Business Owners
If you are an occasional user or a laser enthusiast, you can own a convertible laser cutter like Snapmaker & Xtool M1. However, if you are a small crafting business owner then the recommendations would be different.
It is always better to buy a professional laser cutter and separate cutting plotters because you need to earn customers’ satisfaction at the end of the day. Productivity also matters a lot since you cannot wait for the next laser engraving job unless the vinyl cutting is done yet.
These are the best laser cutters & engravers for leather.
There may be certain situations when the entire operation gets stopped due to repairing lead time.
A machine should be a one-time investment and we do not recommend buying compact machinery for crafting business owners.