The plotter is a computer printer for printing vector graphics. In the past, plotters were used in applications such as computer-aided design, though they have generally been replaced with wide-format conventional printers.
A plotter gives a hard copy of the output. It draws pictures on paper using a pen. Plotters are used to print designs of ships and machines, plans for buildings and so on.Cutting plotters use knives to cut into a piece of material (such as paper, mylar or vinyl) that is lying on the flat surface area of the plotter. It is achieved because the cutting plotter is connected to a computer, which is equipped with specialized cutting design or drawing computer software programs. Those computer software programs are responsible for sending the necessary cutting dimensions or designs in order to command the cutting knife to produce the correct project cutting needs.
In recent years the use of cutting plotters (generally called die-cut machines) has become popular with home enthusiasts of paper crafts such as cardmaking and scrapbooking. Such tools allow desired card shapes to be cut out very precisely, and repeated perfectly identically.A vinyl sign cutter (sometimes known as a cutting plotter) is used by professional poster and billboard sign-making businesses to produce weather-resistant signs, posters, and billboards using self-colored adhesive-backed vinyl film that has a removable paper backing material. The vinyl can also be applied to car bodies and windows for large, bright company advertising and to sailboat transoms. A similar process is used to cut tinted vinyl for automotive windows.
Colors available are generally limited only by the collection of vinyl on hand. To prevent creasing of the material, it is stored in rolls. Typical vinyl roll sizes are 15-inch, 24-inch, 36-inch and 48-inch widths.
Generally the hardware is identical to a traditional plotter except that the ink pen is replaced by a very sharp knife that is used to cut out each shape, and the plotter may have a pressure control to adjust how hard the knife presses down into the vinyl film, allowing designs to be fully or partly cut out.
Generally it is preferred that only the upper surface with the vinyl is cut, but the backing surface is not completely cut through. Completely loose pieces cut out of the backing material may fall out and jam the plotter roll feed or the cutterhead.
The vinyl knife is usually shaped like a plotter pen and is mounted in ball-bearings so that the knife edge rotates to face the correct direction as the plotter head moves.
Sign cutters are primarily used to produce single-color line art. Several colors can be cut separately and then overlaid, but the process quickly becomes cumbersome for more than a couple of hues.
Sign cutting plotters are in decline in some applications, such as general billboard design, where wide-format inkjet printers that use solvent-based inks are employed to print directly onto a variety of materials. Cutting plotters are often relied upon for precision contour-cutting of graphics produced by wide-format inkjet printers â€“ for example to produce window or car graphics, or shaped stickers.
It is becoming more common for large-format wide-carriage inkjet printers to be used to print onto heat-shrink plastic sheeting, which is then applied to cover a vehicle surface with the material and shrunk to fit using a heat gun, known as a vehicle wrap.