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Thread: Die Cut Vinyl Production Setup

  1. #1

    Die Cut Vinyl Production Setup

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    Original Post Date: 15/11/2016

    Good morning PACCIN,

    I'm tasked with looking for ways of reducing my museum's exhibition signage costs, and would like to explore bringing our die cut vinyl lettering production in house. I'd love to hear from folks who produce their vinyl in house about a couple concerns:

    1) What is the make/model of your cutter, and how do you like it? Doing about 8-12 rotations per calendar year, I don't know that we need to invest in a commercial grade machine, but I'm generally skeptical of underpriced equipment.

    2) How do you account for the man hours needed for weeding and masking? What is your average time investment per exhibition? While I have done weeding and masking in the past, they were special case "all hands on deck" situations and I'd like to get a more accurate picture of our increased labor costs.

    Aaron Jakos
    Lead Preparator
    [Institution kept private]


    Hello Aaron,

    After years of working with local sign shops, we pulled the trigger on a vinyl cutter back in 2006. Did a fair amount of research and finally settled on a 36" Roland GX-300. Part of the appeal of this particular machine was a plug-in that allowed the user (me) to cut directly from Adobe Illustrator files, which is what I was most comfortable with, and thus didn't necessitate learning a sign-making software. We found a 'demo' floor model from a dealer in MD. and got a great deal. I spent a number of my pre-preparator years in the sign-making world, so it was an easy transition for me. It didn't take long to realize the many benefits of having this operation in-house, with the absolute control and ability to make additions/changes not just in the gallery, but throughout the museum ( be prepared to get requests from all directions! ) The cutter paid for itself in just a few exhibitions, and has proven to be an uber-reliable workhorse. As for the time investment, it obviously varies with the amount of text in an exhibition, but it's up to me to factor in it's production/installation into the show-change workload. At some "non-all-hands-on-deck" moment, I peel off of the installation crew to focus on that for a number of hours. A background that includes having weeded and taped 'miles' of vinyl certainly helped minimize that time (as did the advent of the laser level!)
    Hope this is helpful.

    Best of luck,

    Alan Dippy
    [Institution kept private]



    We recently purchased a Silhouette Cameo. It has its limitations, but has been a great investment. We have used it for title walls, elevator signs and even organizational logos for various projects. We are limited to 12" wide material, and send out to the local sign shop for larger projects. We generally see that 12" as a "per line" limitation. Our equipment investment so far has been $220, ordering from Amazon. I use their Silhouette Connect Plugin for Illustrator ($40?), which allows us to cut directly from "outlines" in Illustrator.

    Generally, I am creating the designs, and completing the rest of the process. So, there isn't an account of other labor. So, I can't give you any quantitative answers on time and labor, but know it will depend on the specifics of the design. Weeding finely cut blocks of text can take a huge amount of time. Larger signs can be weeded surprisingly quick, sometimes in one motion. There is definitely time saved from communicating with the sign shop and driving to pick up.

    I can give you a cost in materials. We are using Oracal 651, at one dollar per square foot including transfer tape and shipping. Keeping with the craft machine vibe, we are ordering 12"x10' rolls from

    Richard Rodriguez
    Exhibition Technician
    [Institution kept private]



    I currently use a 30” Graphtec FC800-75 that we purchased over 7 years ago so, I’m sorry…I have no clue how much it was. We cut large titles for exhibitions as well as blocks of text from “Intros” to credits and “chat” information, the size of letter ranging anywhere from 27” high (maximum cutting area for a 30” roll) for titles to ½” lettering for text. ¼” is possible if it is all sanserif but it is the devil to weed! Our Graphic Design Department designs the text in Illustrator, creates outlines and exports it as an “.ai” file so I can open it up in my FlexiSign software or you can create text directly in FlexiSign. Considering I have been doing this for over 20 years the time it takes me to weed as opposed to someone just starting out is very different and fluidity develops with practice.

    We use various vinyl types from Gerber 220 to Orafoil, colors spec’d out by the designer.

    If you have any other questions, please feel free to give me a call!

    Robin Roth
    Head of Exhibition Production
    [Institution kept private]

  2. #2
    I've been using a Roland Camm-1 cutter for almost 8 years now, and it is a work horse. Using Illustrator with a Cut Studio plugin, and I can do up to 23" at a go. I get most of my vinyl through SignWarehouse, and their service has been excellent. As Robin mentioned, weeding can be time consuming, and has a small learning curve, but we do everything from large signs to multi-paragraph didactic panels in vinyl, and it saves us a ton of money, plus, you can edit/change down to the wire. Not that any curators we know would ever re-write at the last minute!

    Contact me via message here if you have any questions.


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