vinyl sign cutter

Anyone have experience, recommendations for vinyl sign cutters? I see a large price range on eBay: http://tinyurl.com/2p9eb4
I need new roadside signs. I just got a quote for $4K. So, I volunteered my SO to learn how to make our own using a vinyl cutter I'll buy for her.
Karl
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I use Gerber Scientific stuff at work. They make nice machines but are sorta like the micro$oft of sign making equipment (loved/hated). Most plotters (as they are usually called) will work from HPGL but I've never tried it. I use Gerber Omega to do the vector artwork/cut paths and it's a snap. The software to run one of these can also be quite pricey, along with the vinyl you plan to cut. A roll of good quality cast vinyl can be a few hundred dollars. How many, what size and how complex are your signs? When you add everything up you may need to buy, $4K may seem reasonable.
Shawn
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 30 Sep 2007 07:01:31 -0500, "Karl Townsend"

You do know there are online vendors who will cut the vinyl for you? My recollection is that the letters would cost around $50 for a sign that was $200-300 from a local shop.
--
Ned Simmons

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

This is a good idea. I'll search one out if Carl's friend doesn't work out.
Karl
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

A friend of mine has a sign making business and for $4K he would probably drive across the country to make you signs <g>. Most likely, your signs are either to big or the artwork has multiple colors or complex shapes. Sign making is very labor intensive- every layer of color is put down individually. For four colors, the sign has to be made four times. Complex shapes take a lot of time to remove the excess vinyl (called "weeding"). A stylized pine tree can be weeded in seconds, a realistic oak can take hours. If the sign is to large, the vinyl must be cut and edged spliced, which is no fun at all and you will pay extra for both labor and material. Talk to a sign pro (not a franchise business) and see if they can simplify your artwork or resize it to be less labor or material intensive. If you want to, send me your layout and I'll get it to my friend for a quote.
The cutter is only a small part of the sign making process- you will need the cutter and a PC to drive it, vinyl (and outdoor grade hi-performance vinyl costs $$$$), transfer tape, a transfer table, software (ungodly expensive) and several years of experience (good signmakers learn in an apprentice-like program). My friend has about 10 grand in equipment and he bought much of it from a failed sign business.
Sign making is a lot like metalworking- you can't just by the stuff and be an instant expert at it. Mistakes are expensive and even pros make them.
-Carl "spelled the right way"
--
The future isn't what it used to be.








Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 30 Sep 2007 15:08:51 GMT, "Carl Byrns"
<snip>

<snip> =====Very informative message.
Unka' George [George McDuffee] ===========Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president. Letter, 17 March 1814.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Would you see if your friend would be interested in sending out cut sheets for me to apply? I sent a concept picture of our sign to your email. I understand he'd have significant programming time for part 1.
I bet you're right about it being more difficult than it looks on first inspection. But, I'd still like to try at least part of the process myself. After all, I never would have started metal working if I were afraid of mistakes - no doubt its cheaper to hire the pros for all the metal projects also.
Karl "spelt rite"
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I sent your artwork to him and did not tell him what your first estimate came in at. What substrate are your planning to use? The best choice is prefinished aluminum- it holds up well to severe weather. The problem with prefinished aluminum is only sign shops use it, so they'll know you're up to something. IIRC, the biggest sheet size is 4X8, but I'll double-check that. Whatever you use, it must be nonporous- no plywood allowed.

It is- I've helped my friend out on jobs with a tight deadline (which mainly consisted of me being a go-fer and third hand) and sign making is an art unto itself.

Getting the vinyl onto the substrate is probably the easiest part of the job- if a clutz (correct spelling) like me can do it, anyone can.
-Carl (correct spelling)
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I'm sure that doing the graphics would be challenging, but making a basic sign with a vinyl cutter package is no big deal. I had a little sign shop under me in the early 90's. We bought a cutter and the signmaker studied the documentation, etc, milking the learning process for all it was worth. One weekend we needed a 4 x 8 sign made, it took me about 4 hours to learn how to run the software and put together a passable sign. Was I then a "signmaker"? Of course not. But I would definitely consider making the investment today if I needed a lot of signs.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Gotta be vinyl? Look up someone with a CNC router, and you can have them cut into either wood, or high density foam signboard (doesn't rot, takes paint well). Most systems can work from a DXF.
--
Cats, coffee, chocolate...vices to live by

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Karl Townsend wrote:

You don't actually need a vinyl cutter to cut vinyl. I've seen some pretty amazing stuff done with an exacto knife.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 30 Sep 2007 07:01:31 -0500, with neither quill nor qualm,

I researched them a decade ago for a client. He went with a VyTek 1000 (? with tangential head) and Casware's ScanVec software, Corel Draw, and a new computer for roughly $24k. That info's pretty much outdated and useless today. <sigh>
I see a

Good way to go. She'll continue to earn income for you that way. <g>
I had my magnetic truck signs printed and they threw in some front/rear text with my URL on it (stuck to lo-tack) for the kingly sum of $110, delivered from FL. 2ea 12x18" magnetics + 2ea sets of 2-1/2x34" letters, one reversed.
While scanning my computer for those old mfgr names, I stumbled upon this and thought I'd share it:
(Motorcycle shop sign)
Engine Repair Estimate Chart ----------------------------
ping-ping-ping $125.00 ping-ping-klang $150.00 ping-klang-ping $155.00 klang-klunk-wheeze $175.00 klang-clunk-boom $500.00
-- Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. - Blaise Pascal
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Karl Townsend writes:

I have a Roland CAMM-1 I'd like to get rid of. Only managed to use it a few times.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

We use a 30" ANA Express in our shop. We've had it about 10 years. We wore out 2 Rolands before that. Our software is Sign Wizard Pro. It cost $2250.00 10 years ago.
As far as advice; try and get a cutter that runs at least 30 ips (our ANA's top speed is 115 ips). If you plan on cutting reflective and/or sandblasting stencil, look for a cutter with at least 500 grams of pressure.
It's possible to cut directly from Corel Draw, but you will be limited to size and will need to make a template or it's very likely your cutting will be outside the template area. If you're not planning on outlines, inlines, etc., some of the low cost software that comes bundled with the cutter should get you started.
Calendered vinyl has an outdoor life of about 6 years and is about 1/3 the cost of Cast vinyl (8 year life). You can also consider spray mask, which allows you to use conventional spray paints to give your sign longer life.
Another consumable is transfer tape, and is how you transfer your designs after weeding from the release liner to whatever - your sign board, window, truck door etc.
Please don't let any of what I've said put you off. We charge a shop rate of $60 hour, and set-up and design is quite labor intensive. If you have the time you will not only save money, you have control.
We've had good luck with http://www.richdistinc.com/ for our supplies.
Have fun!
Rod Grantham granthams at wiktel dot com
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I have been using vinyl spray masks to do signs with urethane base / clear paint. I am guessing the life expectancy of about 20 years or so. I have some signs ten years old with little change in appearance. I like the method because it allows me to do shading that is not possible with cut vinyl. Printed vinyl is another story though. Another option would be CNC plasma cut letters and images out of steel or aluminum painted to suit. You can make a sign that really stands out with images that appear 3-D. If you are interested let me know I am not that far away from you. Steve
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Looks like you have a spam proof email. I'd like to discuss with you. Email me karltownsend<AT>embarqmail.com
Karl
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Karl Townsend wrote:

How big are the signs, and how permanent do they need to be? Depending on what you need, you may want to consider having signs printed by a local large format place where you can give them full color computer files and have them print out up to billboard sized signs that will last a few months. Depending on what they charge in your area it may be a better deal, and allow more graphically complex signs and up to date content. Or you could do like they seem to be doing around here and just get a color LED sign board. Even seen them at lowly self storage places...
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
If the OP doesn't like a bid of $4k for signs there is no way he will want to pay a full color led display.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Mon, 01 Oct 2007 14:17:00 GMT, "Paul Hastings"

But knowing Karl he might build one himself if the raw components were readily available - All it would take is the R-G-B LED modules, the backplane boards and operating components. Then build bracketry and a housing to keep the weather off and exploring fingers away from the energized bits...
http://www.optec.com/HybridRGB16M2.htm
Looks like OPTEC makes the components, the sign companies build the enclosures.
--<< Bruce >>--
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 30 Sep 2007 21:46:06 -0500, with neither quill nor qualm,

Yeah, Grants Pass was hit by those last year. There must be fifty new ones up since then. I'm guessing that the cheaper Chiwanese versions finally came out about then.
-- Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. - Blaise Pascal
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Polytechforum.com is a website by engineers for engineers. It is not affiliated with any of manufacturers or vendors discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.