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Post Sun Aug 02, 2009 11:07 pm

Advice needed on cutter for new business please

Hi everyone,

I've debated and decided that this would be the best place to post the following (?!). We are looking at purchasing our first cutter- well our first everything- for our new vinyl and graphics sign business in the next two months. We're doing a lot of looking around at different sites etc to see what is available on the cutter and vinyl front. I'm really hoping that you'll all be kind enough to give some much needed advice on the following points:

1) What size cutter would be most suitable for our needs of vehicle livery and shop signs etc? (as we were thinking of a 48" but have seen people recommending 24" as a good size)

2) Which of the following would be most suitable and/or pros 'n' cons:
a) Graphtec CE5000 (60 or 120) range
b) Graphtec FC7000MK2-60
c) Foison C-48 or 24 range
d) RS1360SC Wide Format Cutter Plotter

We are leaning strongly towards Graphtec but I can't fully get my head around the difference between the two models? Also, and this might sound really thick but I can't find any information on the RS1360SC, which makes me not only suspicious but, is it essentially different to the other models listed or is it the same type?

3) If people would agree that a separate printer is best as this is what we would like to buy further down the line?

4) I currently use Adobe Photoshop for design work, where it seems others use Corel Draw. Will this be usable with the cutter we buy, or will we have to also use software such as Signlab?

God, there seems to be loads of questions there! :-? Don't worry, I'm saving my vinyl questions for that specific thread :wink:

We're just taking our time to look into everything properly and make sure we get the best equipment we can afford. Any help and advice will be really appreciated...and thanks for persevering with my long winded post!

Emma
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Post Sun Aug 02, 2009 11:30 pm

Hi Emma
stick with the Graphtecs or similar brand machine, stay away from your other 2 choices cheap chinese imports. As to 610 cutters or larger it is personal choice, 610 will do 90% or more of the day to day work. Again seperate cutter & printer is a personal choice and down to your own work flow. Ideally you match your cutter to your printers size. So you may want to look at getting a 610 machine to get some feel for the machinery in the first instance. The difference in the Graphtecs is the FC class is a heavier duty machine but the Ce class is more than capable. The Graphtecs come with a plugin for illustrator, photoshop is not a vector program so is no good for cutting. Hope this answers some of your questions

Kev
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Post Mon Aug 03, 2009 6:41 am

Hi Emma
i have just started on my own so am pretty much in the same position. I went for the graphtec ce-5000 120. I would highly recommend it. I have needed the extra cutting width a couple of times already so in my personal opinion i would say go for the larger model.

You also need to consider what software you are going to get. You may have mentioned that in your post but i read it in about two seconds as i was in a hurry.

cheers

Liam
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Post Mon Aug 03, 2009 6:44 am

Hi
just re read it, the graphtec comes with a plug in which allows you to cut from corel draw or adobe illustrator. Photoshop is no good for sign work as it's not a vector based program. I'm pretty sure this is correct, but just give any supplier a call if you are unsure about anything like this.

Liam
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Post Mon Aug 03, 2009 11:17 am

Hi Kev and Liam,

Thanks for your replies. Good advice there Kev, shows I was right to be suspicious too haha Was leaning towards the 60, but having read that Liam, thinking the 120 now. Can you give examples of when the extra cutting width has come in handy, it's all really helpful to know? (Really interesting you've just started up yourself, read a few of your posts-hope its all going well!)

Your comments on photoshop not being vector software clicked things into place! So, now to be a bit more specific, would signlab 8 (not sure which version as there's 3..) negate the need to get something such as illustrator or coral draw? I have been reading about free software called inkscape which seems to be thought very highly of, anybody have any experience with this and/or know any compatibility issues (with plug ins etc)?

Haven't joined as a member yet, but I'm hoping to do so very soon, this is a great forum!

Enough there again I think :lol1:

Emma
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Post Mon Aug 03, 2009 11:23 am

Ohhhhhh just thought of something else!

So, if we were to buy the 48" cutter, this might sound daft, but can we also use 24" vinyl or will it only feed the 48" through. Just thinking of balancing the extra money for wider vinyl if we don't always have to be using it... Questions, questions, questions :D

Cheers,
Emma
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Post Mon Aug 03, 2009 11:30 am

The cutter will accept vinyl up to the width of the cutter, you just have to move the pinch rollers in most cases.
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Post Mon Aug 03, 2009 11:53 am

Thanks Graeme, looks like we'll be going for the CE5000120 then!

Emma
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Post Mon Aug 03, 2009 12:12 pm

As my learned colleagues have said above Emma.

Stick with known and respected makes of cutter. Roland, Mimaki, Graphtec, Summa etc etc. The only time anyone should buy a Chinese machine is when they seriously don't have the money for a proper cutter, and have the spare time to deal with all the problems and frustrations that they bring.

Again, you need a vector drawing package. Signlab would be great although, if you don't already own it, there is no need to spend that sort of money when Illustrator or Corel will do the job just as well.

Good luck.
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Post Mon Aug 03, 2009 12:21 pm

Hi Emma,
i have read on here that a lot of people say they rarely need the use of the extra cutting width. You can tile pieces of vinyl together but you are often left with a join which some customers do not like.

I haven't really got enough experience to say how often it's needed but for me if i need it once in a blue moon it's still worth having. I just didn't want to limit myself.

The business is going quite well so far thanks, i am still working another job so can't dedicate as much time as i'd like to it, but i've done a few vans and some other stuff which has been really successful. The job satisfaction is much better working for yourself.

If you post a software question in that section on here you will probably get more answers, or just read through the software sections, that's what i do sometimes and the answers are already there

Liam
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Post Mon Aug 03, 2009 1:10 pm

I have a 24" cutter and only stock pretty much 1 grade (5-7 year) of vinyl in a 610mm width. Also have a small cast range in some common colours and special metalics.

Anything outside this is a special order, and so far has worked well for me. If its a large job, I will cut in sections, or sub it to someone with a wider cutter (only done this twice in 4 years, with a rapid next day delivery).

In some cases its better to create the illusion of being better equipped than you are, providing you have some trusted suppliers backing you up.

Its a balancing act, do you spend the extra on vinyl and a wider cutter, or go for the machine that can handle 95% of your immediate work and spend the extra on your vinyl range. :lol1:
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Post Wed Aug 05, 2009 9:12 pm

Glad to hear it's going well Liam, sounds like you are working things how we are going to have to initially.

Good point Graeme... Hmmmm going to have to have a good think about it. Im just thinking, if we can stock largely 610 vinyl and a smaller range/order in the bigger stuff, then it would be worth the larger cutter when it can adapt to the smaller width.

Decision, decisions. Thanks for all your help everyone!

Emma :wink:
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Post Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:03 pm

Emma
consider that you are thinking of a printer in the future, this normally dictates a new cutter when you go this route so a wider cutter now could end up being a waste. I have my original 610 cutter, i then purchased a 1220 cutter as part of a bundle with my first printer and i now have a 1370 print & cut. So bear this in mind.

Kev
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Post Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:14 pm

having started out around 18 years ago i was introduced to signage using a gerber 4B cutter from spandex. these machines didnt even have a computer monitor to see what the finished article looked like. you typed it all in and visualized in your head what it was going to look like by selecting fonts etc... end of history lesson... :oops: anyway, this machine was one of the first in the world and only had a cutting width of 12inches, but tiled, so you could create larger graphics... we got by with this for years but soon got outdone on work due to its limited width as the newer faster 24inch wide models came on the go...
we reinvested in signlab software and a Roland 24inch wide cutter...
overnight our production became much faster and easier...
couple of years down the line history repeated itself with a harder hit...
we did a paid sample truck for a bakers firm. they loved it and loved the price. the order was for 300+ various sized trucks, some 18 wheel sized. the job was ours, we were told! however, a week before the rebrand began we had a call to tell us they had went for another sign firm purely on the fact our main competitor had a 48inch wide cutter, so on the vast majority of the vehilces. NO Tile Joins would be seen. we even tried to bluff our way by saying we have a wider cutter arriving in a couple of weeks. (which we intended ordering as a result) but it more or less fell on deaf ears and lost the contract.
we did however go ahead and buy a wider 48inch cutter to accompany the 24inch wide one, we now had two roland cutters.
shortly after we then added a 54inch wide graphtec cutter and sold the small roland 24inch.
about a year ago we then bought 2 new 54 inch wide graphtecs to replace the 48inch roland and the older 54inch graphtec...

same happened with thermal printing... not wanting outdone on print and cut width we purchased a roland pc60 back in its day, so as not to be out done on print width by its gerber edge competitor at 12 inches wide.
we then moved to solvent printing and went straight to the 54 inch wide, as opposed to the 30inch roland/grenadier print and cut models available at half the price. these machines were to work alongside the vinyl 54inch cutters...
just recently we added a roland aj740 solvent printer at 74inches wide...

my point in all this is we reckoned buying the smaller machines helped afford purchasing a machine but reflecting back i think it was false economy and i have to advise, purchase the widest machine you can comfortably afford. don't purchase "to get by" or you will be continually upgrading like we did.

to be totally honest, i would probably advise on a 48inch because i find it very difficult finding suppliers of 54 inch wide vinyl in colours. so why did we purchase 54inch wide? as i said, so as not to be outdone by another firm.
a 48 inch wide machine accepts almost any width of vinyl and off-cut
from that size down. were obviously narrower models are limited.

double the width of machine does not mean double the price for the width of the vinyl. so your saving on vinyl purchases also.

having the widest width of machine on the market means your not likely to get out done on work when customers prefer their graphics without a join.

Graphics look better without a join....
yes graphics look OK with a join once applied. but give it a few months and the line catches grime and dirt and the customers van begin look... well, not so good.
will they come back for same with their second van or try another firm?

weeding and taping and fitting graphics in one piece is easier and faster.

anyway, I'm babbling on now... hope this helps.
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Post Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:36 pm

well after yer babble rob :D
one thing that has to be remembered is the bigger the plotter the bigger the roll of vinyl you have to handle to feed into and take off the plotter, trying not to crease the vinyl while doing so with one pair of hands is a tricky job :D just thought id point that one out :roll:

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Post Wed Aug 05, 2009 10:58 pm

Robert Lambie wrote:having started out around 18 years ago i was introduced to signage using a gerber 4B cutter from spandex. these machines didnt even have a computer monitor to see what the finished article looked like. you typed it all in and visualized in your head what it was going to look like by selecting fonts etc... end of history lesson... :oops: anyway, this machine was one of the first in the world and only had a cutting width of 12inches, but tiled, so you could create larger graphics... we got by with this for years but soon got outdone on work due to its limited width as the newer faster 24inch wide models came on the go...
we reinvested in signlab software and a Roland 24inch wide cutter...
overnight our production became much faster and easier...
couple of years down the line history repeated itself with a harder hit...
we did a paid sample truck for a bakers firm. they loved it and loved the price. the order was for 300+ various sized trucks, some 18 wheel sized. the job was ours, we were told! however, a week before the rebrand began we had a call to tell us they had went for another sign firm purely on the fact our main competitor had a 48inch wide cutter, so on the vast majority of the vehilces. NO Tile Joins would be seen. we even tried to bluff our way by saying we have a wider cutter arriving in a couple of weeks. (which we intended ordering as a result) but it more or less fell on deaf ears and lost the contract.
we did however go ahead and buy a wider 48inch cutter to accompany the 24inch wide one, we now had two roland cutters.
shortly after we then added a 54inch wide graphtec cutter and sold the small roland 24inch.
about a year ago we then bought 2 new 54 inch wide graphtecs to replace the 48inch roland and the older 54inch graphtec...

same happened with thermal printing... not wanting outdone on print and cut width we purchased a roland pc60 back in its day, so as not to be out done on print width by its gerber edge competitor at 12 inches wide.
we then moved to solvent printing and went straight to the 54 inch wide, as opposed to the 30inch roland/grenadier print and cut models available at half the price. these machines were to work alongside the vinyl 54inch cutters...
just recently we added a roland aj740 solvent printer at 74inches wide...

my point in all this is we reckoned buying the smaller machines helped afford purchasing a machine but reflecting back i think it was false economy and i have to advise, purchase the widest machine you can comfortably afford. don't purchase "to get by" or you will be continually upgrading like we did.

to be totally honest, i would probably advise on a 48inch because i find it very difficult finding suppliers of 54 inch wide vinyl in colours. so why did we purchase 54inch wide? as i said, so as not to be outdone by another firm.
a 48 inch wide machine accepts almost any width of vinyl and off-cut
from that size down. were obviously narrower models are limited.

double the width of machine does not mean double the price for the width of the vinyl. so your saving on vinyl purchases also.

having the widest width of machine on the market means your not likely to get out done on work when customers prefer their graphics without a join.

Graphics look better without a join....
yes graphics look OK with a join once applied. but give it a few months and the line catches grime and dirt and the customers van begin look... well, not so good.
will they come back for same with their second van or try another firm?

weeding and taping and fitting graphics in one piece is easier and faster.

anyway, I'm babbling on now... hope this helps.


Me da bought 5 brushes in 1959 and I bought 4 in 1998......haven't looked back since! :D :D
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Post Thu Aug 06, 2009 1:41 am

That doesn't really help Harry......... what we need to know is were they 610, 1220 or 1560mm wide brushes ?????
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Post Thu Aug 06, 2009 4:30 pm

Thanks for that Rob, and maybe I'm a bit mad (?) but I actually enjoyed reading why and how you've changed your machines over the years! It's all really helpful, I really appreciate people willing to tell me their experiences. After that I think my mind is made up, and we were thinking the 48 anyway, so sure Lewis will be happy. One thing though is Kev's advice that a new cutter would be needed when we eventually purchase a printer...forgive me for being daft, but why is that?

I've just bought Phil's book so looking forward to reading that when it arrives. I'm sure it will more than get rid of some of my questions. It'll be nice to one day be able to share some advice with others, it's all take at the moment!

The thing is, this is a life changing thing for us-as everyone else, setting up our own business, and its not something were rushing into or thinking we're going to do it as a hobby or to (try!) and make some quick money. We're doing it properly in the best possible way we can, which is why this site and everyone who's giving us a hand are worth their weight in gold!

Better stop now before I start crying, that was practically a speech...and I haven't been drinking :wink:

Emma

PS: Would be good to know the sizes of the paint brushes :point:
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Post Thu Aug 06, 2009 5:23 pm

I think it also helps if you look at the work you are most likely to be doing - as in Robs case, he bought the biggest he could get, and that's fine if you can afford to do that, but can end up being a waste of money if its more than you need.

I started with a 610 Roland cutter, which I still use every day, and 'upgraded' to an SP300.

But... in the past 5 years of doing this I have had just one job that was larger than the 610 could handle - one ! and that was for something pretty cheap, so I lost out on maybe £30 profit, which I would have made had I spent an extra £2000 on a machine !

Bigger cutters have come down a lot in price now, and the difference between smaller and larger ones isn't that great, so it could be worth going for a 1220 if you have the funds.
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Post Thu Aug 06, 2009 8:29 pm

"One thing though is Kev's advice that a new cutter would be needed when we eventually purchase a printer...forgive me for being daft, but why is that?"

Emma
the reason i said that is that most standalone printers are 1370mm wide and up although there are some smaller machines they are few 7 far between. Also you need a machine with Opus on, don't know if the Graphtec models you are considering have that. Best of luck with your decision

Kev
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Post Thu Aug 06, 2009 11:52 pm

I have a summagraphics 610 which is now more than 13 years old and still churning out the work. It must have cut enough vinyl to reach the moon and back :-?

Seriously though - It's paid for itself many times over and is still good for a few more years yet.

What I'm trying to say is, buy the best cutter you can afford and you will not be disappointed.

Having said that - this sounds like I'm sitting on the fence, so I will stick my neck out and recommend you buy the Graphtec FC7000MK2-60
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Post Fri Aug 07, 2009 1:49 pm

Like others have said, I have had my Roland CX24 since I bought the business, (part of the business purchase) so it must be at least 10 years old. It has had a few services, 2 cutting strips and a set of pinch rollers. It hasn't let me down, ever, and I have only had one job where I had to tile the graphics, and one which I subbed out. That's in 5 and a half years!

When I buy a printer (I know, I've been banging on about this for years, but we bought a pub instead!) I will then buy a cutter to fit the printer, but will still keep the Roland, to use as well.

You must make your own mind up though.

As for software, I have used Signlab since my introduction to the sign-making trade, and although I have Corel, Photoshop and CS2 (never been opened!) I VERY rarely use them, certainly not for design, as I don't have a clue, in all honesty!

Now I've rumbled on....lunch-break over, back to banner-making.

Lorraine
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Post Sun Aug 09, 2009 8:17 pm

I'm trying to see if the CE5000-120 comes with Opus Kev but I can't, will have to find out and a very valid point to make!!

As you said Mike we're thinking the extra for the 1220 is worth it, although as I said above will have to clarify on printer options first- plan ahead lol. The FC7000 MK2 is out of our range I think Phil, and as Kev pointed out the CE should be good enough for us. I noticed everythings changed to FC8000... Just a new/upgraded model?

Thanks for sharing your experience Lorraine, I think given the work we're aiming for the bigger cutter would be an investment... again, unless it will be defunct when we get a printer!

Been looking at a bundle through Mulberry Design and Print. Is anyone familiar with them and does it seem like a good deal? I've looked on a couple of other suppliers and its about the same price without the extras. Hope I'm allowed to ask that :-?

Thanks,
Em
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Post Sun Aug 09, 2009 8:44 pm

Emma the CE series comes with ARMS, which is the same thing as Opos. (I think Summa call their system Opos?)

This text is taken from Graphtec USA's web site...

ARMS — Graphtec's Automatic Registration Mark Sensor system is the laser/optical eye which reads multiple registration mark patterns on pre-printed media to obtain accurate contour cutting for the production of decals, stickers, heat transfer and packaging in the print and cut operation. This system especially benefits those who have a need for contour cutting of longer prints. The ARMS system is designed to compensate for media mis-alignment, material expansion/contraction, and the common media shifting that occurs during the printing process. These intelligent features assure users of unsurpassed accuracy and reliable operation for even the most intricate contour cutting applications.
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Post Sun Aug 09, 2009 9:48 pm

Ahhhhhhhhh :D thanks Brian! So that means we should be able to get a printer to go with it then?

I'm sure when Phils book arrives I wont have to ask so many questions!
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Post Sun Aug 09, 2009 9:51 pm

Emma Louise Oates wrote:
I'm sure when Phils book arrives I wont have to ask so many questions!


keep the questions coming Emma, that's what we're here for, you can pick Phil's book up anytime :lol1: :lol1:

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Post Sun Aug 09, 2009 9:53 pm

Emma Louise Oates wrote:I'm trying to see if the CE5000-120 comes with Opus Kev but I can't, will have to find out and a very valid point to make!!

As you said Mike we're thinking the extra for the 1220 is worth it, although as I said above will have to clarify on printer options first- plan ahead lol. The FC7000 MK2 is out of our range I think Phil, and as Kev pointed out the CE should be good enough for us. I noticed everythings changed to FC8000... Just a new/upgraded model?

Thanks for sharing your experience Lorraine, I think given the work we're aiming for the bigger cutter would be an investment... again, unless it will be defunct when we get a printer!

Been looking at a bundle through Mulberry Design and Print. Is anyone familiar with them and does it seem like a good deal? I've looked on a couple of other suppliers and its about the same price without the extras. Hope I'm allowed to ask that :-?

Thanks,
Em


Em,
you really need to define your own target area for your products, then ask advice on what you need to make it work, in the most cost effective manner. all well and good going for the biggest machine you can afford, but there will always be someone with a bigger one!

if your market say is say, for etch window graphics, then a 1320 would be the minimum size to compete. if you are doing vehicle graphics in cut vinyl then a 610 will be ok for 98% of your work.

Peter
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Post Sun Aug 09, 2009 9:56 pm

Sorry Em
If you need a cutter that is forward compatible with a printer,
then buy a mimaki, later buy their printer, problem solved

Peter
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Post Thu Aug 13, 2009 9:10 am

Thanks Nik :) you're all being brilliant.

We will mainly be concentrating on vehicles Peter, some signs etc so were looking for the best we can afford to achieve that. I looked into the Mimaki option and had some really good advice from an engineer/sales man. From there, and other recent developments, I have this very specific question I'd love some help with!

Will a Graphtec 4100 cutter (54" I think...?!) be compatible with a Mutoh 1604 Printer and a Easymount 1580 Laminator? That is the set up we are looking at as we've been offered a good price on it all.

Thanks

Em
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Post Thu Aug 13, 2009 9:27 am

Emma
Graphtec FC4100 comes in various sizes, if it is the 54'' model then it will only be compatible with media up to 54''. The Mutoh is a up to 64'' printer so providing you don't mind restricting your print & cut to 54'' its not a problem. Standard prints can still use 64'' media. The laminator equates to 62'' in old money so again will accommodate 54''. I would suggest you look at the available media, type of work etc and use this to see if everything is compatible for what you want to be able to do with it as well as the machines being compatible with each other. Hope this helps

Kev
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Post Thu Aug 13, 2009 9:40 am

Hi Kev,

That is most helpful yes. The Muto is 64", but we don't mind being restricted to the 54" of the Graphtec... I'm sure in time we'll add a larger cutter but for the foreseeable future it will be perfect- as with the laminator. I am struggling to find specific compatibility info on the three though, or maybe I just don't understand it enough... There is a custom built computer with the Mutoh which is capable of running the graphtec as well. We have until Saturday to find the money and say we want them so as you can imagine we're beavering away here :P haha

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Post Thu Aug 13, 2009 9:51 am

Hmm. 'Custom built computer' normally means the supplier making an extra few hundred quid on something you could buy yourself cheaper.
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Post Thu Aug 13, 2009 10:00 am

Hiya Jon,

I know what you're saying! It's actually a private sale, the man had his friend make the computer to run everything, it's a pretty impressive machine as computers go... if you like that sort of thing eh ;)

Em
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Post Thu Aug 13, 2009 10:01 am

The graphtec FC4100 is an older machine ( I have one ) and does not come with any sort of optical attachment for contour cutting and as far as I am aware there is no way one can be fitted which would mean that it wouldn't work in conjunction with the printer as you want it to.
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Post Sun Aug 16, 2009 9:25 pm

Just what I needed to know Martin thank you, decided against the printer. We are going to go ahead and buy the Graphtec and have been advised it's a really good machine. Going to go for a Mimaki cutter and a printer next year some time.
Thanks for all your help everyone :D
Emma

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