Vinyl cutters are usually an enduring species. They die hard. But in the process of making all the decals, lettering vehicles, cutting paint mask and sandblast stencils, they get worn out and start seeking maintenance.
Maintenance. Because you want it to last longer and serve you as well as it can, you simply need to be aware of a few things, especially that you never want your cutter to fail while you're in the middle of a customer's order. Such a prospect has a terrible ring to it. There are only a few parts that need to be maintained in a vinyl cutter, or occasionally replaced. If you keep an eye on them and maintain them regularly you can expect your machine to last a lifetime. Note that maintaining a vinyl cutter isn't at all expensive.
The following parts will always need your attention:
Cutter Protection Strip: Perhaps the most abused and misunderstood part of the vinyl cutter, it's usually made from smooth durable rubber. This strip protects the blade from damage if the cutting force and depth are set too high. When left unmaintained or not replaced, the cutter will no longer make straight, true, clean cuts and may result in very uneven edges.
When To Replace: As soon as your cut out work starts to have uneven edges or unfinished cut paths. And when your cuts don't weed out as simple as they used to or weeding easier in some areas and not others. It's also liable for changing whenever your protection strip has some noticeable lines or grooves on it.
Vinyl Cutting Blade: The blade is typically a thin, angled, piece of metal, carbide, or steel that cuts through the media creating the image desired left to be weeded out. We recommend that you replace the blade every year with moderate to heavy use on standard material. Sandblast, metallised or reflective film will require a specific, thicker angled blade which requires a more regular replacement. There is no exact time frame at which the blade needs replacement and varies per machine but there are a few things to keep an eye out for.
When To Replace: Once you start to notice that the ends of cut paths are sometimes incomplete or not cut all the way through - resulting in you having to punch or poke the letter or image downward to release it from the rest of the material surrounding it.
The Blade Holder: It holds the blade in place during the cutting process. Replace the blade holder within a year of moderate to heavy cutting. Most people are unaware that this is a wearable object under constant movement and needs replacing. Once worn down, it can degrade cut quality tremendously resulting in what seems to be near impossible weeding of material.
When To Replace: Your shapes and letters are starting to have jagged edges and weeding around the cut letters or image is becoming increasingly difficult. As with the blade and cps, random paths will be unfinished but more apparent. Weeding material will become increasingly difficult and sporadic around the cut letters or image. You might also notice a "stitch pattern" on your letters. Curved edges such as zeros, O’s, and inside of letters or numbers will no longer have a smooth curve and will resemble that of a stair case or vibrating line.
Pinch Rollers: These small rollers that are to be positioned above the designated grip rollers are what holds onto the material and progresses it back and forth during cutting. Typically they last quite a while and can be maintained simply by taking them off and cleaning them of any dirt, dust, or vinyl scrap stuck to them. They do wear out and need to be replaced from time to time resulting in the straighter tracking of media at longer distances.
When To Replace: When your material stops moving back and forth in the cutter in a straight line. And whenever you're unable to feed about 1 - 3 metres of material continuously through your cutter without running off the pinch rollers.
These quick fixes will keep your cutter running and ensure a long and creative life.
We would also recommend cleaning the grit wheels whenever there is debris stuck to them. You can use a small wire brush at a 45 degree angle to clear out the grit. This will help in tracking and should be done whenever the pinch rollers are replaced.
Also, be sure to set your blade depth properly, or you will quickly snap the tip or destroy the cutter protection strip. The blade should be exposed out of the bottom of the holder only enough to cut the facing of the material, in fact, you should only feel it slightly with your finger. This way even if you have way too much force on the cutter, it won't cut into the cutter protection strip.
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