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Looking for a cutter/printer... SOLJET Pro?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Print & Cut Systems' started by blackbok, Jul 19, 2005.

  1. blackbok

    blackbok Member

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    Hello all,

    I am new to the boards, and have an issue I am hoping to get some advice on.

    I work for a large company in a small scale sign shop. We have for years relied on our Graphtec Cutting Pro vinyl cutter for most of out work. We are also part of a paint shop so I cut a lot of stencils. The cutter works great, but my boss is worried it will crap out on us one day in the midst of a project. He wants me to source a new cutter and make the Graphtec a back-up. That's fine. I also try and urge him we should look into solvent based printers, or a laminator, as our only inhouse printer is an HP Designjet 130. We outsource most of our printed signs, banners, and almost everything. I said it doesn't make sense for a "sign shop" to be sending out a majority of it's work. Since we are a multi-craft shop (paint, sign, fabric, mold...), he just didn't want to focus on us becoming a full blown "sign shop".

    So, I call a local supply company to see about sourcing that new vinyl cutter. The rep. instantly asks why I want a vinyl cutter, and have I ever looked into a printer/cutter. I instantly shine him, as I feel like he's trying to sell me a used car. But, seeing as my only exposure to this industry has been a 10 year old vinyl cutter and my Roland Stika at home, I figured maybe I'm missing out here.

    My boss and I head down to the supply companies offices. The rep shows us the Roland Soljet Pro IIV SC-545 EX 54". I was blown away. Like I said, I didn't even have a concept of technology like this. Registration marks? profile cuts? No need (mostly) for colored vinyl? No layering for multi -colored graphics? This was alll too good to be true. The unit is about $30,000, and based on our departments yearly outsouced sign spending, that's chicken scratch. It would pay for itself in a month. I also asked how much the ink cartridges are... $75 each. That is only $40 more than the HP designjet.

    I explained to my boss that this would let our shop expand into the 21st century, bring in more work, and just be a good investment. Am I wrong? As I said, I have been in a cave the 3 years I have been doing signs/graphics, so I'm sure I missed the boat on this type of technology.

    I want to make sure this is something reliable, able to cut vinyl just as well and as detailed as a dedicated cutter, and have the bonus of being able to print outdoor, waterproof prints, banners, etc.
    Should I go this route, or get an independent cutter, then look at a solvent based printer? (The other thing that is appealing is the ECO-Sol that supposedly is safe, so you don't need a vent. system. That would be nice to not have to justify building another room.

    So PLEASE... I am looking for honest opinions and experiences with this. I want to make sure what I am saying we should buy is the best thing to buy for our needs. Any help is appreciated.
     
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  2. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

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    There is a ton of information here that will give you considerable insight into print and cut systems. Look in the Hardware Forums at Graphtec, Roland, Gerber, Summa, Digital Printing and Miscellaneous Print and Cut Systems.

    Having a plotter built into your printer has pluses and minuses. It's convenient if you want finished print and cuts right off the system. If you wish to laminate, then it does you no good since you must remove the film from the printer to laminate it before you cut it. If you wish to print and cut two jobs at once, you can't because your printer cutter is tied up. If your printer breaks down, you may not have access to the cutter as a result.

    Study up and shop around. You should also look at Mutoh and a Mimaki before deciding on a Roland.
     
  3. blackbok

    blackbok Member

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    Thanks Fred. I just feel like I'm going to drown in this sea of information. Like I said, I am so out of the current technology loop, this is all so overwhelming. It also seems like everything, people have their preferences in brands, and it's hard to weed through it all. That's why I'm hoping someone here will have had some of the same requirements as I do, and point me in a direction. Or, tell me I'm better off getting a dedicated plotter and a seperate printer.

    BTW, the Roland I referenced does do registrations so you can print, take out, laminate, put back in and cut over laminate.

    Thanks again, should this thread be moved to the misc. plotter section? Just want as much input as possible.
     
  4. ChiknNutz

    ChiknNutz Major Contributor

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    If I had the budget it sounds like you do, I'd seriously consider something like the Roland SJ-640EX (or bigger if the need is there) which is a 64" printer only. Then, I'd pick up separate cutter, such as a Graphtec FC7000-XXX (pick your size). Along with that, you'll want a decent laminator (not sure if you need both hot/cold) of around 60" wide. To get near solvent-durable prints, I'd look into a bulk-ink system using the Triangle inks (NuSign is great and is also in CA, http://www.nu-flex.com/solvent/mildbulkink.htm). I can tell you first hand that this ink is incredible. Anyway, that is what I would look into IF I had the budget.

    My budget, however, isn't quite so deep. So, I'm instead going to be getting the Roland SP-540V, NuSign bulk-ink system, Wasatch SoftRip and external drier (attaches to the machine). I'll also be getting a laminator. I've found an inexpensive one (not the Daige) but it may not be quite good enough.

    Anyway, hope it helps. Oh, BTW, the guy I currently outsource my prints to has the exact machine you are looking at - 545EX.
     
  5. blackbok

    blackbok Member

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    Anyone know if the vinyl cutting capabilities on a printer/cutter such as this are compromised in any way? I don't want to get a flashy new machine, that turns out to not do as good of a job as the old machine I had. I don't want to lose anything here.
     
  6. ChiknNutz

    ChiknNutz Major Contributor

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    The built-in cutter is in NO WAY as good as a standalone cutter. Do NOT plan to use the built-in cutter as a replacement - that's why I'd recommend a separate cutter in your case. The cutter in the SP-300 and 540 maxes out at 11.8 IPS. My SummaCut D60 is good for about 32 IPS, and I use it most often at about 24 - 28 IPS. This seems plenty fast to me, much faster and the media is really slingin' back and forth pretty hard.

    The built-in cutter works for what it is designed for and the occasional use as a wide cutter, but I'd really not plan on using it day in and day out as a cutter. If you do, then you won't be printing with it.
     
  7. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

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    If I were you I would be looking for a Graphtec plotter such as Chris recommended. You're already comfortable with the Graphtec and it's as good as it gets.

    Then I would focus in on what I want the printer to do ... width, solvent or eco-solvent etc. while comparing the various offerings from Roland, Mutoh and Mimaki.

    For example, are you planning on doing banners? If not, then you might be very happy with a Mutoh Falcon Outdoor which prints in the low to mid 40" range of width. Typical printer/cutter combo deals are well under $20,000 in that range. Great for banners up to 3' x ? and for vehicle graphics. Maybe your needs are served by Rolands, Mutohs and Mimakis down in the 30" to 36" range. These units are primarily aimed at decals, commercial signs and vehicle graphics for cars and vans. If you've never handled extremely wide roll stock, be prepared for some challenges. I once bought a 48" flatbed plotter and order in 48" logs of vinyl ... the next thing I knew I had stock and finished work getting damaged, employees threatening to quit, and lots of goofs happening on the plotter. I ended up having all the logs cut into 30" and 18" before things smoothed out.
     
  8. blackbok

    blackbok Member

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    Thanks again guys, all of this input is a big help. I've already relayed to my boss that we would need to look into a seperate cutter as opposed to a combo. I can't sacrafice vinyl cutting accuracy/speed.
    For the most part, our pinted media is mounted to a substrate of usually gatorfoam or sintra. That is usually then cut out. Does the Mutoh Falcon do profile cutting as well as print? Although we dont use or see a need for that capability right now per se, I think the more advanced capabilities we have, the more we can do down the road.

    And yes, I would probably be sticking with Graphtec for the cutter. Although I've heard good things about Summa.

    Well, still going to try and dive in on the printer side of things...
     
  9. Driving Force

    Driving Force Member

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    I have experience with both scenarios. I have a roland 540ex and I also have a Seiko Colorpainter. What would work best for you really depends on how much printing you would like to do. For an everyday shop I would highly recommend the roland. I think it is the most user friendly sytem that is easy to use and does a very nice job. the cutter is ok, but as others have mentioned I wouldnt use it for a primary cutter, but as a backup, you bet. I just bought a new Summa cutter S-class tangiental. It is a really nice machine. the tracking is right on and the cuts are awesome. I replaced a Graphtec with this machine. I also really like the Graphtec. As far as printers go, I really like the speed and color from the Seiko. To be honest, I wish it had a built in cutter. That would make it my choice by far. Yes we can print and then cut on the summa, but it is more of a hassle than using the same machine. I dont really find myself trying to print and cut at the same time that often, and If you are at all limited in space the extra machines are a problem.

    I guess if it was me in your situation, I would probably go with a print/cut machine, but I would also like to have a stand alone cutter to do the majority of everyday vinyl. I think it would be more of a bottleneck having to cut regular vinyls and printed media all on one machine than worrying about cutting and printing at the same time and you would always have a backup cutter if you needed it. We still find ourselves cutting a ton of vinyl as well as printing. If you buy the right cutter you could set up the prints to register on the other cutter if you find yourself needing to print and cut at the same time.
    In any case, If you chose to get into digital printing, you wont be sorry. A year from now you will be wondering how you ever got along without it!!!
     
  10. blackbok

    blackbok Member

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    Just curious if I did end up doing what sounds to be the right thing (vinyl cutter and a seperate printer/cutter), would it be feasable to run bot machines off of the same computer, or should I have a dedicated syetem for each. The POS computer I have now is bogged down enough with Illustrator, Photoshop, and Flexi, as well as whtever files I use regularly. That is also my email/daily buisness computer.
    As I said, it's a big company who supplies standardized office equiptment (like I am using the same Compaq the secretary is, mine just has maxed RAM.)
     
  11. Barry

    Barry Active Member

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    I run both my Roland Versacamm and my Summa D60 off the same machine no problem. I always like when I have both machines running at the same time as it makes me feel like Im making more money... :D


    As far as printers go, Roland really seems to be the right choice at the moment. The one thing that most people neglect to think about is support. Roland probably has the best support of any of the large printer manufactures. Roland has also sold a considerable amount more machines in the last year which means there are more users on the forums who can help answer your questions or give you assistance. This is a BIG plus for me.

    As for the built in cutter, its great for Print & Cut, but is to slow for everyday vinyl cutting. In a pinch it will work, but at about 11ips. Since most printed decals have contour cuts 11ips is not a real problem. Besides who wants to wear out a $15,000-$30,000 machine when they can run a $2,000 plotter.
     
  12. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

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    You will want to run your printer and cutter from the same workstation since a print and cut job will be in your outputting software all together. With most software you output the whole job and then send the print part followed by the cut part.
     
  13. blackbok

    blackbok Member

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    As an update:

    I went to the Long Beach Sign Show today, and got a chance to look at a lot of printers and cutters.
    I still like the Roland printer/cutter. It's awsome, and was everywhere throughout the room.
    I went in pretty sure we would get a Graphtec replacement cutter, but after seeing the Summa, I might be jumping ship. They had a very nice product from what I can see. And, it was about $1000 cheaper than the comperable Graphtec. That came with a stand, basket, roller guide, and optical eye. The thing that is veering me away from Graphtec is the fact they are still using the same blade/housing technology they have been since our 1991 plotter was introduced. That is, the blade has a tiny spring which "sits" right on top of it, balanced in the housing. I have changed that thing, and it is no fun. I cannot believe they still use that. In comparison with the Summa, which looks pretty straight foreward.

    Any reason why not Summa over Graphtec? Reliability? Support?
     
  14. blackbok

    blackbok Member

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    Well, I flipped flopped back to Graphtec after overcoming some technical worries. So, new question.
    I have a company that is willing to sell a display model FC5100-100 that has an optical registartion sensor added to it for $4,500.
    Is there anything significantly better about the newer FC7000 models that I should be looking at?

    Also, I am running Flexi Sign 6.6 right now, should I be upgrading? That additional upgrade could put me over budget is the problem. Just don't know if the newer versions are necessary for the optical eye. I'm also going to be getting the Roland 545EX cutter printer... don't know if Flexi has anything to do with that either.
     
  15. WVB

    WVB Very Active Member

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    I believe Flexi 7 and FC7000 are having issues with the new optical eye. Flexi last time I read the release was working on the drivers for it and should have it out asap.
     
  16. Signwinder

    Signwinder New Member

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    You will need to upgrade to Flexi 7 family (7.6.2 is current) to drive just about any of the new model printers. Flexi 6 primarily supports thermal print and a few of the earlier inkjet printers. The upgrade is really not too expensive, but if this would put you over budget they offer PhotoPrint DX for a fraction of the price. It is the same as Flexi sign without the "Cut/Plot" feature for straight vinyl cutting. It wil still print cut, and will cut anything you apply a contour cut to by using "rip and print" ( set to contour job only). You will still be able to cut vinyl the same way you always have using your 6 version if you'd like.

    Just a suggested solution.
    Good luck and may all your drops land where you want them.
     
  17. blackbok

    blackbok Member

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    Yeah, I just got a quote for the upgrade, ~$650. Turns out Flexi pre 7.6.2 does not have a USB driver for the FC7000 series. V2 solves that, or just use the serial cable to get around it.
     
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