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cheap plotters...


New Member
OK, bear with me :Big Laugh

we currently own a BobCat60 plotter (24")
we actually bought it for fun to do our own graphics and things kinda snowballed from there

So it's time to get more serious and currently we're looking to buy a bigger plotter (54" or maybe bigger)
We've been looking into a Summa because of the good reports we've read here and elsewhere (and with the possible investment of a future printer, we may go for one with OPOS)

On the other hand, we're pretty pleased with the cheap b@stard Bobcat
which are also available in bigger sizes (Puma, Jaguar) although these are not available with a positioning system, they are quite a bit cheaper than the "big name" brands

the general consensus here is to stay away from these cheap types of plotters though

We can (and are prepared) to invest in a more expesive plotter, but since there's still plenty of other investments to make
On one hand we don't want to "over invest" at this point in time, but I'd also hate to find out in six months or so that we shoulda bought that other machine...

Every salesperson out there sells the best plotter ofcourse :rolleyes:
wether it's cheap or expensive
So obviously, that's not much to go on

So, can some of you experienced users please tell me what's soo bad about the cheap plotters?
I'm seriously wondering what to look for in a plotter (other than size)
So what is it that really sets the more expsensive plotters apart from the cheap ones (other than the price and cheesy names)
mind you, we're just a couple of newbies

Decisions... decisions... So any input is appreciated!

I've got my fireproof underwear on, so feel free to flame me :biggrin:


New Member
we use graphtec plotters, always have, and most likely always will, although the mimaki i have used was descent

there is something to be said about a "name you can trust"

never used one of the "el cheapo" machines, never will, you get what you pay for, whether it is day to day operations or a realiable company that you can call at 3am and get answers...LOL...

yes the big names cost more, but there is piece of mind involved. Alot of race car drivers are diving into the "sign business" since they got that plotter on ebay for 50 bucks. there is more to it than that in my opinion, after 10 years in the industry i have seen a lot of things change, and yet alot of things stay the same...

jsut ramblin on a saturday morning, take it for what it's worth


Just Me
I think TVG has used these printers and could give you some advice on them.

We've looked at upgrading too - I'm thinking long-term durability is the big thing on the Summa and others... I've seen people posting here that they've used them for years without upgrading. And some here will tell you no matter what - get a brand name, but for me it's all about how long I expect it to last and what I expect it to do for me. I want something that can cut smaller pieces better than what I have so that will weigh into our decision too.

Fred Weiss

Merchant Member
Reliability, cut quality, tracking, support, and value retention are all things that you may expect will be better with an established, respected manufacturer. This translates to being able to do more with the name brand machine than with the cheap one.

That may mean that you can do .25" letters with one and not the other. It may mean that you can border a 4' x 8' layout evenly. It may mean that you can go and do something else while the cutting is going on without having to babysit the plotter. It may mean that you will get done most jobs in less time. It may mean that if you decide to sell your plotter two years from now that you will recover more of your cost.

From my perspective as a 100% Gerber user, I do not understand why anyone would even consider the cheap plotters. My 15" plotter cost almost $10,000 in 1998 ... but it has ALWAYS performed its work without issue and has regularly produced the cutting needed for a larger amount of sales volume every month than its entire cost. I would buy it again.

My 30" plotter was built in 1988 and sold for almost $8000 new. It also has ALWAYS performed its work without issue.

I would submit that reliability is the single most important issue if you are doing any business. If my 15" plotter exploded tomorrow, it would have cost me $115 a month for its services (or less than a 1% cost as measured against gross sales). My 30" plotter at this point in time is down to a $37 a month employee.

The $700 Chinese plotter will have no value three years from now. The $1800 Summa, Graphtec or Roland will have half its original value or more. So if you sold your good plotter every three years, it would have cost you $900 in ownership cost or $25 a month.

The only valid reason for buying a Chinese plotter is if you have a high expectation of failure in the business or if you are a hobbyist. If you are in the sign business you should be buying commercial quality equipment.

I rest my case.


New Member
simple answer would likely be........

Industrial use vs. Hobby use

If you plan to use it for many years, make money with it, and use it several hours per day.........the real question is......"Why would you take the chance on a cheapie plotter "

If it's just a hobby then it doesn't matter because you don't have deadlines and production expectations or speed expectations that all could go bad by using a cheapie plotter.......or if the plotter doesn't hold up who cares....it's just a hobby.

Speed, reliability, types of motors (servo vs. stepper), down pressure, blade quality, pounce capability etc. etc

Graphtec plotters are cheap anyway so what's the problem ?? Unless you're looking 'dirt' cheap.......and if that's the case then you're not serious about production, deadlines, customer expectations etc.......you would still be in the 'hobby' catagory even though you're trying to put one toe into the professional catagory.

If you think there's some hidden information that will prove a KIA the same as a BMW or an Ioline is the same as a Graphtec.......don't waste your time. If that were true.....that hidden information would already have been widely known and common knowledge among those who do this for a living.

I've found many times.....the amount of time I waste on price shopping (to some extent) and trying to get the same thing only for a penny less........I could have used that time making signs which yields a great deal more $$ than the two dollar savings I was fixated on.

Make money making signs.

When I first got into computerized sign making (1990) I tried to put together a 'cheapie package' using an Amiga (mac based) dirt cheap computer but was fully capable, that combined with some spin off software program and on and on. Spent umteen endless hours trying to "beat the system" until finally I realized.......I could be making signs instead of spinning my wheels. So I bought the recommended computer and appropiate software and started making signs a short time afterward with the equipment........making signs (dollars) instead of saving pennies.

It's kinda like some customers who complain about the price.....we tell them "there's always a worse product you could buy for less money if you want".....even to the point you could take a magic marker and white paper and make a dirt cheap sign.

You could always cut vinyl by hand with an exacto knife....that's cheaper yet.


New Member
Not too long ago a friend of mine was looking at one on e-bay, I think "US cutter". A 24" plotter new for under $400. He is not a sign maker and needed it for small occasional stuf. I advised against but he got it anyway. Ofcourse I was the one seting it up for him.

Here is what he got....a fairly crude made machine, noisy as hell that worked like a drunken person (had a hard time keeping the vinyl staraight) with no technical support what so ever. Given that he cuts only small stuff on rear occasion, it worked for him.

If that is what you want, go for it.


New Member
replicator....what'chu talkin' about when U say "stay away from Master Plotters....it's cheap garbage"

Your advise should have been...."go ahead buy it"

by giving that type of advise....it guarantees there's one less sign maker in the industry as a valid competitor !! haaaaaaa LOL.....

some of our local competition have shot themselves in the foot numerous times doing that very thing.......


New Member
If it's just a hobby then it doesn't matter because you don't have deadlines

Who says it doesnt matter. It does matter. A hobby use machine has to be a good machine. who's time is more important. A hobbiest or the bizz person? To me they are both equally important.

Why? How much money is a hobiest willing to lose in wasted material. How much extra time does a hobbiest have each day to finish his projects. In my opinion, a hobbiest has to have better equipment because what little extra time he has is so precious. Plus, his monetary resources cannot justify any loss of any material.

IE: I once hobbied in wood working. I belonged to a club as well. I can tell you personally that I bought tools from a local box store that I thought were ok for what i was trying to do. I soon found why my projects were all just a little less quality and took longer than those around me who did not have the skills I had.

I found out very quickly that those cheaper tools cost me a small fortune before I was got smart enuf to unload them and start using "real" tools.
That box store table saw could do a basic cut. But, my abilities out grew that machine in just about a week. It was JUNK with a capitol J. The k-mart router did just fine until I needed a really nice finish. In the end it was junk too.

Just one wasted cut on a one project cost me big time both in time and money.

So those who say that a cheapo cutter is OK are sadly mistaken. That is unless one prefers to accept what you get as just OK.
No, there is no need to purchase a gerber first time out. But it is nothing but a waste of good time and money purchasing something to get you by until you decide to make a commitment to your success. If your just goona play around you would be better served using a pattern printed on your laser printer and tracing it with an exacto knife. THats what i did for the first few weeks. It was faster, easier, and better than the aggravation of using an el' cheapo.

Over the years I've watched good persons use cheaop's who had to modify, or adjust or, other wise just accept less than they should have.
Sure a cheapo can cut. At first, it may cut that vinyl sticker just fine. But soon the cut edges start to get ragged. I saw a good friened try to operate his cat cutter with signgold. What a waste of good time and material. The ragged cut edges made that job just about worthless. No amount of adjustment would compensate for the worn out parts. The replacement material costing him just about 25% of that value of his "great value" cutter.

Hobby is supposed to be a fun, relaxing, enjoyable, self development. How can that be when you are sitting behind a computer screen burning your life away, stressed out, frustrated, trying to find a fix for some fault in some el cheapo. OR, trying to add weights to the corner of the material trying to make it compensate for the bad tracking.

Its even worse when that pile of junk prevents you from going to the next level due to some limitation that a mid range machine owner never encounters.
If you buy quality you but it only once. End of story.

The cheapies that are selling like hotcakes at a festival lose drastically when dealing with small and fine cuts. Curves are ridiculous, and only get worse with the larger machines.

Jeroen - You yorself stated that it has snowballed. You have outgrown and outlasted you cheapy gamble. If you are serious - get serious - you will not regret it.


New Member
We use a graphtec plotter and have used Rolands. Everyting else you need to know has already been said above.
the way they are built, the parts the machines are built from, the support(if you even need it), the performance. ive owned gerber (and sold them), graphtec (and sold them) and summa (havent sold them just owned them) and my preference is summa


New Member
1992 i was offered a geber 4b....with a couple fonts(additionals were $100 a pop!!!!!)and iwas computer savvy enough to know that corel was a VECTOR based program...as was ARTS & LETTERS 5.0. and i had both these programs.....for under $150 each.
as i looked at the 4b, after i bought the machine i had to buy a link card?, then i would need gerber software to cut anything......I HAD $2000 to spend..and needed something AS GOOD AS 4B but was open soruceable(meaning it would work with multiply programs).
i found a guy selling a ROLAND PNC-1000. now this is was no where near GEBER COST....WAS HPGL freindly and open source useable. which met if i could make it work with COREL/ART & LETTERS i would access to all the fonts on my machine(GERBER was propriatary and $$$$$ for each font)
made my choice to buy the ROLAND PNC-1000.
MY 1ST PLOTTER....no it was no speed demon, had its issues with tracking, was 15", 18" or 20" material ONLY.
BUT I GOT IT TO CUT RIGHT FROM COREL 3!!!! now my only problem was corel was limited to 30 INCH X30 INCH!!!! but i worked around that and the ROLAND WAS ONLY 62.99 lenght cuttable. worked around that to.....i did stuff that 8-10 foot long.....and 4-8 foot tall.....corel 4 was the same, 5 and 6 was useless for cutting, corel leased the cutter code to EURO-CUT/CO-CUT for 2 yrs which was 5 & 6 version....was not able to cut. COREL 7 came out with 150 foot x 150 foot work area.....so it was the best.
as for PNC-1000 it was/is a workhorse!!! cost wize for usin freds method....was minimal
i paid $1600 for it in dec 92...........used it continuously till 2001 and i bought a PNC-1100 for $1100. sold the PNC-1000 for $600....so it works this way for me...
$1600-$600= $1000 cost for machine over 8 yrs=96 months....so the machine cost me about a BUCK A MONTH!!!!!!!
i bought another PNC-1100 for $1000 and it is in the mobile sign shop.
and i just purchased ROLAND CX-300....the machine ive wished to own for a long time. it is so fast and quite......cuts 29" wide......and has a cut off right on the machine. I LUVE IT...will never own anything BUT ROLANDS!!!!!!!!
oh...the PNC-1000 IS STILL WORKING........AS ARE BOTH OF MY PNC-1100's!!!!!!!!