How to Choose the Right Blade for Your Plotter and Film | Avery Dennison

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How to Choose the Right Blade for Your Plotter and Film

With the release of the latest Graphics Solutions Cut Vinyl Film Portfolio, it's key to know which plotter blade to choose and set-up.

With the introduction of the new Avery Dennison Cut Vinyl Film Portfolio, featuring HP750 High Performance and SC950 Supercast films, I thought this would be a good time for a refresher on plotter blade selection and set-up. The key items in the plotter setup include: blade angle and offset, blade depth and blade pressure speed.

The first step is to choose the correct blade angle. Depending on the type of media you are cutting, you will want to change the angle of the blade to optimize the quality of the cut. Without a nice, clean cut, the result will be a graphic that is difficult to weed. The blade angles available vary by manufacturer. The three most common that I see are 30, 45 and 60 degree angles. However, there are angles that fall between these, such as a 37, 54 and even a 57 degree blade. For this blog, I will focus mostly on the 30, 45 and 60.

Blade Selection

30, 45 and 60 degree blades

Figure 1

In Figure 1, you will see a close up of the 30, 45 and 60 degree blades. The 30 degree blade has the lowest angle with the least amount of blade exposed. The 60 degree blade has the sharpest angle and has more cutting surface on the blade, making it ideal for thicker materials. When choosing blade angle, the goal is to select one that will cut through the material and adhesive. If the blade angle isn’t high enough, the blade can actually drag through the material and create “vinyl ears,” causing a poor quality cut. Inversely, using a 60 degree blade on everything is a waste of a blade; because not all of the blade’s cutting area is used, you will also need to change blades more frequently since the sharper angle blade will dull faster. Figure 2 is a diagram showing the rationale of choosing a lower angle blade for thinner films and a higher angle blade for thicker films.

rationale of choosing a lower angle blade for thinner films and a higher angle blade for thicker films

Figure 2

A good rule of thumb is to use a 30 degree blade for films that are in the 1-2 mil range. A 45 degree blade would be good for films that are 2 mil up to around 5 or 6 mil, and then a 60 degree blade is good for films that are thicker than 6 mil. Films like Avery Dennison beaded or prismatic reflective films are best cut with a 60 degree blade. If you switch a lot between 2 mil cast films and 3-4 mil calendered films, the 45 degree blade might be a good all-purpose blade for everyday use.

It is important to note that when blade angle is changed in your cutter, be sure to also change the offset. This information is generally noted on the blade package. Figure 3 shows a box of Roland blades. Note the offset of the blades.

Figure 3

Blade Adjustment

When the blade is placed in the holder, you must manually adjust how much of the blade protrudes from the blade holder. It is a common mistake to have too much of the blade exposed. A good starting point for blade depth adjustment is approximately ½ of the thickness of a credit card. Figure 4 is a close up of how the blade depth is set on my cutter. The most important thing is to have enough blade exposed so that it can cut cleanly through the film and adhesive. If you are cutting thicker materials, you may have to expose slightly more blade.

blade depth on cutter

Figure 4

Once the blade depth is adjusted the blade can be put back into its holder and then the blade pressure will need to be adjusted. Since every cutter is different and pressure will vary based on blade age and angle, I recommend starting with the default settings recommended by the cutter manufacturer and adjusting from there. You can use the test cut that is embedded in the cutter software. There is usually a “cut test” option. The objective is to set pressure where the blade is going through the film and adhesive layer, but not cutting into the liner.

If the blade pressure is too high, you can score the silicone release layer on the liner. When this happens, the adhesive may grab or adhere to the paper fibers and cause the paper to split at the release layer. This can be seen in Figure 5. If this happens, the pressure needs to be reduced.

paper split

Figure 5

Start by using the test cut feature on your plotter. You should be able to weed away the square and leave the triangle behind without lifting any of the corners of the triangle. You can see in Figure 6 that I was able to cleanly pull the square away. However, when I tested the cut depth with my felt tipped marker, I found that I had actually scored the silicone release layer. Note how the ink bled through to the paper. I made several adjustments reducing the pressure each time until I got to the point that the film did not weed properly. Then, I went back to the last setting that cut well. I also tested each cut with the felt tipped marker to see if ink was bleeding through the paper. Ideally, the blade should only leave a slight indentation in the silicone layer.

Figure 6

Speed Adjustment

As with the blade pressure, the actual number for speed is likely to vary by plotter model as well as age and angle of the blade. My recommendation is to start with the default setting and if you notice the blade skipping or edges lifting, you should decrease the speed.

If you go through this process and just cannot get a good cut, I recommend trying a fresh blade and going through the setup process again. It is also important to note that you should run a test cut each time you put in a new roll of film to ensure you have the cutter set up properly.

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To learn more about Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions, please visit: www.graphics.averydennison.com

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