News, Views & How-To's

Film Cutter & Plotter Technologies Questions:

What will a cutter do for me as a restyler in each of these areas: PPF, window tinting, vehicle wraps? That is, how will my business, benefit?

For PPF, tint and partial vehicle wraps, the cutter will act as a separate employee providing consistently accurate work on a regular basis, saving materials and providing an accurate return on investment. Users benefit from a device that lowers their cost of inventory and maximizes their throughput on install jobs. The cutter can work cutting out the patterns (window, hood, wrap design) precisely while the installer is prepping the vehicle. Because all restyling applications require some method of surface prep, the cutter can be an active part of the process and reduce the time to install while providing consistent results for many years.

If I already do window tinting and paint protection but don’t use a plotter/cutter, how do I justify the cost of a machine?

The cost of the machine can be calculated into the savings on materials as well as the added productivity (time savings) a shop will experience. Where an installer could tint four cars a day, they can now tint eight, for example. That extra revenue can be calculated as a sufficient ROI benefit.

Please tell me just a little about the plotter/cutter technology so I understand its benefits.

A plotter incorporates precise repetitive technology to cut the exact same pattern each and every time. It has the ability to cut the exact dimensions on both sides for consistent pattern/design quality without the margin of human error. With an optical eye, the plotter can read registration marks and cut out a pre-printed graphic, eliminating the need for a human to cut by hand.

What size machine do I need for PPF work? For window tinting? For wraps? What’s the footprint of such a machine? How much room do I need to efficiently set up a film application operation?

For PPF work, the optimum cutter is 30” wide. For specialized applications including full hoods and fenders, a 60” cutter is best. For tint, a 40” cutter is best because it is large enough to handle any windows on the car and most rolls of tint are sold in 40” widths. For wraps, a 48”-60” cutter is best for use with a large format printer. The footprints of these machines are anywhere from 3ft to 7ft wide and typically 2 ft deep. A small area around the cutter should be free to load the specified materials for cutting.

Are there software programs that have built-in designs for any vehicle I might want to do, e.g. a PPF, and that easily work with this machine? What do they cost? Where do I get them?

Film Designs Pro is a full vector graphics package with a complete database of window patterns and PPF pattern kits. The cost for such a program is $1,500 and it has a subscription fee of $1,200 per year every year after the first. This program can be purchased directly from Roland or a local Roland reseller. Similar programs on the market incorporate a similar subscription fee and/or a per cut fee for each pattern.

What are all the tools that I’ll need besides the machine?

Standard install tools include (but are not limited to): squeegees, razor knives and heat guns.

What’s a reasonable cost I should expect such a setup to run? On average, how long does it take to receive a return on that investment?

A reasonable initial cost will run anywhere from $5,000-$10,000 depending on the size of the cutter. Assuming a minimum frequency of four cars per day in a 5-day work week, the cutter system can be paid off in one business month. The subscription fees for the software package can be paid off in one day. It is reasonable to suggest that even under the slowest business conditions that a restyling package can pay for itself inside six months.

What about a learning curve? I’ve heard, for example, that beginners (even those who now are considered experts in their film applications) have wasted a lot of film learning the tricks of the trade. How will you help me shorten the learning curve?

Every authorized reseller of window tint film and PPF is trained on the installation and operation of a Roland cutter. Roland University has classes for vehicle wraps and the proper use of Roland devices. They are held in regional locations and can be found on our website under Training.

How often will I need to do maintenance on the machine? Are there some parts, e.g., the blade, that I should expect will need replacement?

Maintenance on the machines is minimal. There are some consumable parts that can be replaced by the user in seconds and are readily available for purchase. Blade life is dependent on the materials being cut. A metalized window tint film, for example, will dull a blade much faster than a regular dyed film or a paint protection film. All of these films mentioned above will dull a blade faster than the average wrap vinyl. The user can expect their blades to last between 3-12 months before their quality is expected to deteriorate. It is important to note the angle of blade recommended for such materials. The wrong blade will not cut consistently and will raise the expected consumable costs of the system.

Is there anything that you would like to add?

The key feature of any window tint/PPF system is the software package. The software package has the pattern database and the inventory control features necessary for proper accounting and tracking of inventory. The software package also has the cutting features for maximizing cut quality. When doing research on a FilmCAD system, make sure the software package has all the features and value necessary to justify the investment.

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