"". Cut Two Pieces: Thinking of buying a digital die cutter

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Thinking of buying a digital die cutter

Are you thinking of purchasing a digital die cutter, or even replacing an existing cutter? There are many cutters on the market and research before buying is well worth the effort. Here is a list of a few things to consider before buying.

Will it cut the type of materials you plan to cut?
Some cutters are only designed to cut thinner materials. If you want to cut chipboard find out the maximum thickness or gsm that can be cut.

Will it cut the width of materials you plan to cut?
If you are a scrapbooker and want to cut 12 x 12 check out the maximum cutting width as some machines take 12 inch cardstock but do not cut a full 12 inches.

Ask about the software provided? 
Many machines now cut from a range of programs. If you prefer a particular software program ask if you can use it with your new cutter.
Other things to check about the software if you are a first time buyer, ease of use, the availability of tutorials to help you learn.

Will it cut the length of materials you plan to cut?
If you plan to cut long projects check the cutting length as some programs will only cut a limited length.

Are there extra features available?
Will you be able to emboss, engrave or even insert your own pens to draw designs? Not everyone will need more features but it nice to know before buying.

Ask about the noise level and how fast it will cut?
Some cutters are very noisy and have to rest a lot during the cutting process.

How long is the warranty and where does it have to be sent to be repaired?
It is important to read the warranty information before purchasing.
(Unfortunately, I learnt this one the hard way).
Ask who pays for shipping while your machine is covered by warranty.
Ask if a qualified person will repair your machine.
Ask if it is company policy to send you the part only, with instructions to do the repair yourself.

Warranty repairs are an important factor to consider when purchasing if you plan to buy from an overseas retailer. It is often more expensive in the long run to buy a cheaper machine from a dealer further away from where you live if repairs are needed.

Is the cutter compatible with your computer?
If you own a Macintosh or a Windows 64 bit operating system, make sure the cutter and the software will be compatible.

Does the cutter have to be attached to the computer and turned on to use the software?

Does the machine have software to create your own designs or is it cartridge based?
If you like the freedom to create your own designs a cartridge based system will probably not suit your needs. 

Does the software require a dongle (a usb security key)?

How many computers can the software be installed on?

Is the software transferable if you buy a new computer? 

Are software updates free of charge?

Is the remaining warranty and any forum support transferable if you sell your machine?

Can you use a usb cable and attach the cutter to a laptop computer?
Beware - some cutters are supplied with a usb cable but do have random cutting issues and the only way to prevent random cuts is to change to a serial cable. If you do not have a serial connection on your computer you will need to purchase an adaptor.

What is the support like?
Are you referred to forums run by others?
Does the company have their own dedicated forum?
Ask if any members have been banned from accessing the support forum.
I would also check you can contact the head office if you cannot get assistance  from the person you purchased the cutter from.

Will the person you buy from be available for assistance while learning?
You will find many places sell cutters and do not offer any further support.

Are there training videos?
If there are, ask if they are free to access. 

If this will be your first purchase I would recommend doing the following:
- Write a list of items you wish to cut and ask questions to ensure you can cut those items.
- If possible ask for a demonstration or ask for samples to be mailed to you.
- If you do go to see a demonstration, take your own samples to make sure they can be cut.
- Join any listed forums and ask questions. Remember most forum regulars are the ones who are happy with their machine. Have a look at questions asked and see how they were answered. Unfortunately some forums are closed and you cannot access this information until you buy a machine.
- Ask about ongoing support and if free lessons are included.
- Ask where the cutter has to be sent and who pays if it needs repairing.
- Ask about length of warranty and find out what is covered by the warranty.
- Do not be talked into a larger or smaller cutter than you planned to purchase.
- Do not be pushed into a purchase. Any reputable dealer will be happy for you to go home and think about your choice.

I have created a form with these questions for you to fill out. Read this post for the link to download.

Machine Comparison Chart listing many of the machines available to help you with your search.  NOTE: this is not my list and I have only provided a link to the chart created and posted by Paperthreads. The chart is updated when details are available so check back from time to time as new machines enter the market. Not all machines available are listed because some companies did not wish to provide the information.

Another Machine Comparison Chart. Once again this is not my list and I am only adding a link to the chart.

Visit Jin at Under a Cherry Tree for her personal review of few different cutting machines.

More links will be added as I find more sites that may help with your selection.

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for this. I am sharing it with the "Boycott Provo Craft" group on Facebook. There are a lot of new members who are disgruntled with Provo Craft's exhibition of the E2 on HSN Monday 26 September--with an improved version that cost $50 less than the original version of E2.

    I really wish I had the opportunity to read an article such as this before I purchased my Cricut. I would have saved my money and purchased something like a Pazzles. I ended up donating all my Provo Craft items to a worthy charity. Recently I did receive a Silhouette SD and I'm very happy with my choice, after a LOT of research!

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  2. Hi Jann, I too have had a disappointing experience with a different company. I have never owned a Cricut but do have 4 machines. I learnt the hard way what questions should be asked first and created the list to try and prevent others from making the same mistake. I think we all tend to look at the good, only to discover the bad after parting with hard earned money. I hate seeing people spend good money on any brand machine if it does not suit the owners requirements.

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  3. Thanks for great information.
    I have the Cricut Expression and love it for what I am doing. I knew it was a cartridge machine, pretty obvious, when I bought it! I love the ease of using cartridges and have bought many of them under $25. For now this is all I want, someday I may want something different so thanks for all your info!

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