Unlike steel rule die cutting, computer plotter cutting is quite similar to thermal die cutting due to the substrates they cut. Whether the method used is thermal die cutting or computer plotter cutting, the vinyl decals produced create a great form of advertising. Being cut to precise specifications, vinyl cut decals give the appearance as though they were painted directly onto the surface where they are adhered. For example, these “painted appearance” style decals can advertise on car or store windows, truck cabs or trailers, as well as coroplast signs and metal signs. Even though the final appearance between thermal die cut decals to computer plot decals may be the same, they are each cut very differently from each one another.
As thermal die cut melts through the vinyl to their shapes using a magnesium die, the computer plotter cuts the decal with a blade that is aligned to what is sent from the computer onto the plotter. By using mechanical movements through a servo motor, the pressure controlled blade cuts into the vinyl but leaves the liner intact. Similar to a desktop printer, the computer plotter takes the information from the computer such as cut lines and forms it onto the vinyl. Similar to steel rule die cutting versus thermal die cutting where the decision is based primarily on substrates, there are reasons to choose one vinyl cutting method over another.
Thermal die cutting is preferred when there are a large number of decals to cut since the expense of a die would be greater to the overall price if only one vinyl decal is needed. In large quantities, the thermal die cut process saves time. For low quantities or for large sizes that exceed the limitations of a thermal die cutter, computer plotter cutting is recommended. Computer plotter cutting and thermal die cutting can compliment each other when a prototype is needed and produced with a computer plotter before starting the large run that benefits from thermal die cutting.