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So… you’ve decided to invest in a Graphtec plotter.
Great decision — Graphtec are at the top of their game in the commercial vinyl cutting world and offer some truly exceptional machines that will undeniably take your designs to the next level.
To buy a Graphtec vinyl cutter is to buy a professional vinyl cutter.
But they’re not for everyone.
If you’re happy to cut away with your desktop Cameo or Cricut, you’ll likely find a Graphtec just a bit too much for your needs. These machines are best suited to commercial businesses or a very serious hobbyist.
For those of us who make vinyl signage but find the cheap USCutter MH Series a little amateur, a Graphtec plotter should be on your radar.
But which one to buy?
We’ve recently been testing out two of their machines and have a lot to say about both.
How do they compare? Let’s find out…
- 1 Graphtec CE6000 vs Graphtec FC8600: Features
- 2 Graphtec Software
- 3 Graphtec CE6000 vs Graphtec FC8600: Pros and Cons
Here’s a quick teaser:
|Graphtec CE6000||Graphtec FC8600|
|# of Models||3||5|
|Max Cutting Width||48" (CE6000-120)||64" (FC8600-160)|
|Max Speed||40 inches/second||58.5 inches/second|
|Max Cutting Force||450 g||600 g|
|Best For...||Small businesses and hobbyists||Larger companies|
|Price||>>> Check Price on Amazon||>>> Check Price on Amazon|
Graphtec CE6000 vs Graphtec FC8600: Features
One of the first things to discuss about the Graphtec vinyl cutters is that despite a few similarities, they are different machines and will be suited to different uses.
Let’s take the Graphtec CE6000 first.
It’s not quite as big or as heavy duty as the Graphtec FC8600, with slightly slower speeds and a reduction in cutting force.
Here’s how the different models measure up against one another:
|Max Cutting Width||15"||24"||48"|
|Max Speed||24 inches/second||35 inches/second||40 inches/second|
|Shipping Weight||23 lb||46 lb||89 lb|
Here’s what they can cut:
- Heat transfer media
- Masking media
- Rhinestone stencil templates
- Pre-printed stickers and graphic
- Cut etchings
- Sandblast resist stencils
The Graphtec CE6000s can cut up to a whipping 164 foot in length. Needless to say, we haven’t tested it to this full length (who has the budget?!) but it’s undoubtedly accurate and precise at the longest lengths.
As you’ll be able to see, the FC8600 packs a bigger punch than the CE6000, even at the smaller sizes.
Here’s how the models compare against each other:
|Max Cutting Width||24"||30"||42"||54"||64"|
|Max Speed||58.5 inches/second||58.5 inches/second||58.5 inches/second||58.5 inches/second||58.5 inches/second|
|Shipping Weight||84 lb||92 lb||133 lb||170 lb||200 lb|
And here’s what additional materials it can cut:
- Diamond grade, high intensity reflective film
- Prismatic grade reflective sheeting
- Sandblast resist rubber
It can cut roll fed media up to 1.48 mm thick and, like the Graphtec CE6000, can cut up to a maximum 164 feet in length. Plus it guarantees 50 feet of that in tracking and accuracy.
One of the major selling points of both Graphtec plotters is that they benefit from ARMS 5.0.
ARMS is Advanced Registration Mark Sensor and involves an optical eye to ensure that your designs are perfectly positioned and aligned no matter what their scale or intricacy level.
ARMS works by automatically recognizing registration marks on the media that you feed the machine and adjusting its cutting accordingly to ensure that the cuts are exactly where you want them to be on the media.
Here are some of the features of ARMS 5.0 that help it work so well:
- 4-Point Axis Alignment: automatically compensates for any distortion on the x and y axis for the most accurate positioning
- Auto Mark Detection: automatically detects the first registration mark without you having to move around the sensor to find it
- Auto Sensitivity Adjust: automatically ramps up its sensitivity levels to detect registration marks on a variety of different media types — even textured media
The Graphtec FC8600 goes one step further and also benefits from Intelligent Scan Mode: an improved algorithm to help detect registration marks better than ever before in Print & Cut.
When we first started playing around with the Graphtec plotters, we were a little confused at what on earth ‘tangential emulation’ is.
Now we know that it’s awesome.
Basically, it just means that the blade rises and repositions as and when it cuts corners, thus eliminating any tearing and making the weeding process a hell of a lot easier.
We’ve come across tangential blade control before with other vinyl cutting machines, but this is much better. Tangential blade control usually means that what you gain in accuracy and detail, you lose with slower speeds and those pesky little vinyl ears that come about from lifted edges.
Both the Graphtec CE6000 and FC8600 have tangential emulation.
Other Features We Love on Both Machines
Before we get down to the true comparison, here are a few other smaller features that both machines share:
- Servo Motors: fast, quiet and accurate
- Can cut outside the registration marks for increased efficiency and less waste media
- Can save 8 preset cutting conditions on both machines including tangential control mode, down force offset, pen up speed and blade wear monitoring
- Supersteel blades
- Large, backlit LCDs
- Perforation cutting
- Automatic panelling: splits longer jobs into smaller panels which are cut sequentially without any gaps
- Can make multiple copies using ARMS
- Overcut feature ensures complete cutting through thicker materials
- Both are excellent at contour cutting
- 2 blade positions for contour cutting and normal cutting
Graphtec Studio is Graphtec’s own in-house software, which is excellent.
It’s intuitive and easy to use, and you have a fair amount of creative control as well. It’s got such functions as auto-shape and shading, as well as various editing features.
One of the latest upgrades allows you to import your own files in EPS format as well — very handy for those of us who like to part-design in other programs like Illustrator.
Cutting Master 3
One of our favorite things about Cutting Master 3 is the plugin that allows you to directly send your Illustrator and CorelDraw designs straight from their program to your Graphtec plotter, bypassing the Graphtec Studio software.
The program itself also has some neat features, allowing you to create your own registration marks, as well as adjust weeding settings and matrix copy.
This program allows you to control various settings on your Graphtec vinyl cutter straight from your PC or Mac.
We personally found the plotters’ large LCD screens easy enough to navigate without this, but it’s certainly useful for people who prefer working as much as possible from their own computer.
Graphtec CE6000 vs Graphtec FC8600: Pros and Cons
Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty: what do we love and hate about these machines? Which is the best?
Graphtec CE6000: The Positives
Perfect for Small Businesses and Serious Hobbyists
First off, we should acknowledge that the Graphtec CE6000 is an exceptional cutter.
Yes, it’s expensive, so it should be — but it’s actually one of the more reasonably priced commercial plotters on the market.
We found that ARMS worked perfectly to create perfectly aligned cuts that we just as precise and accurate at the 30th foot as they were at the third inch.
It can tackle basically all projects — big and small — and is exceptional at the nitty gritty details thanks to the tangential emulation it boasts.
For entrepreneurs and small/medium businesses creating signage, stickers or other such designs in bulk, it’s hard to go wrong with the Graphtec CE6000.
While the Graphtec FC8600 has more bells and whistles, it’s worth asking yourself if you’re ever likely to need a commercial grade vinyl cutter to contour cut prismatic grade reflective sheeting.
In many cases — particularly for the hobbyists — the CE6000 should more than suffice.
Easy to Use
While it may be a little overwhelming when you first start using your Graphtec plotter, you’ll quickly get into a rhythm with this machine.
The machine itself is very intuitive and easy to use, and the accompanying software equally so.
Even the most technophobic should be able to get along pretty well with this machine — and if you are struggling, you have the option of choosing ‘simple’ operation on the LCD screen.
Simple mode simply makes it easier to navigate the various settings on screen, reducing down the menus to their most basic. When you get the hang of the operation, you can switch it back to normal mode which will display all the menus and settings on offer.
Media Brake System
Another feature we really love on the Graphtec CE6000 is the media brake system, which is a great help in loading your media into the plotter correctly.
The brake also ensures that your roll media doesn’t unwind or get out of your control. This is particularly useful when you’re working on long jobs.
Desktop Size Available
It’s fair to say that the Graphtec vinyl cutting machines are not cheap.
But, there is an affordable option with the Graphtec CE6000 – the 40 model. This 15″ inch cutter is a neat desktop size (it doesn’t require a stand) and is considerably cheaper than the other models on offer.
Sure, you can’t cut as wide with this Graphtec plotter, but it can still cut up to 164 feet long!
It’s a great choice for people on a budget who still want to experience that incredible Graphtec cutting technology.
Graphtec CE6000 Negatives
There aren’t a huge amount of negatives to contend with when you buy a Graphtec CE6000 plotter, but it won’t be as suitable for some people and projects as it is for others.
Not as Heavy Duty as the Graphtec FC8600
This is the major difference between the Graphtec plotters: the FC8600 can simply handle a lot more than the CE6000.
Not only does it have more cutting force and speed, but it can handle much more heavy duty materials and projects.
If you require a sturdier machine that can take on materials like diamond grade film and prismatic grade reflective sheeting, you’re going to have to fork out for the FC8600.
Doesn’t Come with a Catch Basket
Puzzlingly, the Graphtec CE6000 plotters don’t come with a catch basket.
While you may not need them with the CE6000-40 desktop cutter, you’ll definitely want them with the larger models as without it, you’ll have waste vinyl flying all over the place.
It’s annoying to have to purchase this separately, particularly as they come included with the Graphtec FC8600 models and can’t be found on Amazon.
Graphtec FC8600: The Positives
Yep, the Graphtec FC8600 is expensive — there’s no getting around it. But it’s definitely a worthy investment if you’re in the business of vinyl cutting.
It’s one of the premier commercial plotters out there and probably the most sophisticated that we’re yet to try yet.
We already know that it’s capable of much more than the Graphtec CE6000 in terms of heavy duty materials, but here’s what else we love about this machine…
Great for Using Different Media
If you’re wondering why it is that the FC8600 can take on so many more different media types than the CE6000, then look no further than the push rollers.
These have 3 tension settings upon them, with the option to add in more rollers if you need them too.
This ensures that the media feed into the plotter is stable and secure, and allows the machine to adjust to many different types of media too.
It also benefits from Intelligent Scan Mode in its ARMS technology, which allows it to identify registration marks on a huge range of media — even textured material.
If you like experimenting or just generally using a range of different materials — Amberlith and Rubylith, for instance — you should definitely go for the Graphtec FC8600.
The Graphtec CE6000 has just USB and serial ports, which means that you have to hook up your computer to the plotter in order to start cutting.
While this may be fine in a small office environment, it’s super inefficient for most businesses.
The FC8600 has Ethernet capability which allows computers on a network to send their jobs to the Graphtec vinyl cutter without having to physically connect to it. This also proves very useful if you’re a larger companies working with multiple machines within a network.
It also has a dual configuration set allowing 2 different users, each able to save up to 8 customized conditions each.
2 Tool Configuration for Cutting and Plotting
Both plotters work very quickly thanks to their servo motors, but the Graphtec FC8600 takes efficiency to the next level with its dual configuration for cutting and plotting.
This tool holds both a pen and a blade, switching between the two seamlessly as you need them.
Lots of Sizes Available
With 5 different models in the FC8600 range, you’ll be able to only pay for exactly what you need, rather than needlessly upgrading to the next size up just in case.
While there’s no desktop version available like in the CE6000 range, you do have much more selection in the large width range, with the two biggest plotters boasting maximum widths of 54 and 64 inches respectively.
Come with Catch Baskets
Unlike the Graphtec CE6000s, all of the FC8600 models come with their own catch basket, as well as a stand, media roll rack and software suite.
Graphtec FC8600: The Negatives
There’s very little to say in terms of negative aspects of the operation of the Graphtec FC8600.
It cuts incredibly well and really is in the top tier of commercial vinyl cutting machines.
There are, however, a few things to consider before buying.
We’ve touched on this a few times, but it’s worth mentioning again: the Graphtec FC8600 does not come cheap.
And unlike with the Graphtec CE6000, there’s no low cost desktop version available for you to try out either.
While larger companies will likely see the machine as a worthy investment, it’s definitely a bigger commitment for small and solo businesses.
For serious hobbyists, we think you’ll be better served by the CE6000 unless there’s a specific reason why you need the extra horsepower of the larger machine.
Only 2 User Configurations Available
If you are operating within a larger company, however, you may feel a little constrained by the Graphtec FC8600.
We were a little disappointed that there were only options for 2 users to save their preset conditions. Why not extend this to more users if you’re marketing it to larger organizations?
The Overall Verdict
If you’re looking to find a winner in the battle of Graphtec CE6000 vs Graphtec FC8600, you might be hard pressed.
They’re both excellent vinyl cutting machines and should both be more than enough for the majority of serious hobbyists, entrepreneurs and small businesses in the vinyl cutting business.
The Graphtec FC8600 is the better of the two in terms of what it can actually do: it’s bigger, can work with more materials and has more features focused on accuracy and precision.
Graphtec CE6000 vs Graphtec FC8600: which is the best?