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The KNK Zing Air is an entry level electronic cutter that can do much more than your average cutting machine.
We should also mention that it’s recently been upgraded with the KNK Zing Orbit — you can read our review of it here.
Whether you are looking for a home-crafting machine, or the equipment to launch your own decals or signage business, the Zing Air is definitely worth a closer look. It’s one of the best computerized cutting machines on the market.
In this review, we’ll show you its pros and cons so you can make the best decision for your needs.
Introducing the KNK Zing Air
What are some of the key features of KNK’s ‘starter cutter’?
It’s extremely compact.
The KNK Zing Air is just 4.75 inches tall, 6.25 inches deep and less than two feet wide.
A lot of vinyl cutters claim to be portable and low on desk-hogging, but we all know the truth, right?
They end up consuming the entire desk, regardless, and probably only get moved once a year. To make space for the Christmas tree.
Well, the Zing does a commendable job of packing a lot of cutting power in to a frame that wastes little space or weight.
Not only is the machine compact and portable, but it’s remarkably difficult to break thanks to a design that relies on 95% metal rather than plastic parts.
Klic-n-Kut machines aren’t going to win any Apple-style design awards, but they are practical and efficient.
What about strength and cutting force?
The Zing Air has 750 grams of cutting force.
This compares favorably to some of the other top cutters on the market:
- Bosskut Gazelle – 700 grams
- Sizzix Eclips – 600 grams
- Silhouette Curio – 210 grams
- Silhouette Cameo – 210 grams
- Cricut Explore Air – Unspecified but almost certainly less
However, if raw cutting force is your fancy, then it still trails behind:
- Silver Bullet – 1250 grams
- Pazzles Inspiration – 1000 grams
- KNK Maxx – 1500 grams
- KNK Force – 4000 grams (!)
The Zing’s 750g cutting force is more than enough to work with all types of vinyl; as well as other much tougher materials, including chipboard, leathers, rhinestone plastic and more.
Another nice feature is that if at first you don’t succeed, you can cut over the same surface several times. Useful for sturdier materials.
The KNK Zing Air has a maximum cutting width of 14 inches.
This will handle most small to medium sized signage and decals. If you need larger widths than 14 inches, chances are you’re already on the hunt for a specialty machine.
If you like the KNK brand, then check out the KNK Maxx; their headline ‘professional’ cutter, which offers 24 inch cuts.
Another stand-out feature of the Zing is that it is cartridge-free.
This will be music to the ears of any craft fan who has splurged on cartridges in the past. Just like cheap printer ink, they can add up to more than the cost of the machine!
**Cough, cough, the Cricut Expression!**
Software: Make The Cut
The Zing Air comes with Make The Cut (MTC), an advanced app for prepping cuts that usually sells for $57.95.
This software has some neat features:
- Import Any GSD, WPC, AI9, PS, EPS, SVG, TTF, OTF, PDF or SCUT File
- Thin Paths and create a new drawn look
- Use Any Installed Font or Import TTF/OTF Files
- Convert Raster (PNG, GIF, JPG, etc.) Images to Cuttables
- Easily Create Lattices
- Easily Create Rhinestone Templates
- Weld/Join Shapes Together
- And much more.
You can load in anything from images files, to TrueType/OTF Fonts, to SVGs and PDFs.
MTC will scan your images, trace around them, map the colors and prepare them for the cutter.
In terms of converting, importing and preparing templates, Make The Cut makes life pretty easy.
For one off cuts.
However, it can be a real pain if you find yourself wanting to cut the same thing over and over again.
The software doesn’t handle repetition particularly well — especially the positioning point settings.
We found ourselves keeping as much of the software chores inside Adobe Illustrator as we could.
The machine’s software comes with voice activation through a feature called ZingSpeak, which means you can shout instructions at it (proving to anybody nearby that you’ve officially lost it).
“Move the blade left, right, right… left!”
“Set cut speed to 12”
We’re not sure why anybody would choose this option unless they had, well… both hands tied behind their back… but hey, it’s there if you need it.
In tandem with the machine’s wireless connectivity, the voice commands of ZingSpeak make for a uniquely hands-off experience.
Still, it’s not a feature that we found ourselves relying on in practical every-day use.
For a demonstration of Make The Cut and how it works with the Zing, check out this excellent streamed video courtesy of Joe Rotella:
Support and Setup
Accugraphics, the team behind the KNK Zing Air, is a family-run business with over 30 years experience in the crafts industry.
Their machines were originally focused around signage companies, and that is reflected in the utility-first approach of the KNK cutters. These machines are designed, first and foremost, to get the job done.
One of the trade-offs is that not as much time has been invested in to ‘newbie-proofing’ the setup process.
The learning curve is pretty relentless, right from the moment you get the Zing Air out of the box.
You’ll spend a lot of time combing the manual and getting to grips with the controls and how the various settings interact in to a final cut.
To truly master the various blade settings and all the different supported materials could take a very long time indeed.
Klic-N-Kut doesn’t have the same vast community as, say, Cricut or Silhouette. But there are plenty of useful YouTube videos where you can pick up tips, tutorials and hands-on advice.
As always with these cutters, the Internet is your oyster.
We suggest an afternoon of binge-watching YouTube tutorials before you start cutting.
We didn’t get round to testing their support times, but from most accounts, they seem to be on the ball.
So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of this Klic-N-Kut machine?
Let’s start with the positives.
KNK Zing Air Pros
Pierce, emboss and engrave.
For those seeking a machine that can do more than the naked hand, the KNK Zing Air is tremendously well rounded.
You can pierce patterns in to materials, as well as embossing or engraving a variety of surfaces that would eat your Silhouette or Cricut for breakfast.
It’s not that we don’t love those machines for our vinyl sticker crafting…
The KNK is simply a different beast — thanks to its superior cutting force.
At 750 grams of force compared to the 210 offered by the Silhouette Cameo, it’s no wonder you can feed this thing leather and sheet metals!
It works with a LOT of materials.
Our site is dedicated to vinyl cutters, but we’d be doing the Zing Air a huge disservice if we reduced it to a machine you buy just for vinyl decals.
As alluded to above, it can handle many materials, including:
- Rhinestone rubber
- Cling vinyl
- Sheet magnet
- Sheet metal
- Balsa wood
- Craft plastics
It’s one thing for a machine to support different materials, it’s another for it to actually cut them well. And that marks a key benefit of the Zing:
Ability to fine-tune cuts to exact detail
This machine can be extremely precise; and it can also lead to a criminal amount of wasted materials.
The end result depends on how much time and effort you invest in learning the intricacies of the blade and its many custom settings.
We’ve included the abundance of necessary tweaking as a con, because ultimately the Zing is marketed as an entry level cutter. We can see how it would infuriate before it delights.
But if you get over the hurdles, you’ll find a machine that is amazingly flexible to your needs.
The machine operates at around 60-70 decibels.
If you’ve ever used some of its noisier rivals, the Zing Air’s relative peace and quiet might well be the first thing you notice.
Maybe the spouse will finally forgive you for that small crafts hobby!
If it could just clean up after itself…
No cartridges required.
The Zing Air is an open source machine that does not require an endless assortment of propriety cartridges.
This is a huge sell for many users.
Portable, compact and impressively designed.
We are amazed how well this KNK machine makes use of space.
It has an understated minimalist design, just a few inches tall and deep.
It’s about as portable as you could expect for a machine capable of slicing up to 14 inches.
The compact design and quiet operations make for a home-friendly machine. For extra convenience, you can now connect to it by bluetooth (as well as USB).
The machine has 3 wheels, allowing users to cut 12″ by unlimited length, or 4 inch
KNK Zing Air Cons
Lots of [regular] tweaking required for perfect cuts.
The top hobbyist vinyl cutting machines spoil us when it comes to usability — say, the Silhouette Cameo 3 or the Cricut Explore Air 2.
If you are trained in to thinking that the correct blade depth is an arbitrary number — 1, 2, 3, etc — then you will shudder at the freedom offered by the Zing Air.
The ability to fine-tune cuts is a rewarding learning experience, for some, but for others it may well lead to a lot of waste materials piling up in the trash
The KNK Zing Air a craftsman’s machine above all else — if you’re a beginner, we’d only really recommend it if you’re super committed to learning the craft.
It’s not a vinyl cutter that translates well to ‘click, set, cut and forget‘.
Expensive for an entry level cutter
Even with the flexibility that Zing Air is known for; its parent company choose to market it as their ‘entry level cutter’.
This squeezes the market for the Zing Air.
The true ‘craftsmen’ may well be drawn to the Force or Maxx Air– put off by the idea of an entry level cutter — while the mainstream craft enthusiasts will perform a simple cost comparison between the Zing and its entry level rivals; and probably end up buying a Silhouette or Cricut machine instead.
Of course, this has no bearing on the overall product.
The company claims that “KNK Zing Air is a more affordable cutting system without compromising quality or features.”
But they could probably do a better job of selling the entry-level market on why their open source cartridge-free cutter appears more expensive.
Best Price for the Zing Air
At first glance, it doesn’t appear as if Klic-n-Kut is trying to compete with the popular Cricut and Silhouette machines.
The KNK Zing Air is more expensive.
The machine appeals to craft fans who are happy to pay a premium for increased flexibility, extra cutting force and freedom from cartridge dependency.
All in all, a high quality machine that is worthy of the investment.
It’s not available on Amazon right now but you can buy it for a sale price on Klic-N-Kut’s website.
What do you think of the KNK Zing Air?
Let us know your thoughts, reviews and experiences below.