The Graphtec FC8600 is a vinyl cutter and plotter that works on a variety of materials. The plotter is a more professional, nuanced version of Graphtec’s other precision-cutting plotter, the CE6000.
The FC8600-60, the 24-inch version of the plotter, is highly promoted, but there are four other sizes. The features on all five FC8600 series are the same; the maximum size of the material that each unit can cut is the only difference. The cutter models are:
- The FC8600-60, 24-inch cutter
- FC8600-75, 30-inch cutter
- FC8600-100, 42-inch cutter
- FC8600-130: 54-inch cutter
- FC8600-160: 64-inch cutter
One of the best cutter/plotters from Graphtec, the FC8600 offers everything you could want in a plotter for more precision cutter, and it has lots of programmable features.
FC8600 series cutting plotters offer industry the industry standard for graphic artists, sign makers, counter top installers and automotive professionals.
Although there are five models of the FC8600, we’ll look at the FC8600-60 for this review. All versions of the cutter/plotter have the same high-performance capacity and accuracy. The larger models handle larger pieces of material and may have different software specifications, but, otherwise, all plotters have the same advanced features.
The FC8600-60 has the following specifications:
It has a 20g to 600g programmable cutting force in a total of 48 steps. The media cutting thickness measures 59.1 mils, and the maximum thickness for the auto sheet cutter is 11 mil, with the release liner.
You can cut media with a speed of up to 58.5 diagonal inches per second. The acceleration tops out at diagonal 4.0 G. When you set up text to be printed, keep in mind that the minimum size is 0.196 inches, depending on the material and the font used.
The mechanical resolution measures 0.0002 inches, with a minimum character size of 0.125 inches for medium Helvetica font. You’ll need 100-240 VAC and 50/60 Hz to power this cutter. Auto switching has a maximum of 120 VA.
For precision cutting, all FC8600 machines have 1.5mm or 0.9mm Tungsten Carbide blades. The three plotting pens include a proofreading option (a light pointer), as well as an oil-based ballpoint pen and a water-based fiber tip pen.
If you work with various resolutions depending on the type of media, you can program the machine at GPGL: 254, 508, 1016, 2540: GP-GL: .1/.05/.025/.01mm and several other resolutions. All machines offer a standard perforated line cutting.
The 2 MB data buffer and interfaces, (including Serial RS-232C), let you change cutting and printing options with the touch of a button. The 2.0 USB high-speed interface is compatible with USB 1.1. The optional Ethernet is 10Base-T/100Base E-TX.
The Graphtec FC8600 24-inch model weighs 94 pounds, 106 pounds when shipped. There’s a two-year warranty, and there may be an additional year with online registration depending on where you buy it.
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The series offers a maximum speed of 58.5 inches per second, 20 to 600g cutting force, 4.0G acceleration maximum. The Graphtec FC8600 series vinyl cutters are the company’s top-of-the-line machines. Instead of cutting only paper, labels, stickers, and vinyl, these plotters are suitable for heavy industrial material, including:
- Reflective Film
- Sandblast Resist Rubber
- Diamond Grade
- Self-Adhesive Vinyl
- Countertop Material
- Fluorescent Film
- Automotive Window and Paint Protection Film
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The cutters, regardless of size, include floor stands, media catch basket and roll rack, standalone software from Graphtec Studio and Cutting Master 3 plug-in for CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator. The software package may be slightly different depending on the machine you buy.
What Makes This Product Unique
The FC8600 series cutters are designed for professional use. It has many features hobbyists won’t need, along with a heftier price tag than desktop Graphtec models. The ARMs feature, which is used on certain Graphtec plotters, is one of the exclusive features that make this cutter/plotter brand so popular.
Automatic Registration Mark Sensor, ARMs
All versions of the current FC8600 feature the ARMS system for more efficient mark detection and precise cutting. There’s a sensor to provide the best auto-alignment for signs, stickers, aftermarket automotive products and items of all sizes that need cutting.
You can adjust registration mark detection on different materials and colors, and contour cut reflective media. The ARMS system allows you to expand the print area and cut outside registration marks to reduce waste.
The ARMS system also has auto-mark detection to spot the first registration mark in a wide area, so you won’t need to place the sensor close to the registration mark manually. The sensor locates the marks that follow to make searching for registration marks easier.
Intelligent Scan Mode (ISM) offers a scanning algorithm to expand media cutting range and accomplish scanning faster and with more accuracy. Registration marks are easily noticeable on textured and color media, including laminated and glossy materials.
Segment area compensation provides a four-point axis alignment for every indicated portion of the material. Use Normal Mode to read marks in the center of the feeding direction to align and cut the complete graphic. This accurate alignment method is excellent if you use Print and Cut settings for longer material.
Use Normal Mode with Graphtec Studio, Cutting Master 2,3 or 4, Plotter Controller or Graphtec Studio Pro software.
Perform Contour cutting sequentially in each segment in Sequential Mode. The movement of media is reserved for the smaller area, which guarantees cutting accuracy. Sequential Mode improves tracking for laminated or thick media.
Cutting Master 3 (version 2.1.211 or later editions) and Graphtec Studio (2.1.200 and later software versions) are used for Sequential Mode.
The Auto Sensitivity Adjust feature measures the mark’s reflective level and the media background. The adjust feature detects the mark color when it contrasts with the media background. It also detects a white mark on a black or color background.
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ARMS may be the most highly publicized feature of Graphtec cutters, but other components help make the FC8600 easy to use and great for high-production businesses.
The three-inch LCD Control panel offers dual configuration and can run multiple machines from a single location.
The machine has custom tool settings for a perf cut. You can perforate cut through vinyl media to make color, pop-out decals or stickers without damaging the machine or blades.
Control the cutting force to perform a perforation cut. You won’t use the usual up and down cutting motion, and you’ll increase throughput. Perf cutting helps create separation lines to tear out labels or make POP sign fold lines.
Different blade positions have different functions. The first blade offers “contour kiss” cuts for vinyl, and the third blade position cuts all the way through your chosen media without hurting the blade or strip.
The new auto-paneling feature splints long jobs into small pages that are cut without gaps in a sequential fashion. The material movement involves cutting the smaller page, which results in better precision and tracking.
The standard accessories with all machines include a power cord, cutting blade, and holder, USB cable, DVD-Rom, manual, plus a fiber tip pen and holder. Optional accessories include an additional media stocker, flange or additional push roller.
The Graphtec Pro Studio Vinyl Cutting software helps you create designs with editing, auto-shape and shading functions. It also configures settings for accurate cutting on the plotter. This Cutting Software is Windows compatible only.
Cutting Master 4 for Windows and Mac is a plug-in for CorelDraw and Illustrator. It sends the data you’ve created to the plotter and offers registration mark creation, cut job settings, tool conditions and preview functions.
Control settings for the FC8600 with Plotter Controller software for Windows. Start the software as soon as the printing starts with the print menu on any application.
Graphtec Studio Software for Mac creates images and designs using icons in the drawing space.
The FC8600 is one of the more expensive plotters on the market, but it’s well worth the price if you own a business with extensive sign-making or automotive aftermarket orders.
Amazon.com and most vinyl cutter sites show FC8600 cutters usually cost $$, and financing is available from some sellers. However, the largest model, the Graphtec FC86000-160, costs $6995 from most sellers.
Graphtec vinyl cutters are popular on eBay, even though the pricing is the same as on Amazon and online stores, with most items, including the FC8600, with five to a few dozen potential customers watching item sales/bids.
Other large, professional vinyl cutters, such as US Cutter’s Titan, retail for around $1000- $1500, but they aren’t in the same league as the FC8600.
Graphtec offers a five-year protection plan for $650, which is an extension on their usual warranty. A four-year onsite protection plan provides a technician to fix the machine in your place of business for $680. The onsite protection plan eliminates the need to box and ship a malfunctioning plotter back to the manufacturer for service.
We couldn’t find many detailed user reviews for this product, but it seems to be a fast seller on Amazon and sign-maker/vinyl cutter sites. The FC8600 is listed as selling out or having few products in stock on several websites.
Expert reviews usually give the plotter excellent marks for its precision cutting, ARMs feature, Ethernet capabilities and its ability to cut even large loads of the toughest media to specification.
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How It Compares
The FC8600 handles more media – and tougher material- than Graphtec’s other best-seller, the CE6000, due to its push rollers. The rollers have three tension settings, and you can even add more rollers for more complex jobs.
The push rollers help the machine adjust to various types of media and make sure that the material feeds into the plotter without causing problems.
If you use Rubylith, Amberlith, or work with window tint, automotive wrap or any industrial material, the FC8600 offers you more options and a strong, accurate cut than the CE6000 or similar plotters from Roland and other manufacturers.
The Ethernet system on the FC8600 lets network computers send jobs to the cutter without a physical connection. This machine is perfect for companies with several computers on a network and a consistent workload.
A dual configuration setting lets two users enter up to eight customized instructions, so it saves time in the set-up process. Other Graphtec plotters-and most plotters from other manufacturers – can’t perform this function.
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What We Think
Entrepreneurs and businesses with the cash to spend will benefit from buying the FC8600, regardless of the size. All the FC8600 cutter models, from the 24-inch to the 64-inch machines, are easy to program and offer precise cutting on tough media.
If you’re a hobbyist or a start-up, you might want to try the lower-priced CE6000 first and work your way up to the FC8600.
There are lots of pros to this vinyl cutter and few disadvantages except for the high price. The display may be too small for some users, but otherwise, you’ll find the FC8600 has everything you need to cut decals, stickers, signs, engravings, vehicle wrap, and even car window tint film.
You are in control of the FC8600 due to its stable design. The basket and push rollers grip the material at different pressure settings, which keeps media steady. You’ll print even the most complicated design, on any media, with more accuracy.
There are five sizes to choose from, so you won’t need to settle- you can purchase the exact machine you need for the signs or other items you need to your specifications. If you want a desktop cutter, go for the CE6000 from Graphtec; the FC8600 is geared to a large commercial operation, so the plotters cut wider material.
The catch baskets help keep your workshop tidy and help you retrieve odd bits and pieces that fall off during the cutting process.
Coupons and Deals
There are occasional sales on the Graphtec FC8600 plotter on the company website or Amazon. You may find used plotters on eBay or online stores at a reduced price.
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