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The most common problem with friction-fed plotters is tracking. How do you make sure that when you load your vinyl for a 20 foot banner or custom pinstriping job, your vinyl won't walk sideways halfway through? More advanced friction fed plotters, including the Vinyl Express Qe60+ and Q Series, have media-handling systems and features designed to enhance tracking. Some of these features, like the grit rollers, are engineered into the product and require no user input. Others must be activated and can be adjusted according to the length of the job being cut.

One such is the "Auto Pre-Feed" function. Auto Pre-Feed is a feature designed to make sure that when you begin cutting you are not pulling vinyl right off the roll. Pulling vinyl from the roll with no slack produces resistance against the grit rollers, which can affect tracking. And, if you're cutting at maximum speed, there may be a sudden increase in tension when slack is used up and resistance from the rolled media kicks in. This can cause an X position Alarm and bring the job to a halt.

In addition to preventing X Position Alarm Errors, Auto Pre-feed enhances tracking accuracy by creating grooves in the vinyl. When the media is pre-fed, the pinch rollers make a slight depression in the vinyl. Then when the job is being cut, the pinch rollers are more likely to stay in this track which enhances accurate tracking.

Great. So, where's the Auto Pre-Feed button?

The Auto Pre-Feed is found in the menu accessed via the LCD control panel. To access it on a Vinyl Express Q60, Q75, Q100, Q130, or Q160, or Graphtec FC7000 series cutter, just press the Menu button to enter the menu mode.

 Once in the menu mode:

  • Press the Next button twice to go to the page that reads "Interface, Area Parameters, Function 1, and Function 2".
  • Press the F4 button to access the Function 2 menu The third function on this menu page is the "Auto Pre-feed" option.
  • Press the F3 button to access the Auto Pre-Feed menu. You will see Auto Pre-feed at the top of the LCD screen with two options, "Enabled", and "Disabled". One will be marked with an asterisk. If "Disabled" is marked with an asterisk, you have Auto Pre-Feed turned off. Shame on you. Go stand in the corner.
  • Better yet, press the F3 button to Enable the Auto Pre-Feed. We're almost done. In the Auto Pre-Feed menu, you will now see "Feed Length =", and a measurement in feet. Use the lovely lavender up or down arrows on the Q control panel to increase or decrease the feed length.
  • Press the Enter button just below the arrows to save your settings and press the Menu button to exit the menu and go back to Ready mode.
  • You are now ready to cut up long graphics with maximum tracking precision.