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What are Cutters and Trimmers?
Cutters are machines that allow you to cut large stacks of paper (from 50 to 1000 sheets of 20# bond) with a maximum cutting length of 41". They are operated manually, electrically or hydraulically. The manual models require you to physically lift and press down on the lever, which works on a spring mechanism, thus reducing the amount of actual force you need to apply.

Trimmers are machines that allow you to cut small stacks of paper (from 10 to 50 sheets of 20# bond) with a maximum cutting length of 141". Trimmers are divided into three categories: foam board trimmers, guillotine trimmers and rotary trimmers. Foam board trimmers cut standard, rigid, Sintra or other types of foam boards up to 1.18" in thickness. Guillotine trimmers are strictly manual, while rotary trimmers may be manual or electric. Guillotine trimmers operate in a similar fashion to manual cutters- both require physical effort, but the cutter allows you to cut more paper at a time. Rotary trimmers are also either manual or electric; however, in both models the material to be cut is manually fed into the machine.

The main point of difference between cutters and trimmers is that cutters allow you to cut a greater number of sheets of paper at a time, while trimmers allow you to cut a smaller number of different types of stock, including poster boards, mat boards, foam mounting boards, plastic, film, negatives, tissue and textiles.

Factors to Consider

How many sheets of paper do you need to cut at a time?
You may determine which machine to buy based mainly on the number of sheets of paper you need to cut at a time. If you need to cut more than 50 sheets, you'll want to consider purchasing a cutter rather than a trimmer.

What types of materials do you need to cut?
Cutters are typically used to cut paper or card stock, but trimmers can cut paper, card stock, poster board, mat board, foam mounting board, plastic, film, negatives, tissue and textiles.

Will you need a memory bank to store user-programmed cuts?
For making complicated cuts or repeat cuts, you should purchase a programmable electric cutter that lets you program and save numerous cutting sequences.

Types of Cutters

Electric Cutters
Electric cutters operate their clamps and back gauges using electricity. In the fully automatic models, both clamps and back gauges are run by electricity, while in the semi-automatic cutters, either one of the mechanisms may be manually operated.

Hydraulic Cutters
Hydraulic cutters are powered by pressurized fluid to clamp and cut paper. Its clamping and cutting forces are measured in pounds.

Manual Cutters
Manual cutters are an economic way of cutting moderate amounts of paper. The clamping system and back gauge are both manually adjustable.

Programmable Cutters
Programmable cutters allow you to program cutting sequences and save them to its memory bank. A memory key also allows you to make repeat cuts of the same cutting dimensions.

Types of Trimmers

Foam Board Trimmers
Foam board trimmers allow you to cut standard, rigid and Sintra foam boards. The trimmers are either electric or manual. Horizontal and vertical trimmers operate in the same way, except that horizontal trimmers are easier to handle and vertical trimmers take up less floor space.

Guillotine Trimmers Guillotine trimmers are manual trimmers that can cut many different types of materials including paper, plastic, poster board, mat board, foam mounting board, plastic, film, negatives, tissue and textiles. Because the blade is limited in length, the length of material that can be cut in one pass is also limited. The longest cutting length within the guillotine cutter???s category is 44". For longer cutting, see rotary trimmers below.

Rotary Trimmers Rotary trimmers come in manual or electric models and use a rolling blade to cut many different types of material, including paper, plastic, poster boards, mat boards, foam mounting boards, plastic, film, negatives, tissue and textiles. Rotary trimmers are used when the length of the material you want to cut exceeds the maximum cutting length of the guillotine trimmers.


  • Back gauge: A movable device on a cutting machine against which the pile of paper or board is placed when measuring the line at which the material is to be cut.
  • Carbonless paper: Paper that is chemically coated so that duplicate copies can be produced without the use of carbon paper.
  • Clamp: Holds the paper in place by compressing the front edge of the pile of paper to be cut.
  • Hydraulic: Powered by pressurized fluid within the machine.
  • Jogging block: A device that gently agitates the stack of paper to align the edges against a flat surface.
  • Keyed access: Prior to cutting, access must be granted through a key to prevent unauthorized use.
  • Microprocessor: Allows you to program and save various cutting sequences.
  • Optical cutting line: An illuminated line that indicates the exact placement of your cutting stroke.
  • Parent stock: Paper that is produced with a width and length of 17" x 22".
  • Side guides: Plastic or metal guides that help keep paper accurately aligned during the cutting process.
  • Tungsten: When alloyed in small quantities with steel, it greatly increases its hardness.