Equipment/Vinyl Cutter CraftRobo
Equipment / Vinyl Cutter
- 1 Summary
- 2 Using the Vinyl Cutter
- 3 Maintenance
- 4 Official Documentation and Further Information
The Vinyl cutter is a small (210mm wide) Graphtec CraftRobo device. It can cut a variety of materials, up to around 400mm long. Items smaller than 210mm wide can be used by putting them on a special support sheet.
It is considered to be in Tool Class orange: there is no mandatory training, but if you do not feel confident using it, please get in touch with the Owners.
Using the Vinyl Cutter
The Owners are those nominally in charge of the equipment, organising its maintenance, helping others to use it, and generally being a point of contact.
The current Owners of the Vinyl Cutter are:
If you have any questions, problems or concerns around the vinyl cutter, or would like a personal introduction to how it all works, these are the people to contact.
No formal training is required to operate the Vinyl Cutter. If you intend to make something using the cutter please read the Health & Safety and Safety Notes sections below before doing so. The manual is also available online in case you require additional information.
Informal training sessions will be listed in the Meetup diary
Requests for more sessions, or discussion about them should be directed to the discussion thread: Training:Vinyl Cutter
Health and Safety
The vinyl cutter is a potentially dangerous piece of equipment which must be operated with due care. The top things to always remember when using the vinyl cutter are:
- ONLY USE THE VINYL CUTTER IF YOU HAVE READ THE SAFETY NOTES BELOW
- NEVER LEAVE THE VINYL CUTTER RUNNING UNATTENDED
- ONLY CUT APPROPRIATE MATERIAL
- SHARP BLADE - when handling the blade (eg. to adjust or change caps for different thickness) take care not to cut yourself
- TRAPPING - The head and roller of the machine are moved by programs in the machine's memory. Be careful when near the machine, it will possibly move even if the PC is off. Always keep the cover closed when cutting
This section is still under construction. If in doubt, please refer to the official documentation. If anything is unclear, please let the Owners know, and/or fix these instructions yourself:)
- Check the cutter is clear from any remnants of previous operations, and turn on with the button on the top right-hand side. The light should come on blue and the blade index itself to the home position.
- If you want to cut paper which doesn't already have a second layer (like the sticky-backed vinyl), create a second layer using the transfer tape ("oversized masking tape", in the Accessories Box)! This will lead to better cutting results, and will prevent bits from tearing off and getting caught in the machine.
- To use narrow media with the longest edge shorter than the distance between the rollers, such as small offcuts, take the carrier sheet (in the Accessories Box), peel off some of the cover of the sticky side, and place your media on there. Make sure to leave the thin strips at the sides on -- these are where the rollers grab the carrier sheet.
- Insert media into cutter by aligning with the white rollers and using the manual feed dial on the left-hand side (it turns in the opposite direction you'd expect) till the end of the paper is roughly lined up with the metal bit (the black strip needs to be completely covered).
- If you want to use the registration mark feature, the sheet needs to be inserted as much to the right as possible (just barely covering the left-hand white roller), and only just about covering the black strip.
- Start 'RoboMaster' software
- Open a new document (click "File -> New" or the standard toolbar button), and accept the default settings -- in particular, leave Orientation at "Portrait" (unless you like confusing yourself).
- Create design
- If you already have a vector graphic design, you can open it in DXF format -- this is probably the easiest way for more intricate designs! NB: If the DXF takes long to even render, it is most likely too complex for the cutter -- try something with less lines.
- To make labels, just add some text with the Text Tool. If you notice font/size/text/... aren't quite right while the text is 'hovering' over the canvas, you can press Escape to return to the text tool dialog and adjust any of the settings.
- To add a pre-created bitmap image, click "Insert -> File" (JPEG works directly, but the software doesn't support PNG -- you can use Paint to convert it to BMP), then while the image is selected, click "Edit -> Get Outline" to start the autotracer. "Paste and Quit" adds the cutlines to the design.
- You can combine printing and cutting: If you print from the RoboMaster software, it adds registration marks. These can be read by a light sensor next to the head, allowing the vinyl cutter to align the cut lines with the print. It is important that the document is set to the same format as what the printer actually prints (so probably A4)! (It can be a bit tricky to get the cutter to register the marks -- you might have to adjust left/right and backward/forward alignment; and if you find a good way to deal with this, please note it down!)
- Click "File -> Craft ROBO" and then "Ok" to start the Controller
- Confirm settings are right -- otherwise you will mess up your cutting job, and potentially the machine
- Make sure Thickness is set to the correct value for the inserted media (see below) -- for the standard vinyl sheets, choose "Vinyl or 80gsm paper" (and not the other Vinyl option!) from the drop-down menu. [NB: the glossy red vinyl, and potentially other colours, are thicker than the others and will need different settings.]
- Make sure the appropriate head (colour-coded) is inserted, and properly seated and secured.
- If you use the carrier sheet, rotate the head so the pin points to the right (cf. drawings on inside cover of cutter).
- If you are unsure about the thickness/head settings, move the head to an appropriate position with the Cursor buttons, and click 'Test Cut'. This will cut a triangle inside a 1x1 cm square at the current position of the head. Triangle and square should come off the substrate (transfer tape, or the back covering for the self-adhesive vinyl) easily, but the substrate should not have been cut through.
- Click "Cut" and confirm to start the cutting process
- Do not leave the cutter unattended -- stop the cutter (press the blue button on the right-hand side of the top) if it looks like the job starts to get messed up!
Physical handling and application of sticky-backed vinyl after cutting:
- Cut around your design to obtain a manageable piece of vinyl.
- Put transfer tape (in the Accessories box -- it's a big roll with "PerfecTear Main tape" written on the inside; basically oversized masking tape) over the front of the design; press on with a credit card or similar.
- Fix to table upside-down (e.g., using more of the tape).
- Peel off the self-adhesive backing of the vinyl, at as close to 180 degrees as possible -- this reduces the chance of accidentally tearing off small bits.
- Carefully peel off/prick out and remove all the bits you don't want -- the pointy stick & tweezers (also in the Accessories box) are very useful for this.
- Take the whole thing off the table and put it on your object; again, press on with a credit card or similar.
- Pull the transfer tape off, again at as close to 180 degrees as possible.
- If you want to insert an image and RoboMaster (or the Autotracer) doesn't like it, check the number of colours -- 1bit images should always work.
- Leave Design Orientation at 'Portrait' unless you want to thoroughly confuse yourself.
- If you change the head, make sure it is properly seated & secured.
- To get a good, straight alignment, cut off transfer tape so that it's in alignment with the bottom of your vinyl design; this makes it easier to align the vinyl on the object.
We are currently in the process of establishing ideal thicknesses for various materials. Please fill in known values in the table below.
|thick paper, 120gsm||blue/0.1mm||30 [tbc]|
|sticky-backed vinyl (glossy and matte)||blue/0.1mm||5|
|'hot-flex' vinyl (iron-on transfer, cut on the back)||blue/0.1mm||5|
The Graphtec-supplied 'RoboMaster' software for Windows has been installed on the PC which is also connected to the 3D printer.
Software to drive the cutter is available for Linux now, but has not been installed or tested yet.
As the device is fairly narrow the media must either be cut down from regular bulk supplies, or bought ready-cut.
MDP Supplies stock plenty of different media ready to use.
There are currently two rolls of application/transfer tape, tweezers, a 'weeding' pen and a spare blade with the machine.
Sticky-backed vinyl: honesty box stock
There is a stock system for self-adhesive vinyl. Roughly A4-sized sheets are available in the stock tray "Vinyl Sheets" to the left of the 3D printer bench, for 50p each [to be put into the 3D printer honesty box]. There is also a "Vinyl Offcuts" tray for offcuts to which you can help yourself for free. If you buy a sheet you can either keep it all for yourself, or put any unwanted usable pieces in the offcuts tray.
Colours: black, white, royal blue, darker blue, yellow, light green, darker forest green, pink, transparent, silver, grey, gold. (More to come soon.)
Iron-on 'hot-flex' material
There is also some iron-on 'hot-flex' material (yellow, zebra & giraffe print), which had been donated. Hence paying for this is not mandatory, but we currently do not intend to purchase any more. This might change if there is sufficient demand. Please let us know about your experience if you use any!
The shiny surface is the top, on which the iron is placed, so this has to be cut on the back and the artwork mirrored before cutting.
The maintenance of the Vinyl Cutter is carried out by the Owners, with some basic maintenance being carried out by Users on every job. It is not known what maintenance will be required yet, and the manuals don't list any specific operations. If you have a problem, or have to carry out some maintenance, please report it to the Owners so that it can be addressed for future occurrences.
We expect to have to change the following parts for general maintenance:
- The blade (guess every 6-12 months)
Maintenance Shopping List