Vinyl Cutter-US Cutter Refine MH-720

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Vinyl Cutter-US Cutter Refine MH-720
Vinyl Cutter-USCutter Refine MH-720.jpg
Name Vinyl Cutter
Zone Vinyl Shop


Owner Nate Bezanson
Make Model
Part Number
Date Acquired
Storage Location
Authorization Required No
Status Running
Value



Documentation Some awful software can be found here:

http://www.uscuttersupport.com/downloads/Software/SignBlazer/signblazer_setup.exe

A good tutorial on the basics of weeding and application is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjqH0rfTCMM

Generally, nose around youtube and you can teach yourself the process in a few minutes!

Other References


Intro

Rules

  • Please pay for vinyl and transfer tape you take of a roll. Vinyl in the scrap-bin is free since whoever removed it from the roll should've paid for it, but even with scrap vinyl you're still using new transfer tape and that stuff adds up.
  • Price list ???? FIXME

Instructions

A quick tutorial of your first cut:

Design

  1. Open Sure Cuts-A-Lot on the laptop. You can do your design directly in SCAL, or import from other formats. Importing is left as an exercise for the reader.
  2. Think carefully about which part of your design you want to be vinyl that you "keep" and which part will be white-space where you'll weed out the vinyl. This trips people up.
  3. Position your design near the lower-right corner of the design workspace. Ruler units are inches.
  4. Multi-color designs are out-of-scope for this quick instruction.
  5. If you're just starting out, CHOOSE A VERY SIMPLE DESIGN. Something like an "X" and an "O" is all you need to prove the worfklow, then come back and do something cooler.
  6. Text smaller than half an inch might not cut accurately and can be challenging to weed. Go large. For the "DIY / i3Detroit" oval bumper sticker, aim for the DIY to be about 2" and the i3Detroit to be about 3/4".

Load material

  1. Grab some vinyl with a removable backing. (Peel the corner just to make sure.) There's lots of odd stuff in the scrap box that will waste your time. If you can't find a scrap of nice simple vinyl, grab a roll. Advanced stuff like heat-transfer material is out-of-scope for this quick instruction.
  2. If the rubber pinch-rollers are pinched down against the metal drive-roller, reach around back and lift the levers. The pinch-roller units can now slide left and right on the carriage arm.
  3. Note how the metal drive-roller is actually two rollers with a gap in the middle. Don't position a pinch-roller over this gap. There's a white Π symbol on the carriage arm to indicate this no-zone.
  4. Position your material in the machine and position the pinch-rollers on its edges and one in the middle. The blade can't move any further right than its home position, so having material rightward of that is pointless. It should extend maybe an inch forward of the blade.
  5. Lower the pinch-rollers again (levers in back) and check that the vinyl is secure.

Adjust blade

  1. You probably don't need to do this, if it was previously used for similar material.
  2. The blade holder (vertical threaded part) is clamped into the carriage by a horizontal thumbscrew. Loosen it and you should be able to lift the blade holder straight out.
  3. Loosen the knurled locknut on the blade holder. You can now screw the body in and out to extend or retract the blade by small amounts.
  4. I typically aim for about a fingernail-thickness worth of blade protrusion, maybe less.
  5. You can also eject the blade by pushing the protruding tail at the top of the holder. It's just held in there magnetically, so grab the tip and pull it out. Wipe off any vinyl schmutz and drop it back in.
  6. Reinstall the blade holder to the carriage and gently snug the thumbscrew. Easy does it!
  7. Push gently down on the carriage and verify that the blade touches the vinyl.

Cut

  1. Turn on the cutter. It should home its carriage and then just sit there.
  2. Hit the "cutter" button at the top-right of the SCAL toolbar. Purge the word "print" from your mind, this is not a printer, this is not a printer+cutter, this is a pure cutter.
  3. Near the top of the cutter dialog is a "test connection" button, click it. The cutter should twitch a bit, this shows that the USB is talking. If not, try the Reset button on the cutter.
  4. If you want to jog the vinyl around (say to check straightness), hit the Offline button and the arrow keys become movement keys. You can also set a new 0,0 position with the Origin button if needed. When done moving, go Online again.
  5. While the cutter is Online, the arrow keys adjust Force and Velocity. Force of around 50 grams and velocity of 6-8 inches/sec should be a good starting point.
  6. If you've made any adjustments, hit "test connection" again in SCAL. If all is good....
  7. Hit the "cut" button and enjoy the sweet song of stepper motors!

Check cut quality

  1. Crack the piece in your hands and see if the cut-lines split cleanly. Do pieces lift out easily? Is the backing lightly scored? If so, proceed to weeding, below!
  2. If not, try again with more downforce, more blade protrusion, slower speed, or a new blade. (There's a box of blades in the drawer.)
  3. If the backing is cut all the way through, reduce the above settings instead.

Weed

  1. Remember which part of your design is the "keep" portion? Time to remove everything else!
  2. There's a box of dental picks to help with this. Some folks just use fingernails.
  3. If you're sticking weeded pieces to the desk for safe-keeping during the process, please get them to the trash afterward.

Apply transfer tape

  1. At this point, your design should be sitting atop the backing paper all by itself. You could peel the pieces off and manually stick them to your target, but vinyl is stretchy and it's hard to maintain alignment. Ergo, transfer tape!
  2. Grab the smallest roll of transfer tape that fits your design. The larger stuff is much harder to handle.
  3. Pull off enough tape, cut it free from the roll, and lay it over your design. Try to avoid bubbles and wrinkles. Smooth it down with your hands or one of the plastic paddle tools.
  4. Trim around the edges with scissors. If your design cares about being applied "level", trimming one edge straight will help with that later.
  5. Your design is now "portable", with transfer tape on top, vinyl in the middle, and backing on bottom. Slip it into your bag and sneak it to your victim's car in the middle of the night...

Clean up and pay for supplies you used

  1. Leave the zone tidy! A minute with a windex-damp paper towel is really appreciated.
  2. Toss a few bucks in the wooden moneybox or use the Paypal button in the zone infobox.
  3. Price-list? FIXME!
  4. Something like $2/foot is probably good. If you used scrap vinyl, that's free and you're just paying for the transfer tape which is pretty cheap (like 20¢/ft?), but we appreciate you paying for it!

Surface prep and application

  1. Windex or otherwise clean your friend's bumper; crud will inhibit adhesion.
  2. Peel apart the "portable" stack: As you separate the backing paper from the transfer tape, you want the vinyl to go with the tape. You may find that laying it face-down and peeling the backing off at a sharp angle helps with this.
  3. Get the angle right! You only get one shot at this...
  4. Lay the vinyl onto the surface smoothly. Use a paddle (or just the edge of a credit card) to push air bubbles out. Stubborn bubbles can be pricked with a pin or blade.
  5. Peel off the transfer tape and marvel at your work!
  6. Yes, yes, application fluid is a thing. Youtube it. Out-of-scope for this simple tutorial.


InkCut method for those who prefer open-source software

Things cut with Inkcut

You may do run this on your own laptop or the Toshiba in the vinyl zone.

Setup for use on your own laptop

  1. Make sure your favorite Linux distribution is operating properly
  2. Use your package mangler to install inkscape, pyserial, (FIXME: other python modules which you probably need but I can't remember)
  3. Download InkCut from http://sourceforge.net/projects/inkcut/files/InkCut-1.0.tar.gz/download and extract its contents to ~/.config/inkscape/extensions/

General usage

  1. Open your design in Inkscape. Almost any file that contains vector graphics data can be imported. SVG is preferred since Inkscape converts everything to SVG anyway.
  2. Confirm that your dimensions are correct if you imported from anything that isn't SVG.
  3. Select the shapes (and only those shapes) you want to cut and make sure they are stored as paths, not rectangles, circles, etc. (Path --> Object to path)
  4. If you have rectangles, do this to make them cut more nicely: Path --> Simplify (Inkscape does not necessarily close rectangles and InkCut deals with open shapes poorly)
  5. Select the shapes of the color you want to cut
  6. Extensions --> Cutter/Plotter --> InkCut v1.0
    1. Note that InkCut has some window layer issues... you may have to drag Inkscape around to uncover some of its dialogs. You'll see what I mean when suddenly everything stops working.
  7. Set position with the X-Axis and Y-Axis. Remember that the lower left corner of the preview screen is where the knife is sitting right now: the lower right corner of the cut area on the vinyl. Bend your mind around until this makes sense.
  8. Inkcut-serial.png
    Click the Properties button to check that the serial connection is set up correctly as in the figure. Port needs to be set to whatever shows up when you plug in the plotter, normally /dev/ttyUSB0. If it does not show up in the drop-down menu, close InkCut completely, then ensure the cutter is plugged in and powered on that no other programs are trying to access that particular port.
  9. Look at the Options tab. Note that most of these knobs do absolutely nothing because there is no code written for them yet (project anyone?). Make sure that "Send to cutter/plotter" is checked.
  10. Load vinyl in plotter as above.
  11. Click Plot Paths. This opens up a window where you can preview the HPGL if you want. (FIXME: Does adding !ST1; after initial IN; fix anything if cutting fails?)
  12. Click Send and make a note of what happens.
    1. Does the cutter start cutting your design?
    2. Does the cutter finish your design exactly as you expected?
    3. Does it get partway and suddenly slice through all the unused vinyl and stop at a random point in space?
    4. Does InkCut just hang for more than a couple minutes?
    5. Does InkCut die immediately with either an error message or Inkscape telling you that there was an error message but not let you see it?
    6. Does the Send window go away very quickly and return to the main Inkcut window without actually doing any cutting?
  13. Record your results. This process needs debugging. Mention it on IRC too.
  14. Play around with it a little and see if you can get it to fail in a different way.

Maintenance Info

FAQ

  • Why won't the plotter start after hitting the "Send" button?
    • Good question. Seems like a failed file gets stuck in a waiting directory and that keeps any additional files from getting plotted. The junk failed file(s) must be removed before the plotter will accept new files.

ToDo


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