Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Craft Foam and Material Observations

I was very surprised when I saw the claim on the eCraft Facebook site that the Craftwell staff had been able to successfully cut Fun Foam.  And, I wasn't convinced until they sent me a photo of some of the fun foam objects they had cut.  This completely puzzled me since I had not had any success at all with the Fun Foam I'd tested.

Zilch!  Nada!  Zip!

In the course of the conversation as we tried to sort through how they were successful and I was not, the Craftwell person trying to help me get the right settings mentioned that they had been using adhesive backed Fun Foam.  LIGHT BULB!!!!

I had NOT.  Nor, did I have any adhesive backed foam to test at the time.  But, I made a commitment to see if that was the missing ingredient on my end.  I am determined to give the eCraft a thorough and fair test.  And, I am determined, as much as possible, to walk out in front in terms of experimenting with my eCraft so that the readers of this blog will not have to reinvent the wheel.

Thanks to Aussie Gigi, of the eCraft_Crafters group on Yahoo, I was pointed to a New Jersey supplier of craft foam that actually had a vareity of thicknesses (.5mm, 1mm, 2m and 3mm).  I ordered some and it should be here in a few days.  In the mean time I have found some slightly thinner Craft Foam at Five and Below in several sizes.  The first size is in 9" x 12" sheets.  There are 10 sheets in a pack.  It is produced by Nicole Crafts which appears to be connected to Ben Franklin stores.

The second size is 7" x 10" and appears to be distributed by Horizon Group, USA of Warren, New Jersey.  They do not list a web address; but, their phone number is 800-651-0616.

 And, this same importer sells Kids Crafts Foam Sheets in 5.5" x 8.5" in 16 sheet packages.

Now, Obviously the only reason for passing on this information is that I have, in fact, managed to cut Craft Foam (Fun Foam) successfully.  I have.  But, with a caveat.  I have only been able to cut any of the brands when they had a backing attached.  Here's a simple diagram that demonstrates why this is true.  Foam is a very floppy material.  It lacks enough stiffness on its own.

Cutting on digital die cutters is controlled in different ways along the X and Y axes.  The 'X' axis is controlled by moving the head left and right with the material remaining stationary.  The material being cut only moves in the "Y" axis by pulling and pushing the material past the cutting blade.  When the material is being pulled, it lies flat and cuts cleanly.  And, if a material is still enough it still lies flat as it is pushed the other way against the blade.  But, Craft Foam, by itself, is too weak to remain flat as it is pushed against the blade.  It can, therefore, bunch up, causing the cut to fail.  Adding the adhesive backing stiffens the Fun Foam so that it remains flat as it's pushed against the blade.  That's why my attempts failed and Craftwell's attempts succeeded.

Since I was determine NOT to fail, I needed to find a way to add stiffening to my new thinner craft foam.  So, I went out today and bought a Xyron 900 Creative Station that would permit me to add an adhesive backing to any material.  I think it is going to be an essential investment if I want to be able to cut some of the more delicate materials I hope to try.

As a control, I first tried one of the sheets of the new foam without adding a backing.  No go.

The I ran a second piece of the foam through the Xyron and immediately placed the foam into the eCraft, selected a shape and gave it a try.  IT WORKED!!!!  It actually WORKED!!!!  Here is the first piece cut.

Click image for larger size 

There was a little roughness along the top right of the heart.  But, all-in-all, the first cut, at Pressure 6 with 0 Tabs was pretty good!  It had not cut all the way through the backing at a few points, so I decided to up the ante and go for a Pressure of 8 with 3 Passes.

 Click image for larger size 

Whoops!  Wrong direction.  It cut through on the first pass.  So, the two extra passes just mess up the edges.  Still, it DID cut.  So, lets go for one more try using a Pressure of 8, Tabs 1/1 and a single pass.  This time I used a more complex shape.

Click image for larger size

Now we are hitting on all cylinders.  This was a VERY nice cut as far as I'm concerned.  So, the Craftwell experience with Fun Foam has been duplicated.  The trick is to make sure to support the Fun Foam with some backing and the Xyron 900 does a beautiful job.

Conclusion:  The eCraft DOES cut adhesive backed Fun Foam.

ADDENDUM:  Same technique with wispy material  

Before I received my eCraft,  I'd purchased some of the thinnest, wispy material that I could find in an art paper just to test on it.  But, until I had the Xyron, I had no way of stiffening it enough to try.  Here is my first cut using the marvelously delicate material.  I have pasted it down to a pick sheet for contrast.  Be sure to look at it at the largest size possible by clicking on the image twice.  You can't really appreciate what the eCraft was able to do until you really understand the full nature of the material.  It's VERY cool!

The dark line you can see in the left side of the 'U' came from my not being careful enough running it through the Xyron, creating a crease as it ran through the Xyron's press.  It has nothing to do with the eCraft.  I probably would choose to use 0 tabs for the next tests with this material.


Beth said...

Awesome!!!! I love my Xyron machines. It really is a great product so I had to get the different sizes. I originally bought it to add glitter to my projects. If you run paper through it face down the adhesive will be on top, sprinkle with glitter and the glitter does not come off! Also the magnet and laminate rolls are awesome. I wonder if the magnet material could be cut in the machine? I was wondering though, when you cut the foam after running it through the Xyron, did you leave the foam on the white bottom paper to cut it? I was thinking you would have had to, and only removed the clear top sheet? Thank you for the great information.

Tom Meeks said...

I found that I HAD to remove the top sheet. But, I do leave the back sheet in place and that is what gives the foam the stiffness we needed.

One daughter has the 5" Xyron and the other has a 9" like I do. I will probably buy the Creatopia version for myself and give the 9" 900, I just picked up, to the daughter with the 5" when her cCraft comes in. Having both sizes is the most cost effective over the long run.

It appears to me that the Xyron is going to be indispensable with the eCraft for thin and flexible materials. I do plan to try the magnet materials too. :)

Gitana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gitana said...

I read your review of the eCraft and craft foam. You didn't mention what thickness of foam you actually tested. I'm trying to cut 2mm foam on a xyron backing and I can't even get it to feed into the machine because it's too thick. What thickness is best? Please email me directly at gypsiwoman55@yahoo.com. Thanks.

Karuna said...

This is very helpful! i have an ecraft for few months now and recently bought some foam in excitement. HEre in India we may not get all the branded stuff but yes we do get the basics... am not sure about the thickness but i believe its 2/3mm and another thats 5 mm. I dont have a Xyron and actually unsure what tht is so is there some way i can cut my foam and make some foam magnets for kids? :( i wld be happy to hear from you at karunasud@gmail.com! thanks a bunch!

Mrs.Champagne said...


But... You mean 6 or 8 pressure with or without the blade cover on???

Have yoy tried with a more intrincated image/design?!