Tuesday, August 17, 2010

eCraft Material Handling

You won't have had your eCraft very long, if you are adventurous, before you try to load something that is a bit thick for the eCraft to handle... about 1mm in depth.

And, when you do, for the first time, you will hear a frightening sound!  Relax.  You are NOT destroying your machine.  You are rasping the edge of your media.  Let's take a good look a the eCraft paper handling systems.

Materials can be loaded into the eCraft from the front or from the back using the tray or roller.  Depending on which is selected, the material to be cut is going to first come into contact with two difference sets of rollers.  Let's start with loading from the front.

If conventient, you might want to turn your eCraft over and open the bottom door that is meant to permit you to clean out your eCraft.  It will give you your best view of both roller systems and help put your mind to rest about the noise you hear from time to time.  Unscrew the red screw and lift the door.  Sorry about the focus in this image of the bottom door.  I'll be replacing it soon with one much sharper.  But, it will at least provide you with an idea of what you will see.

Click Image for Full Size Version

As you see, the front set of rollers is to the right in this image and the rear set of rollers is to the left.  The front rollers are the primary rollers for the machine.  And, these are the rollers that are the source of the 'grinding' noise that one can hear when trying to load thick materials.  I'll get to this later.  But, let's start with the rear roller system.

Click Image for Full Size Version

The rear rollers are used to pull materials into the eCraft from the tray or rolls.  There is a wide roller that goes the length of the machine and a smaller set of rollers that keep the eCraft from ingesting too many sheets of material.  The latter is spring loaded and accommodates more depth than the primary rollers.  These rollers counter-rotate using a gear assembly on one end of the eCraft.

Click Image for Full Size Version

The gears not only turn the rollers; but, have the effect of tightening the smaller rollers against any extra seets of paper that might have been drawn into the machine. I suspect that most materials loaded from the rear, even considerably thicker than the machine can really handle, will make it through the rear roller assembly.

The real limits in how thick a material can be and still be handled by the eCraft are defined by the front rollers.  And, these rollers are remarkably clever in design.  There are two rollers.  One is covered with rubber and the other is wrapped with what can best be described as a rasp!  To best see this, please click on the image below.  By the way, I had been cutting some glitter material just before this image was taken, which explains the tiny flecks.

Click Image for Full Size Version

It is this rough surface that locks the material into place so securely that precision is maintained.  But, for the adventurous user, it is also the surface that generates that horrifying sound (when you first hear it) that makes them think the machine is going to be torn apart.  Not true.  It's simply the rasp surface trying to get a grip around a too thick edge and... well... rasping it instead!  You end up filing the material rather than loading the material.

Had I understood this when I first tried fun Foam I could have at least seen that because it is so pliable that eventually it would load.  But, the noise stopped me in my tracks.  Now that I know WHY this noise was made, I will be able to better decide if the material is hopelessly too thick or simply has a rougher time getting started.  With Fun Foam it's just a matter of having a rougher time getting started.  Once the rasp surface gets a good grip it's quiet once again.

There is only one other aspect of front loading that needs to be addressed.  And that is the two small passive rollers on either side of the front of the machine.  What is important about these rollers is that they are spring loaded.  The rollers, themselves, will life up high enough to take something like Fun Foam.  It is the HOUSING for the rollers that is inflexible.  And, that housing has exactly 1mm clearance.  So, while the primary front loading roller system CAN handle just over 1mm, the housings on either side make it tough to use these thicker materials in 12" widths.  In fact, the limit is just under 11" wide for deeper materials... unless, of course, you don't mind voiding your warranty and filing the edges of the housing to provide deeper clearance.  (I DO have a devious mind, don't I?  I think it comes from having all these jeweler's tools around here!)  

 Click Image for Full Size Version

To me, the paper handling of the eCraft is a beautiful and ingenious design.  It leads me to believe that we will be able to achieve very high precision with almost any material that will load into the machine.  I like the way the eCraft designers think.  

Nice going eCraft engineering team!  Great job!


Debbie said...

hi Tom! Thanks for posting all these great instructions and insights into the ecraft. I ordered mine towards the end of the promotion from Kim so I will be at the tail end of getting my machine but your posts are keeping me excited!

Tom Meeks said...

Thanks, Debbie.

I'm glad that it is helpful. Like all new products we have to learn to work with it and also provide feedback to eCraft and other users so we all advance together.

It's always great to hear that our efforts are helping.

Kathy said...

Yay happy days, stocks are really very limited in the UK, think I am going to have to wait till after Christmas now. But very glad to have t=your blog to keep me updated on progress.

Tom Meeks said...

We'll use the time while you are waiting to test various papers and techniques with the eCraft so that you can hit the ground running when it finally arrives. :)

jf.brinkman said...

Hi Tom

Nice article. We have had ours a couple of days now. The machine feels assuringly heavy and seems to do the job. I must say the software is a total disgrace! We have the 'Pro' version and this should have never been shipped. It is extremely limited, has plenty of bugs and it crashes. The machine deserves better. Shame !

Tom Meeks said...

I have to agree with you. They need to work very had to bring the software up on a par with the hardware.

The way we will get what we need is for all of us to be very clear as to our needs and expectations for a "Pro" designated product.

davidcaz said...

Thanks for posting this paper feed information. My problem is that I should NOT have to use a cutting mat for regular card stock material. I know they claim "...no cutting mat needed...", but then tell you to use a piece of chipboard under your paper to get a good cut. OK, who is trying to snow who? I bought this machine and now have to buy 'special' paper to get almost good cuts. Just give me my money back Craftwell

Tom Meeks said...


On the one hand, I agree, in principle, with your observation. But, the problem is just how WIDE the range of possible papers one can choose to put into the eCraft. Tissue paper is still paper.

But, your point is well taken. eCraft SHOULD have been more precise in their claims. Moreover, I think I will be able to demonstrate a "fix" that may actually solve the problem in the very near future. We'll see.

In the meantime, we do not help a manufacturer unless we are willing to voice our frustrations as well as our praise. So, I find you comment very helpful in keeping eCraft's feet to the fire.