Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fibrous Papers and Settings

I am not playing with the eCraft.  I'm beating up on it.  I don't much care what it CAN do as much as I care about what it CANNOT do.  And, when I find something that appears that it cannot do, I try to find out why by experimenting until I get it to work. And, there is no point in enthusiastically declaring this a wonderful digital cutter if all my tests are done with large objects with broad sweeping turns.  I think all of us would concede that that the eCraft has to be able to do big items with little or no problems or it would still be in the design stages.

It is the LITTLE items with delicate details that should be the real test.  That is why I am doing almost all of my testing by reducing the size of my selection down to a maximum of 2 inches and sometimes to even 1 inch.

In was in this context that I found that I was having an issue with softer fibrous papers of the sort that one easily finds at Michael's then the experiments begin.  And it was this context that  gave me the perfect launching point for some serious investigation in the settings available to us with the eCraft.

There were several options.  First, it might be a tab density issue.  Maybe I needed to increase the density of the tabs.  Or, perhaps I needed to increase the width of the tabs.  Maybe I needed to multi-cut.   But, it was Denise's comment on the fiber issue that gave me the primary direction in which to go... experimenting with pressure settings.

Since I'd used a 1 and 2 in my first experiments, I decided to create a bracket and keep closing the brackets until I found a reliable setting.  So, being the impetuous type I jumped all the way up to a setting of 8.  At 8 I had a different problem, small gouges at tight corners.  Going back and forth with ever smaller brackets 2/7, 3/6, etc.  I eventually found that 5 was the optimal cutting pressure for a single pass cut.

But, even then, I was having some issues with the legs of the chair being bunched up by the blade.  So, that led me to try a tab density of 2 and a tab width of 2.  Yes, it made the tabs a bit more prominent on the finished piece; but, it also became a repeatably good cut.

Here are some samples of small objects cut from the paper with which I'd earlier had real issues.  I'm using a quarter to let you give you some perspective about the size of the objects.   Here is the small flower which had earlier given me a problem.  I hope you can appreciate how delicate the stem is on this tiny flower.

Here is my first Pen & Cut object.  Again, it is just 2" tall.  Yes, you can see tabs in this image.  But, be fair.  Compare the size of the tabs with the writing on the quarter.

And, finally the most delicate of all.  A chair.  As you can see, the legs on this little chair are very delicate.  At most they are about the width of the space taken up by the word 'OF' on the quarter.  And, in this case, the Tab Density is set to 2 and the Tab Width is set to 2.  So, yes, the tabs can be seen.  But, this setting has only been required for this most difficult and delicate part.

When I first heard about the eCraft they were touting that we didn't have to worry about pressure settings.  I'm certainly glad that they changed their minds.  Being able to changes blade pressure and tab settings turned what was a "CAN'T" into a very nice "CAN."

I don't have much experience with other cutters.  So, thanks Denise for encouraging me to revisit my soft fiber paper problem.   My gain is your gain.

Finally, in an effort to keep you apprised of the cutting blade life, here is a image of the blade with another dozen or so cuts using both high and low pressure settings.  As you can see, the point is holding up quite well and the cutting edge also seems to be holding up well except for a few nicks here and there.  Notice that there is a piece of the fiber from the paper on the blade tip.  But, with the new settings that did not seem to affect performance.


Denise O'Connor said...

I am so glad that this worked out for you. This has been one of the problems that I had with the Cricut. Certain papers did not cut well in small intricate shapes while other papers would be just fine. I am glad to see that the pressure settings seem to be effective in getting a clean cut. As for the tabs, I agree that at that tab setting they are visible, but when compared to the quarter they are probably not all that noticeable. Have you tried cutting the same images from the same paper with a smaller tab setting? Have you had a chance to play with the software yet? I am curious what your initial thoughts are. Reading all of this is making me really want my machine...Come one get here already! LOL!

Tom Meeks said...

No. I don't have the software as yet. As a matter of fact, I forgot to register! Even so, I don't think it will be ready to a while.

I placed orders for two eCraft machines sight unseen. And, for what ever it's worth, I to NOT regret doing so based on the hardware.

But, the real test for me will be the software. The idea of selecting shapes from SD cards is wonderful. But, that doesn't take me where I want to go. Only an effective software product can do that.