Sunday, August 15, 2010

Getting Around to the Tray Mode

The most significant quandary that I face as one of the first people to be testing the eCraft is the very lack of experience that also makes me useful.  The reason WHY it is a quandary is that I could inadvertently say something that might wrongly influence someone NOT to buy an eCraft simply because I am trying things that a person with experience would never try.

And, that is why I want you to be very careful in how much significance you place on my quick analysis of the Tray Mode.

First, the tray mode appears to me to need the eCraftShop Pro software in order to behave as we might expect it to behave, like a printer repeatedly printing pages from a tray.  In my limited experience, it does NOT function this way simply from the control panel and LCD display.  One has to start a new cut or repeat a cut by pressing the "CUT" button in order to pull in a new sheet into the printer.  So, you can't really just say I want to set up these cuts on a single sheet and repeat it 15 times on 15 new sheets.

Moreover, you can't really design a PAGE from the LCD.  The machine will allow you to select multiple objects to cut and then it picks out the arrangement.  If the selected objects number more than would fit, it appears to ignore those objects that will not fit.

So, we can already see that it really isn't proper to test the machine's tray mode with only the LCD Control Panel to drive it.  But, we did it anyway.  So, how did it do?

I find the best way to test and show repeatability is to use different colored paper and scan the overlaid  pages from which the cuts were made.  I tape the edges of the papers together so that they do not slide apart in the scanner.  As you can see, the first object seems very well calibrated.  But, it's apparent that there was some slippage when it came to the second object.  It's not enormous.  But, still the cuts are not precisely overlaid as all of us might like.  (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

Can any cutter do this?  In my lack of experience with other cutters, I really don't know.  In fact, I don't know any other cutter than even HAS a TRAY.  So, maybe we are asking the eCraft to do something we've not been able to do with any cutter.  After all, I used very heavy textured cardstock.  Will other papers behave differently?  Perhaps.

And, there is one more factor that leads me to ask for caution as you read about my observations.  We don't know, yet, how the tray works when driven by the software.  First, we will be able to create our own page layouts.  We will be in control.  Secondly, the page feeding should become automatic, just as we expect from any printer, where we can tell the eCraft we want 15 copies of our layout.

And, finally, only time and a lot of users will be able to iron out the optimal papers for the different modes if we want perfect repeatability and precision.  I know, for instance, that when I put a full 2'x4' sheet of plywood into the machine that the weight of the plywood hanging over the front had a least a little effect on precision.  Cutting the plywood down into 2' x 2' squares greatly improved performance.   So, i have to believe that various types and weights of papers might make significant differences.  Unfortunately, due to my cold at the moment, I don't have the luxury of finding other papers and weights.

So, please, use this information judiciously and don't jump to any false conclusions.  Yes, we CAN see differences from page to page.  And, NO I do NOT like to see that!  But, at this point I'm just accepting it as a fact; but, not a final conclusion.

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