Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Three Inch Tree - The Ultimate Test?

Of all the objects with which we have to test the eCraft until the software arrives, I believe the first Tree in the Nature Collection on the Fundamentals #1 SD chip provides the greatest test.

Angie G, an Australian eCraft owner, was the person that brought the tree to my attention. I am SO glad that she did. It provides the perfect test for just about any paper.

Now, remember, we're going for the jugular when we try to print out this tree at the smallest size.  This is NOT indicative of most of the shapes you will want to cut in every day life.  We're being mean to the eCraft in order to test paper and settings.  But, since I think MOST of us try to see the limits of our equipment when we first get it, it's probably best to push the envelope beyond reality.

The reason why the tree is so brutal a test is that it makes turns the blade in directions that stress the paper in every direction with very delicate cuts having tight corners.  Let's examine the Tree along with the stresses that make this shape among the toughest.

Remember, to cut, the Trolley slides back and forth on the "X" axis, putting lateral stresses on the blade and paper.  And, at the same time, the main rollers Push or Pull to position the paper precisely for the cut on the "Y" axis putting two different types of Vertical stress on the blade and paper.

For the tree, the cut starts at A and is PUSHED toward us with very little lateral stress.  As it moves toward B lateral stress increases and since there is a tight turn the lateral stresses suddenly reverse direction.  Just after B, at the top of the small branch the vertical direction changes abruptly but the lateral stress lets up a bit.  Frankly, it is here that I would expect the papers to fail.  But, it does not.  Generally, all of the papers move through C and D without much trouble.  The point of failure is almost always at E.  This was very surprising to me because my inclination had been to see failure in terms of the carrier paper.  But, in fact, the failure seems to be due not to stress on the carrier paper; but, to stress on the previously cut shape.

What happens, I believe, at E is that the carrier paper reverses direction and begins to be PULLED back into the machine at the very same time that a small lateral turn is being made.  Pulling is less forgiving than PUSHING since the carrier paper can flex a little bit to take up the stress when being pushed.  But, the carrier paper is pulled very tight when being pulled.  This, I believe, probably forces the blade tip against the CUT piece which, in lighter/softer paper, probably breaks the tab holding it and bunches up that little piece of cut paper.

If this is true, then stiff paper should behave better than thinner paper.  And, that is exactly what seems to happen.  There is one other factor that seems to hold true.  A new blade tip comes to a very small, sharp point.  With use, the tip is worn down a bit and flattens.  A flattened tip, I believe cannot make the turns as cleanly as a new, highly pointed tip.  So, I try to use a completely new or nearly new blade when testing intricately small cuts.  Make buying extra blades a top priority.

Here are some videos of results.

110lb Staples 8.5x11 Cardstock

Hammermill 67lb cardstock (Staples)

DCWV Glitter MatStack (Michaels)

Recollections - South Beach (Michaels)

Craft Paper (Michaels) - Failed

DCWV Mat Stack Brights (Michaels)

We don't have a video of Mat Stack Brights. But, here is proof that it cut very well.  On the left is the paper from which it was cut and on the right is the cut shape.

Lastly, I want to show the difference between a new blade and a used blade.  Just as an ice dancer needs to stand on the tips of their skates to spin, the eCraft needs a sharp pointed blade to properly make tight turns.

Blades life depends on at lease two factors, the materials being cut and probably the frequency of the tabs, since the blade hits the cutting plate each time a tab is created.  Here, at 10x, are three different blade conditions. The blades are magnetized, so I use a reversed blade to keep them together and not fly away from each other which is why one of the blades is showing us the end opposite of the cutting surface.

Here we have a new blade under a 20 power scope taken with a video scope camera.

Compare that to this used blade.

As you can see, there is a huge difference between a new blade and one that has cut glitter paper or other hard materials.  The latter is NOT going to do well with small, intricate cuts.

While I had the microscope out, I thought I would demonstrate the tabs that hold pieces in place.  A lot of people are concerned that they would be annoyingly large.  To me they are not.  As a matter of fact, it is possible to not have any tabs.  But, here are a couple of Tree Limb samples of  a setting of density 2 / width 1 at 20x.

And, here is a different shape with density 1 / width 1 and a second with density 2 / width 3 at 20x.

As you can see, the tabs are barely wider than the blade.  The second image is the widest setting for tabs.  So, we aren't talking about huge connectors that would ruin a piece.  I hope this is helpful information.

If you want to thank someone for the information in this post, please thank Angie! Nice Find!


Beth said...

Thank you for the videos, I appreciate all the testing that you have done.

Ruthie said...

Now this is interesting! I have trouble cutting really cheap paper with my wishblade (like the craftrobo - just a different name!) maybe its not the mat but the paper thats causing my issues! I can generally get it to cut through card! Now WHY didnt I think of that???? Hmmmmmm gonna go and play some more now!


Tom Meeks said...

Thank you, Beth and Ruthie!

I truly enjoy doing this and learning as I go along.

This latest article contradicted, a bit, an earlier article where I thought the tearing problems came from the base paper. But, this is the way we are going to solve these challenges... by being willing to step back and go into new directions when new information is available.

You know these gifts that you buy people when you really wanted one yourself. Well, that was the case when I bought my daughter her high-speed Casio camera. And, I can hardly wait to use it this weekend to capture the cut failures in slow motion!!! Please don't tell her though. LOL!

Ruthie said...

Hey - you do it tooo! Cant say how many little pressies my son has had that fall into that category. I am now trying to work out if the ecraft could be reasonably used for work and then I can get one for them to use! My boss has ok'd it, the team members I have spoken to so far can see the merit of it....but I KNOW that I am really getting it for me at this time - I need to convince ME of the merit for work! LOLx PS your secret is safe with me!

Tom Meeks said...


I KNEW I could trust my secret with you Ruthie! We think alike!

I am continuing to play with various weights and densities of papers. This weekend I will have a consumer level hi-speed video camera available to me to try to analyze what happens with those papers that seem to be having issues.

It should be interesting.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,

I hope you see this, given that the original post is two months old.

Have you tried cutting image 1, "Swirl Design 1", in Category 1, "Whimsical" on the Fundamentals 1 card? I'm have a heck of a time getting consistent cuts of it. Sometimes it cuts beautifully and sometimes it gets ripped and mangled just like the tree in this post.

I've used different combinations of papers, tab densities and widths, and pressure settings. I've slowed the speed to 350 and replaced my blade with a brand new one.

I got so disgusted with it that I went out and bought a Silhouette machine. That's when I realized the beauty of the eCraft design: I got tired of having to change the blade plunger every time I wanted to cut different paper. Plus its maximum cut width is around 7 1/2". And although the new software seems really nice, I hear that Craftwell will release an update to eCraftShop Pro very soon.

So I'm back to trying to work with the eCraft. If someone has already dealt with this issue, either here or on another blog or the eCraft Yahoo group, just point me in that direction.


Tom Meeks said...

Hi Rainie,

I did see your post and was interested in what you had to say.

I suspect that we will be seeing an attachment to the eCraft trolley that will solve almost all the paper issues. I also suspect it will act a bit like the foot on a sewing machine that holds the fabric down so that it cannot lift up under pressure.

If Craftwell does NOT create such an attachment, I will because I know it works.

Anonymous said...

That's a great idea about an attachment similar to a sewing machine foot. May I sign up for the waiting list now? lol