Friday, August 13, 2010

What's The Point? The Cutting eCraft Blade

Everything about a digital die cutter is built for one thing... dragging a blade across some material to cut a shape. So, if there is anything that is at the core of the success or failure of a digital die cutting system it is the cutting blade.

So, what have I found out about the eCraft cutting blade? Well, several things.

First, let's take a look at one that has been used for at least a dozen cuts.




The entire blade is relatively short compared to some of the blades of other digital die cutters.  The actual cutting surface is ground at about a 45 degree angle and ends in a sharp point.  Interestingly, the blades, themselves, are magnetized.  And, they are simply slipped into the brass colored holder from the bottom.

The tip of the blade is meant to go through the material, except when kiss cutting, and appears to actually touch the cutting plate which may or may not have implications on the life of the blade.  The blade in the above image has more than a dozen relatively intricate cuts using 110lb card stock (about the weight of an index card) and the tip shows little sign of wear.  I still don't know when a blade fails using standard card stock.

Not only is the tip a factor in blade performance.  But, so is the edge.  And, that is harder to see in this image.

What I can say is that I have seen fibers of some more fibrous card materials, like the Paper Company Jewel Tone Fashion Color build up on the edge of the blade causing a failure to cut.  This particular paper is softer than the 110lb card stock; but,  it does not give a weight.  Here is an image of the residue left on the very blade above from this particular paper.




I don't know if this is a factor of that particular paper or was caused by a dulling of the front edge of the blade.  The front edge of the blade looks OK.  And, I did not have ANY problems at all with the 110lb cardstock.  What I BELIEVE happened here, is that I was testing the most complex and intricate shapes in the smallest sizes with too low a setting of the connectors in very soft, fibrous paper.  So, this means that my eCraft and I are going to have to get to know each other.

Had I seen the above image AND the blade showed signs of wear after only a dozen of so cuts, I would be concerned.  But, that is NOT what I see.  The blade looks fine.

So, here are some of the cut objects.  The first sample was cut at 3 inches with the lowest connector settings.  The connectors are very difficult to see and the cut is perfectly clean in every respect.  110lb Cardstock.

This next shape was cut from glitter card stock and was actually cut at 2 inches.  So, normally it would look smaller than the shape above.  Notice how nicely formed this image is.

The last two images were cut from two different materials at just 1 inches.  The connector settings were Density 1, Width 1 and you can see some of the connector remnants.

The picture on your monitor is larger than the actual piece that was cut.  So, the connectors are going to be more prominent on your monitor than they are in actual fact.  But, if your browser lets you expand the image notice that the darker material (the softer cardstock) shows more evidence of fibers than the light blue card stock, which is harder.  It was the cut AFTER the one above that failed (pulled up) and my next quest is to find the right size and settings on that dark blue paper that prevents failure even on more fibrous materials.

In any case, I can tell you that I am really enjoying this cutting machine.  I do NOT think it is everything I had hoped or expected.  But, it lives up to enough of those hopes and expectations to make me VERY pleased with my purchase.  Besides, as my granddaughters say as they are picking on me and I ask why, "It's fun and Special!"

NOTE:   It has also dawned on me that I have been cutting WITHOUT the blade cover in place and that may be an issue with thin materials.  I had taken the cover off because you get a little over 1mm clearance for thinker materials with the blade cover off and just 1mm of clearance with it on.  The blade cover might help keep the edges of the cut held down.  So, I will check it out and see if performance changes with the cutter cover off or on.  It's a learning curve.

6 comments:

Denise O'Connor said...

As an experienced Cricut user, I recognize that fibrous material on the blade. For some reason, I believe it has to do with how the paper is produced, some papers "shred" like that when they are being cut. I actually have steered away from buying certain papers. The pressure setting definitely has an effect on this. You may want to try it at every pressure setting to see what gives you the best results. Most cardstock has to be at a 5 or 6. Maybe try those settings on the eCraft and see what happens. I know that the pressure settings go up to 8, and if 5 or 6 doesn't work, I would try 7 and 8 before going lower. My guess is that if you can get a clean cut on that soft cardstock, the setting would need to be 5 or 6. Hopefully this is making sense to you! I am still waiting on my machine, but if I can figure it out once I get it, I will let you know.

Lysa said...

Hi Meeks Man,
These are great reviews and I look forward to more. My question is in regard to blades. Will you only be able to buy them online and are the blades proprietary? See here is where provo does have a good thing. I can buy blades online or locally as well as swap out blades from roland or other blade manufactures. I know at one point k mart had the ecraft on their website but I see it is down now. I am guessing the pens will also only be available online. The machine looks beautiful and I can't wait for you to show us some screen shots of the software. Thanks for all your efforts to bring us this great information. Can't wait to see more.
Lysa

Tom Meeks said...

Denise, thank you once again for providing me with some direction that turned out to be excellent advice. See my latest post on the paper fiber tests.

Lysa, the blades for the eCraft are, I think, completely unique to the eCraft. You will definitely be able to buy the online. But, whether or not you will be able to buy them locally depends on Craftwell's success in penetrating the retail marketplace.

So, we'll just have to see.

Fortunately, the blades are very reasonable and we can buy them in larger packs. So, I don't expect blades to be much of an issue.

I can't wait to see the software either. That is really why I created this blog and when I think it will REALLY begin to be useful.

wolfmax said...

Hi

Great blog. Just the sort of info My girlfriend and I needed.

Having just bought one of these for my girlfriend we have come across an issue that i have not found any info about on the web so i was wondering if you had an insight. The issue is the perspex tray insert with the ruler markings on. The instructions say it is a 'Paper Support Insert' and it sits in the tray. But when we tested a piece of 12" x 12" 240g card with the insert in the tray, the card failed to be drawn in properly and the machine made some rather disconcerting noises. Without the insert, the same card worked flawlessly but we did find we couldn't put more than one piece in at a time as the machine pulled more than one through (well at least both the sheets we had in the tray at the same time). So, any idea on what and/or how this insert is to be used?

Thanks in advance.

Almy said...

Hi

Has anyone compared the ecraft with the Phazzel yet.

Tom Meeks said...

Hi Almy, I don't believe that anyone has made comparisons between the eCraft and any other machine so far.

But, both rely on software to get the most out of the machines. And, right now, the eCraft is WAY behind the Pazzles Inspiration in that regard.

So, in the short term, the Pazzles machine would seem to be the safest bet. But, in the long term, once Software isn't an issue, the unlimited cutting length of the eCraft and matless cutting would be the deciding factors for me.