This project was inspired by a desire to do something with the dull-looking trashcan in our ProtoTank office. Fortunately, this project was easily carried out using the Vinyl Cutter tools and machinery located in TechShop San Francisco, which just so happens to be where ProtoTank is based as well.
Again, the methods explained in this instructable can be applied to create any type of vinyl signage, for any type of smooth, curved and non-curved surfaces.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
MH Series Vinyl Cutter
Computer with FlexiStarter software
Vinyl for signage and test pieces
(All of this is provided in TechShop SF)
Step 2: Setting Up the Vinyl Cutter
2. This is done using the two screw rings, A and B.
3. The protruding blade height should only be enough to cut through the vinyl but keep the backing paper intact.
4. To test the blade depth, scratch the blade holder on a scrap piece of vinyl. If the blade goes through the entire thickness of the vinyl, than you need to reduce the height of the blade.
5. Next, place the blade holder within the rear slot of the carriage assembly, located along the cutting area of the machine.
6. Make sure it is seated properly within the slot. Hold the blade holder in place by tightening the lock knob until the tension becomes moderate, but not too tight.
Step 3: Loading the Vinyl
2. To do this, unlatch two or more of the pinch roller levers (depending on the size of the sheet) by pushing upward gently on the back of the levers.
3. Insert the vinyl from behind, face up, and spread the rollers evenly along the width of the vinyl.
4. Make sure to push the pinch-roller levers down to hold the roll of vinyl in place.
Step 4: Interface Panel and Testing
1. The first thing you need to do is set the origin point. This must be done each time you set up a job on the vinyl cutter.
2. To set a new origin location, click the Offline/Pause button. Use the directional arrows to choose your desired location. Once complete, press the Origin button and this will set the chosen location as the origin.
3. Alternatively, you can click the Reset button, which sets the origin to the rightmost position on the machine cutting area. This can be done to avoid having to manually choose a new origin point but means you must reposition the vinyl under the new position of the blade.
4. The next step is to adjust the cutting speed. This determines the speed at which the job is completed, as well as the level of quality of the cuts.
5. 16 in/min or 10 mm/s is a good setting for this job. However, you may find that it is not providing good quality cuts. Hence, you may need to increase or decease the cutting speed. This is done using the V+ and V- on the interface panel.
6. The blade pressure, the downward pressure of the blade on the vinyl, must also be adjusted.
7. Set this to 100g for this job. Again, if you are finding that the vinyl is not being cut properly, you may need to increase or decrease the pressure. This is done using the F+ and F- buttons on the interface panel.
8. Test the current speed and pressure settings on a sample piece of vinyl, similar to the one to be used, by pressing the Test button on the interface panel. This will cut a small test shape, which in this case is a star.
9. If you are satisfied with the test results, continue to use these settings for the proper cut and load the orange sheet of vinyl for the first half of the sign. If not, keep adjusting the speed and pressure settings until you produce the best quality cuts.
Step 5: FlexiSTARTER Software
1. Launch FlexiSTARTER on a computer connected to the vinyl cutter.
2. It is possible to import your designs from other drawing tools, such as Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW, into FlexiSTARTER for more complex designs. However, for this example, it is not necessary.
3. Select the Text tool on the main toolbar to the left of the screen.
4. Move the cursor onto the design window and click to set the insertion point for the text.
5. Type ‘Proto’ as your desired text.
6. Choose Font from the Text menu and choose a typeface from the Font menu.
7. Select the Cut/Plot icon on the top menu bar.
8. Input the vinyl dimensions into the material sizing section. It is a good idea to input dimensions slightly smaller than the vinyl you are using to ensure that you will never cut outside the edge of your material.
9. Resize or scale the text as needed with the artwork sizing tools.
10. When you are satisfied with the layout, select the Options tab.
11. Activate the Weed Border and set the weeding margin to 0.125 inches. This will cut a square around the text, making it easier to remove the extra vinyl around the text.
12. When you are ready, press the Send Job button and the machine will begin cutting the design.
Step 6: Weeding and the Transfer Process
1. First, using a weeding pick, peel away the excess vinyl around the text. This should be easy because of the checked Weed Border option within the Cut/Plot window.
2. Next, you must use transfer paper to transfer the adhesive part of the text to the desired surface, i.e. the trashcan. This is a sticky-backed, semi-transparent paper that you place on the face of the piece to transfer it to the receiving surface in one whole piece.
3. Cut a piece of transfer paper a little larger than your cut vinyl.
4. Place the transfer paper on the face of your object and smooth it out with the squeegee. Make sure to press firmly on each letter and remove all bubbles.
5. Peel the paper backing away carefully, picking up your vinyl on the transfer paper as you go along.
6. Place the vinyl cut piece to your intended location. Smooth and press firmly on it with the squeegee to remove all bubbles.
7. Carefully pull away the transfer paper and pull at a sharp angle away from the vinyl letters.
8. You should be now left with the vinyl text on the trashcan.