Picture of Printer to vinyl cutter hack
Vinyl cutters are used in the sign writing industry, and are great for making stickers, signs and graphics. I would like to thank Instructable  members silverjimmy  and Groover for their fantastic laser cutter instructables, without which I would not of been able to complete this project.
My idea is to take an old printer and turn it into a vinyl cutter, as they are quite similar in there design and it would hopefully make the build just that little bit easier.
As most people find the electronics an software the most intimidating part of a project like this, I've gone into a fair amount of detail on how to set it up.  Turns out the mechanical part of this project is far more challenging, as it takes quite a bit of tweaking, adjusting and general head banging to get the vinyl to cut  properly.
The video is of a test run with a marker pen.There is really not that much to see when Its cutting vinyl as its very hard to see where the cuts are until after the the vinyl leaves the machine.
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Step 1: Parts you will need

Picture of Parts you will need
I got quite a few of the parts from Core electronics who have lots of stuff and post it out really quickly. The rest I got from ebay which also has lots of stuff, but the post can take 2 or 3 weeks here in Australia especially if the parts come from Hong kong or China.
mouseas7 days ago

Have you tried using contact paper in place of tape to lift off the vinyl? It's a bit less sticky than masking tape, and you don't have to line up several strips of tape that way.

liquidhandwash (author)  mouseas7 days ago

I usually use wide blue masking tape, Ive tried contact it works well but can get tricky as it can build up a static charge, and it cause the sticker to jump on the surface before you got a chance to get it straight. I just prefer to use tape even though is much more expensive .

titch1625 days ago

Great project!

If the magnet only has 2 cables how does it connect to relay and power supply?

You connect power to the solenoid, or magnet, and the relay act as a switch between them, it just cuts one of the two wires coming from power or battery.

gompy1 month ago

Is it possible to use a (A4) scanner ?

liquidhandwash (author)  gompy1 month ago

you might be able to use part of it, but you still need something to push the vinyl through.

Monkey Hammer2 months ago

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!!!!!

Great 'ible. I can do the mechanical part, but all of the electronics was killing me! Absolutely the best walk through I have been looking for! I needed all sorts of help with converting Inkscape to GRBL, and you finally got me there!!!

liquidhandwash (author)  Monkey Hammer2 months ago

your welcome

mwhitehead54 months ago

Do you know of any other printers that would be suitable for this? Would love to make it but there's a lack of old printers around here, so don't want to spend money on a printer that won't do. Many thanks for the great 'able.

liquidhandwash (author)  mwhitehead54 months ago

its a bit of a problem to find a printer thats suitable, I have not come across another printer like this, Maybe an old photo copier would work?

do you think an old dot matrix would work? I'd suspect the paper feed teeth would be turned by a stepper? Not big on electronics so just guessing.
liquidhandwash (author)  mwhitehead54 months ago

Maybe, could you take some photos of the insides?

not got one handy just now but I'll pick one up over the next few days to investigate and ill post some pics.

Hello and thx for sharing!
Could you explain better the function of the electromagnet? Is it connected/glued/joined to the blade? If so in which way?
As I understand the electromagnet lift the blade during the cutting action and at the end of the process, right?
Thank you

liquidhandwash (author)  Gord_The_Rogue7 months ago

The electromagnet pulls the blade onto the vinyl so that it will cut, the software tells it when to move. The printer carriage not only moves side to side but also moves in and out, so when the magnet is turned on it pulls the blade with it onto the vinyl. The 3d printed bracket is glued to the carriage, the blade holder is fitted to the bracket with a screw and is adjustable.

I hope to build another vinyl cutter which anyone can build, the problem with this one is, its hard to find a suitable printer.

Thank you for your reply. I've an old dot printer A4, it has a PSU which put out 28,4v AC current so I've to rectified it to DC current to work with the internal step motors (six cables) - It does it with the onboard circuit so I think I can desolder some components to build a new circuit board. I will update you with my progress :-) Cheers

gluvit10 months ago
Making this
ihavesparkle10 months ago

Totally want to make one!! Inspiring

liquidhandwash (author)  ihavesparkle10 months ago

thanks sparkle

CurtR11 months ago

Great instructable, well documented.

A better material to use on the vinyl than masking tape is Premask. It does the same job but peels off a lot easier. It's what the professionals use and you should be able to get it where you buy your vinyl.

liquidhandwash (author)  CurtR11 months ago

thanks for the tip

You're welcom
skrubol11 months ago

If the motors have 5 or 6 wires, they're probably unipolar rather than bipolar steppers. 6 Wire motors generally can be used as bipolar, but 5 wire motors need unipolar drivers (which are not common in the hobby world.)

liquidhandwash (author)  skrubol11 months ago

thanks sjrubol, thats something i forgot to put in the instructable

nak11 months ago

Thanks for sharing! Great upcycle

shazni11 months ago

This is amazing. I hope you win what you wish for. I've voted for all 4 contesrs

liquidhandwash (author)  shazni11 months ago

Thanks shazzni

salexandridis11 months ago

Oh my...! Excellent project and great step-by-step instructions! It is exactly what I needed to get started with Arduino 3D-Plotting-XYZ controlling stuff!

liquidhandwash (author)  salexandridis11 months ago

Thanks salexandridis. Im working on a cnc router that can be 3d printed just waiting for a few parts, see the photo in step one. so stay tuned for that instructable.

Hey! It's been about 4 moths or so that I have found a couple of inkjet printers thrown away. I connected both of them to my PC to find out whether they work or not. One of them (Canon PIXMA iP4500) needed a new printhead and the other one (HP PSC 1510) gives a mysterious error message. I disassembled the printers, but none of them had any stepper motors, just normal two-wired motors. Is there any way I could drive these motors without making any major changes to your setup?

liquidhandwash (author)  salexandridis11 months ago

unfortunately the newer printers cheap dont have stepper motors in them, you will just have to find an old printer.

Garbagepit11 months ago

THANK YOU!!! I've been looking for a project like this for ages that doesn't involve sourcing an old pen plotter for conversion. Lucky for me I seem to have some spare printers already, the Arduinio and some automotive relays - just need the rest of the bits. I probably won't be able to get to this project until later this year, but it is on my definite to do list!

I have a need but not the budget to invest in a traditional plotter or newfangled "craft" ones for making: Papercraft, Etch Resist Masks, Electrolytic Etching Masks, vinyl/sticker decals etc.

plus I can use the left over scanner beds for Very Slow/High Res digital scanning backs for photography.

greenjames11 months ago

I may use a old scanner

mfrontuto11 months ago

I just threw out my old lexmark a few days ago, wish I would have seen this I could have given it new life

caitlinsdad11 months ago

Cool! Could you work on a flatbed plotter for flat sheet material so I can "lasercut" cardboard, plastic or thin plywood? I need one of those.

liquidhandwash (author)  caitlinsdad11 months ago

Im working on it, see the photos in step one just waiting for parts to finish it off.

I would be first in line if you ever get a Kickstarter project going when you finish it. Shipping costs to NYC might be costly though. Looks like you got your mojo back. Good luck.

liquidhandwash (author)  caitlinsdad11 months ago

Ive designed it so you can 3D print most of the parts, Im sure you could find a 3d printer in NYC