Introduction to 2D vector cutting with the GCC Jaguar VLX Vinyl Cutter

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(Generally, this workshop is offered at least once every two weeks on a rotating basis. Check the Lab calendar for up-to-date availability!)

Overview

The GCC Jaguar VLX is a 2.5D CNC subtractive manufacturing machine. It generally cuts vinyl sheets - which come in spools - but can also cut standard paper.

Vinyl

In DaBL, there are two types of vinyl:

  • Adhesive-back vinyl: for making stickers. This raw material is layered into:
    1. vinyl
    2. adhesive
    3. wax paper backing.
    Patterns are cut unmirrored, weeded, moved to transfer paper, and then finally placed on the target object. In DaBL, all spools of adhesive-back vinyl are 18in in width.
  • Heat-transfer vinyl: for adhering to fabrics. This raw material is layered into:
    1. heat-activated adhesive
    2. vinyl
    3. clear plastic backing.
    Patterns are cut mirrored, weeded, placed onto the fabric, and then heat-pressed.

CAM

Once you have a vector design (which you learn how to do in Introduction to 2D CAD (with Inkscape)), and you are ready to cut it, you must turn the design into a set of instructions that can be understood by the vinyl cutter. This is is the CAM step. The CAM software for the vinyl cutter is called GreatCut 4.

Your design must be in SVG format.

Set up: CAM software

  1. Import your design and lay it out on the software's canvas. Resize if needed.
  2. If you are cutting heat-transfer vinyl, you must mirror your design.
  3. Enter the Cut dialogue.
  4. Always preview the cuts before commanding the machine to cut them. Check the design to be cut to verify its position, orientation, and check for accurate pathing. Note that the front of the machine is rendered as the left-hand side of the preview, i.e. the material will spool out from left to right in the preview, rather than from top to bottom.

Set up: Machine with vinyl

  1. Turn on the machine - the power switch is on the left-hand side.
  2. Make sure the locking lever is up (i.e. released), and if it isn't pull it up. It is on the top left side of the machine.
  3. If there is already a spool of vinyl in the machine, spool it back up, tape the end down, and remove the two spool guidewheels by unscrewing the handgrips until they gently come out. Please the spool back with the rest of the stock.
  4. Select the spool of vinyl you would like to use.
  5. Attach the spool guidewheels to your selected spool and gently tighten them down until they no longer spin.
  6. Place the spool's guidewheels in the guidetracks behind the machine. You may need to readjust them if the previous spool was of a different width; do this gently.
  7. Pull the end of the vinyl into the vinyl cutter, just past the long white stripe, and then activate the locking lever to lock the vinyl on place.

Safety

In general, you present more danger to this machine than it does to you.

Human safety

  • The cutting tool on the Vinyl Cutter is sharp! Keep your body out of its way.
  • The vinyl guide cylinders (on the top of the machine) present a pinching hazard. Keep your fingers away from them, especially when the machine is cutting.

Machine Safety

This machine is a well-designed CNC tool; some of its parts are relatively fragile.

  • Always be careful when releasing and depressing the locking lever.
  • Never put anything in the path of the gantry, especially while the machine is cutting.
  • If anything breaks, immediately stop what you are doing and tell a Creative and Technical Specialist.