I’ve spent about two weeks writing software for my custom craft cutting machine that replaces the manufacturer’s original program on the machine. Why would I do that you ask? Well, you can read the full story in another post, but for a short answer, because I could! Well, the machine was given to me by my sister, and it was dead on arrival. I received no cartridges or anything with it. So I had to first, determine why it was dead, then my brain went directly to “ok, how does it work?”
Skipping over the next two weeks, I have it working and cutting with Inkscape perfectly.
However, there are some gotchas.
First and foremost, for cutting purposes, all our designs have to be simplified to a path. So when you draw something on the canvas, you have to use the Object to Path menu to make this conversion.
Sometimes, it doesn’t seem to do anything visibly to the design, but if you skip this step, the output will not be desirable 🙂
Here I have drawn a simple star. You can see the black outline and if you try to cut it as is, you will get some cuts but not the complete star. Selecting the Path menu, then Object to Path, Inkscape will make the necessary changes internally and when you send this to the export extension, it will then cut perfectly.
Font’s are similar in nature:
Here I have simply entered some text, set the font to Comic Sans, and made it big. However, sending this to the HPGL export plugin would fail miserably because it is not a path, and Inkscape can only send Paths to HPGL.
We must always simplify our objects to a path. However, with fonts it seems to be a little more challenging. Simply clicking on Object to Path doesn’t do the trick. A font is actually an object made up of two parts, a fill, and a stroke. Most of the time, the stroke is turned off. The stroke would be the “outline” you might see around the font. However, it is this that we are interested in, as plotters and cutters don’t usually care about fills, only the “outline” which instructs the device where to draw or cut.
The options we need are on the Font panel that appears when you add a text object to your drawing:
We want to turn OFF the fill, and turn ON the stroke:
How, we can use Object to Path or even Stroke to Path.
After you do this, you will not see any visible change to your object, but what you will see is that your text panel no longer considers this object as text. The interesting side effect of this is we can now manipulate our sign as a drawing object. I’ll cover that in a future post!
You’ll notice the stroke in the above image is very thick. This kinda makes it ugh.. painful to work with, although it doesn’t matter for the cutter, from a visual aesthetics point of view, it seems to be easier on the eyes if we change our stroke size down a bit. We can select our object and change the stroke style to our liking. You can un-group the object to work with individual “letters” and add nice effects like sizing, rotation, skew, etc etc.
Now we can send this to our machine through the export plot menu described in my earlier post.
My first sample cut is shown below:
Next, since it was Valentine’s Day, I decided to play around with this craft foam stuff that I had laying about. I used a deep cut blade for this. You can see just at the bottom of the heart where it kinda-sorta didn’t cut all the way through. I’m actually encountering a little bit of a blade pressure problem at the moment…
Here’s a Youtube video of the machine cutting away:
I’ll upload more/better videos soon!