Cricut

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Cricut is a die-cutting machine. The machine can cut thin/soft materials such as paper, foam-core and vinyl sheets and it can also act like a pen-plotter.

Contents

Getting Started

We have a registered copy of Make-the-Cut that still supports the Cricut machine, installed on the design station PC (first machine on the left in the 3d printing lab). Do not try to update the software, as it no longer works with the machine since v4.2*

  • Unpack and set up the machine. Open the lid and front cover.
  • Check the blade holder, if needed, install a new holder and/or tool or pen and set the tool/pen height. BE CAREFUL - the plastic bracket can break. You don't need to tighten the holder very much at all.
  • Plug in the power brick and connect the USB cable to the design station PC. The cables plug in at the bottom of the right-rear corner. Be careful handling the machine with the cables plugged in - the ports have been known to get broken.
  • Locate your cutting mat, make sure the stickyness matches your material. you want your material to stay secure while being cut, but not stick so badly that you ruin the piece removing it from the mat.
  • Locate the spatula tool and USE IT. Don't fool yourself into trying to peel anything off the mat. It'll ruin your piece.
  • Start Make-the-Cut. Select your proper cutting mat size & orientation.
  • Use whatever software to prepare your designs.
  • Whenever you're ready to use the machine, turn it on, secure your material to the cutting mat, and load the mat in the machine. The "LOAD" button is one left and one up from the bottom-right corner of the unlabeled expanse of buttons. The "UNLOAD" button is the bottom-right-most unlabeled button. These are literally the only buttons you'll need to use.
  • Don't guess at the blade type, blade height, or pressure settings. The right settings can make all the difference between a perfect result and a ruined one. The "standard" blades have red caps and the "deep cut" blades have blue caps.
  • Set blade height (on blade holder) and cutting pressure (knob on lower left of machine) appropriately for your material.
  • Choose "Cut to Cricut...". Set speed to "EXTREME", select the checkbox that says "never use serial protocol".
  • Click GO. Watch the rest of your evening disappear.

Pro Tips

  • Pens should be set to about one-CD-thickness (about 1mm) higher than the top surface of the material when the carriage is "up". A blank CD makes a good measuring tool for this job.
  • Use transfer paper to install stickers with after weeding them (removing all the unwanted bits). A pin or exacto blade point makes a great weeding tool. Clear shelf paper does a good job as transfer paper.
  • You CAN install the latest version of Make-the-Cut (in some OTHER folder location), run the new and old simultaneously, and cut & paste content between them. This lets you take advantage of all the latest features and tools in MTC, and still cut to the Cricut machine using MTC 4.1.


Fixing Broken machines

Some collected tips on repairing Cricut machines can be found on this blog article Cricut_Repair Info . Unfortunately the supply of cheap broken ones has mostly dried up.

Pressure/Blade Depth settings for Various Materials

Material Pressure Depth
Card stock 4 4
Vinyl 3 3
Copy paper 3 3
Pen/Pencil holder 3 n/a

See also: Cutting Craft Foam

Software/Hardware links

  • Cricut PCBs -- Instructions on how to make PCB's with the CriCut
  • Make-the-Cut -- Make-the-Cut software is used to control the Cricut. It runs on Windows, and mostly runs under Wine/Linux. The trial version is fully functional for designing projects, and the registration code is only necessary for actually controlling the machine. NOTE: MTC officially no longer supports the Cricut, but you can still run the old installer and never let it update. DO NOT allow your MTC to update to a new version or you will be broken!
  • Licut -- Licut is a lightweight suite of software tools for sending Inkscape SVG files to a Cricut cutting device. Currently tested with Cricut Cake running firmware v2.35, running on Ubuntu 9.04 and cross-compiled for arm-linux on Chumby.
  • Libcutter -- Open Source library for interfacing with 2D paper cutters and plotters.
  • Freecut -- Freecut is an alternate firmware for controlling Cricut (Personal only!) hardware - do not attempt on the Hackerspace Cricut please! There is NO KNOWN WAY to restore the original firmware to the device.
  • RStep -- RStep: For the development of an open-source hardware and software platform to control a stepper motor via an arduino rather than a PC. The firmware is mature, and we are looking at making a stepper motor shield that mates with an Arduino to give a fast and easy solution to stepper motor control.
  • STMD -- AVR-based stepper motor driver
  • GRBL -- Grbl is a free, open source, high performance CNC milling controller written in optimized C that will run on a straight Arduino.
  • Cricut Personal hardware photos
  • Cricut Expressions hardware photos
  • Unshelled Cricut photo
  • A Simple CNC System great stuff here on hardware store CNC machines.
  • Inkscape CAMM-GL Extension -- This program is basically just a cut manager. Create artwork in Inkscape, save with the supplied hpgl_output extension, and cut or plot with this program. The program does provide some useful functions, but it is by no means a fully featured solution.
  • LinuxCNC -- idea: use linux cnc via cartridge port or real-time USB connection to do low-level stepper control directly and leverage the work of others. firmware might emulate step+direction or phase information would be passthru.
  • High Resolution test patterns

Discussion Forums

  • Make the Cut forum -- Great place for ideas, discussion, tips and tricks for using MTC and the Cricut itself.
  • Cricut Messageboards -- OK for project ideas and material information, but you're not allowed to post regarding MTC or other software options.

Blogs/Wiki

Alternative Pens/Cutters

  • Amy Chomas sells several types of pen holders and embossing/engraving tips for the Cricut.
  • 1-dozen mini-gel pens -- Stables sells a pack of gel pens in assorted colors for only $5. These pens are just short enough to fit. Amy Chomas sells a pen holder for these, or you can just wrap a strip of duct tape around the pen until it's thick enough for the machine's holder.
  • blade types. -- Klick'N'Cut sells a variety of blades. I -believe- the ones listed for the MAXX bladeholder will also fit the Cricut but have written them to confirm.
  • Dremel flex-shaft -- I think the flex-shaft might just be mountable if we remove the Cricut's keyboard and set aside like in This video and shorten the bits slightly.

If you have a makerbot, extruding a C shaped collar of different inner diameters can be used to make pencil and mini-sharpie holders. This is better than the duct-tape solution, as there appears to be less slop while making tight turns.

You can also use an etch-resist pen with either duct-tape or a collar.

Material Sources

I got a modest amount of black and white sign vinyl for free from one Sign Shop. Another one told me he didn't have anything for me. The bigger shop the better I think.

There are number of vendors such as this one that sell variety packs (you choose the colors) in different sizes on ebay for pretty good prices.