Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Computer aided pattern cutter?

Anyone know if there's any kind of automated pattern cutter that can cut patterns from paper or card stock? Preferably something in the realm of consumer machines.


Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I'd like to know too. I bet it would make a delightful device for my dungeon.

Miss Sadie
Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I'll bet this isn't very helpful, but I recall a friend saying that some higher-end sewing machines actually can sew patterns. That should allow you to perforate any paper. Maybe you could jerry-rig some sort of blade in there.

Mike Swieton
Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Expensive, but it's not coming out of my wallet...

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

i've got an Apple Color Plotter sitting on my desk. always figured it'd be interesting to hook some sort of knife to it, though it'd have to be on a swivel or something to handle changes in direction. though i suppose if everything is at a right angle you could program it to change pens to a 'x axis' knife and a 'y axis' knife, maybe even two 45 degree offset knives too.

really there are all sorts of CNC machines out there, must be some which work on paper.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

How about something like this?

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Sounds expensive.
Print the shapes on the paper, then use scissors or a knife!  If you're wanting a lot, print the shapes, and pay someone to cut them out!

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Am I the only one who noticed that Onlysigns site looks a lot like

Matthew Lock
Thursday, October 30, 2003

once you get a vinyl cutter, you can go 3d...

the full size roland cutter is probably way outside of your price range

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Unless it is going to cut design patterns I fail to see how this might be on topic...

Thursday, October 30, 2003

You cut shapes out of paper using a 'cookie cutter' made from razor blades.  Seriously!

No doubt you've seen label stock (CDs, disk, mail, etc) that you put thru your printer.  Notice how the actual label is cut (so you can peel it off) but the backing stock is intact.

You get a piece of wood a bit larger than the paper.  Perspex is better, it won't be affected by temperature or moisture and warp.  You cut grooves in the wood where the label / shape outlines are, and insert the metal blade.  The metal is a fair bit heftier than razor blades, but just as sharp.

You can have almost any shape, but it can get tricky.  Ever notice how some labels aren't 'cut out' properly?

To use, place paper on flat surface, put cutter on top, and press down.  Of course, having an hydraulic press helps, as you need to get the pressure 'just right' so it cuts the sticker, but not the backing stock.

In Philo's case, pressure control is not important, as you want to go straight thru.

For homebrew, I suppose you could place cutter upside down, paper on top, and run a rolling pin over it!

I can't remember if these 'cutters' had an actual name.  At a job many years ago, we used to get these made up a lot.  We provided barcode labels, etc.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Get an old Pen plotter and some exacto knives. Flatbed would probably work the best.

There are plasma CNC machines for doing this with sheet metal, but I don't think this will be in your budget. If you are interested, i can point you to some software.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

You could always take an HP deskjet & replace the ink with acid...

H. Lally Singh
Thursday, October 30, 2003

"Unless it is going to cut design patterns I fail to see how this might be on topic... "

Well, I was hoping for a computer-aided solution like the vinyl cutter, which I'm going to check out. And I figured the best source for geek tech was this board. :)

It's for Mrs. Philo, who's a teacher and often has to cut out 24x shapes of various things for her class.


Thursday, October 30, 2003

Every one who says take a plotter and put a knife in it hasn't tried it, doesn't know anyone who has tried it, and has never seen it happen.

Don Lancaster over at first suggested it years ago, but no-one has ever got it to work.  Plotter are too weak to shove anything but a pen around.

Vinyl cutters (using drag knives) won't work because paper is too flimsy, it won't stay still.  Maybe laser or waterjet will work, but you'll have to sell your house for that.  Paper will make a blade go blunt fairly quickly.

Philo, AFAIK all paper & cardboard cutting is done as my previous post mentioned.  A metal blade is bent to the appropriate shape, and then stamped onto the paper.

If I was to do it, I'd either sharpen up a real cookie cutter, or use hacksaw blades.  Lots of work, you'd need to grind a sharp edge, and because they are brittle, heat them to get the bends.

Place cutter and paper between 2 boards, and whack with a mallet.  It's not hi-tech CNC, but that's how it is done.

Take a close look at some labels, notice many don't have square edges?  You can't do perfect 90 degree bends easily.  Look at cardboard boxes, like CD mailers.  See where there are parts punched out, notice one side is flat, the other slightly bent, caused by the blade pressing down.  Occasionally there is a gap in the cutting blade, so there isn't a clean cut, like the famous 'dangling chads' of Florida.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Since it's been about 1988 since I've seen them, it took a while for the memory to kick in.

They're called diecutters.

Google that and you'll lots of big expensive machines, but little info.  Like most industries, it doesn't have a 'dummies guide'.

Here's the best page with picture I found.  On the page look for 'FIX WOOD MOLD', about 2/3rd down.

The red lines you can see are the cutting blades, called knifes.  They are embedding into a piece of plywood.  This one is for some sort of box, it seems.

The other method is to embed the blades on a roller, and run the paper past it (flycutters).  If you look in a toystore, you'll find Play-doh with the rolling pin for cutting out shapes, same concept.

If you do manage to knock something up, post the results.  Should be interesting!

Friday, October 31, 2003

Philo... sounds like anything will be too expensive. This is both a niche product AND a difficult to make product.

If I had to design something that did this, I would design a flat bed half-scanner half printer - paper would have to lay flat and be machine fed - that had hundreds of tiny pins, like those things you get in the novelty stores that keep the shape of your hand. Thick enough to punch through paper, thin enough so that there are enough per square inch to cut any shape. The edges would be rough, perforated, but you could punch them out.

Though, it would probably sell poorly as it still requires you to cut it out (unless the pins moved sleightly and repunched, but the edges would still be rough).

Dragging a knife while simultaneously twisting it, just seems too difficult to do on a consumer based product.

Aren't these things what assistant teachers and teacher's pets are for?
Friday, October 31, 2003

"It's for Mrs. Philo, who's a teacher "

I agree with Marktaw - get the little sh*ts to do it themselves. It'll give teach them that not everything in life is delivered on a plate. It'll make a man of them (yes, even the girls). It'll... oh, never mind.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Not CNC, but perhaps you could sandwich the stack of paper between two pieces of plywood and then cut the stack on a bandsaw. It'd be fast, but the cost in plywood could eat you alive.

If I was going to design such a beast, I'd probably go with a small (1/8 or 1/16 inch) wide blade, which I'd mount on a head that could rotate it 90 degrees (in 10? degree increments, perhaps). The head would also include a solenoid to plunge the blade into the paper. Thus, you just the move the head along the line, plunging to cut, rotating to deal with curves.

You don't even need to make it a flatbed (although doing so makes it easier to deal with card stock). You could easily make something that's perferated in this manner. It COULD also cut stuff out, but then you have the problem of keeping hold of the paper while you're cutting it out.

In sufficient quantities this could be a very cheap product. Sadly, it's NOT going to be fast, and I doubt there is sufficient market to make it worth the effort of productizing.

The software isn't hard (but it would be easy to screw up by not paying sufficient attention to the blade width). The only hard bit in the mechanicals is the blade rotation. (Plunging the blade is simply a solenoid and a spring, while head movement is standard x-y plotter type stuff. Stepper motors, etc.).

Good luck to whoever wants to build one!

Michael Kohne
Friday, October 31, 2003 have some plotters sadly they cost around $2000. Personally I'd try ringing up a few modelling shops, particularly those who aim at architects.
Sign making shops also look like a good bet.

Peter Ibbotson
Friday, October 31, 2003

MarkTaw, if you think about it, you've just invented the dot matrix printer! 

Hang on, ever cut a pice of paper in half when it got jammed?  Just overprint a few hundred times, that'll almost work.

For vinyl cutters, you don't have to worry about rotating the knife.  It's mounted in a bearing, and will automatically swivel depending on direction.  (that's why they're called drag knives).  Think of shopping trolley wheels, they swivel (usually) as you push.

The bandsaw idea is a good one, and is often used to cut thin sheet metal or other delicate materials.  Most folks don't have a bandsaw, a jigsaw would work, but I'd try a scroll saw (hand).  You could get away with something thinner than plywood.

As far as computer control goes, the sewing machine quote is probably your only option.  There's a whole cottage industry built around attaching GameBoys and the like to sewing machines.  Downside is finding someone with one.

Friday, October 31, 2003

The jigsaw might work - I'm thinking put all 25 sheets between two pieces of the cheapest stock I can find. If cardstock works that would be perfect.

I like the dot-matrix cutter idea, but it seems like huge opportunities for mechanical failure. Impacting ink on the page isn't as stressful as driving through the paper...

With the plotter idea, I'd probably go with a either a wheel cutter or a perforated wheel cutter. I think it would need a solenoid though, for occasional repointing.


Friday, October 31, 2003

Forget the 'dot matrix' idea, and the plotter as well.  You'll never get them to work.

I suggested a hand held scroll saw as the blades tend to have fine teeth.  Check the ones jewellers use.  Jigsaws blades usually aren't so fine, and any mistakes you make happen so much faster...

Failing that, cut one shape out of wood, and use that as a template to cut out the paper ones with a knife.  Depending on the paper, you could do a few at once.  Cheap and quick.  You only need to cut out the wooden templates once, so when next years class needs shapes, you're set.

Friday, October 31, 2003

I'm looking for the same thing you are !

if you want to dream look at (m series m-800)

roland website ... look for a machine called ct-304

and one that looks like a pen plotter  graphtec fc4200-50
plotter cutter ....

all expensive , all cool ......... if only !!!

happy hunting .....

simon  ;)

Simon Walkden
Monday, January 19, 2004

paper one is a laser operated die cutting machine ideal for paper and card stock works well for folders and cartonsabout 200,000 euros
john 39 0433 486254
saw it at the drupa show

john denney
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home