Sunday, July 12, 2009

My Computer Needs to Get Into the Model Railroad Hobby

After last week's work on printing paper models of the Hyde Cannery, I got curious enough about computer-controlled cutters to buy a Cricut Personal Electronic Cutter at Michael's for $99 on sale. This is a computer-controlled vinyl cutter, and can handle material up to 6x12 inches. It's intended only for cutting lettering, but CraftEdges "Sure Cuts a Lot" software lets you send arbitrary line art to the cutter.

I'll get into more detail later, but here's some photos of sample cuts:

Piece from the Cricut on the left, manually cut piece on the right.

Building front cut on the Cricut, made from 140 pound Bristol board (cardboard). The horizontal slices across the work are done by the trial version of Sure Likes to Cut; these wouldn't appear once I've bought the software. Note that sharp corners on the drawing are cut as small (0.020 inch radius) curves because of the way the blade works. I might be able to hide those behind trim, but the fact that the cutter can't do right angles is frustrating.

Sample lettering to show what the cutter does best. Top piece shows cuts in 0.020 inch thick styrene sheet. The cutter only scribes the styrene, but it's easy to snap the plastic cleanly on the scribe lines. The middle piece is 0.010 clear styrene, again not cut through but easy to snap. Bottom piece is 140 pound bristol board, cut very cleanly.

Windows and doors, comparing Cricut and laser-cut pieces. The upper right hand piece is a bit of laser-cut cardboard from an American Model Builder's station kit to show ideal results. The bottom line shows a freight house door (about 1" square); note the rounded edges on the door trim in the bottom left, and the rounded panel edges on the panel overlay piece. The piece just above shows how I tried to get cleaner corners by making sure the lines weren't continuous. The two upper rows show a window cut with continuous lines (with curves) and cut as individual unconnected line segments (neater, but a lot of work to clean up.)

Lettering cut out of 1/16" basswood sheet. The cuts don't go all the way through the wood, but the cut lines would easily guide an Xacto knife cutting the rest of the way through the wood. My biggest problem with the wood was that it tended to slip, even with the piece taped firmly to the backing sheet that fed it through the cutter.

No comments:

Post a Comment