Troubleshooting Cut Problems

Cut problems can be catagorized into a few categories:

  1. User error – This includes design, VersaWorks and machine settings and operation, and workflow not adhering to best practices.
  2. Machine Maintenance Issues – Dull blade, damaged Cutter Strip, old blade holder, cracked or worn pinchrollers or linkage parts.
  3. Media Issues – Materials that can cause sensor issues.

User Error:

VersaWorks uses “spot colors” to seperate the cut line from the design elements. If the CutContour is not a spot color it will not get identified in VersaWorks. If the CutContour is not named correctly (case matters) it will not work. If the export dialog converts spot colors to CMYK or RGB then the CutContour will not be identified. CorelDraw is notorious for this problem; search the export dialog for a checkbox that does this. Also realize that this setting can wrongly be caried over to new files much like a virus.
[Loading Swatches in Illustrator]
[Adding a Cutline in Illustrator]

Transparencies also cause spot colors to be misread in VersaWorks 5 (VersaWorks 6 solved this issue.) Make sure any transparancy is flattened. Be aware that any filter that uses raster elements will often have transparencies (drop shadows, etc.) Often designers will use PNG or GIF files and these are often made with transparencies. In short, if a CutContour appears gray it is likely that a transparency is present. You will need to slueth this out.

VersaWorks Settings:
Accurate cutting often requires the cutting settings be correct. Blade ofset should be 0.25 mm for 45 deg blades and 0.50 mm for 60 deg blades. Sixty degree blades are needed for material (combined when laminated) over 4 mil and can benefit small contours. Putting a radius on inside corners will also help. Speed slowed down can add accuracy on long cuts. Use CustomCut on small decals with large numbers of copies. Be aware that there is an UPSPEED that is only available on the machine and is not present in VersaWorks.

Blade Exposure: Rotate the Blade Holder “nose” so that the blade is exposed about a credit card thickness. You will need to add exposure for PerfCutContour jobs. The “nose” of the blade holder is designed to bottom out on the media to avoid cutting through the cutter strip and into the aluminum platten.

Best Practices:
This can be as simple as prefeeding material on older machines or using CustomCut or the new Crop Cut mark choices for new machines in VersaWorks 6. Always load material by putting pressure on the roll while pulling the media from the center to find a natural straight tracking.

With Crop Cut jobs (print/lam/cut workflow) there are a few basic procedures that help make the workflow predictable. First of all make sure there is enough room for the machine to find the crop cut marks. I suggest that the printing portion be done with the outside pinch rollers moved in a bit when printing. With a 54″ machine you should never print with a polled media width of 53″ – the pinch rollers all the way out. This does not allow the repositioned job any error. Print at 52.5″ and when cutting push them all the way out to 53″ allowing the media some left and right adjustment.

Sheet cutting the material before printing gets a square cut on the media. This allows for a predictable way to reposition the laminated job. Realign the laminated media by aligning that square sheet cut to a groove on the platten. Then basepoint the crop cut mark over the cutter strip.

Machine Maintenance:

Basic Cutting Settings & Maintenance:
A new blade should cut through 3 mil calandered vinyl with a force setting of 50 gf. VG machines seem to like 35 gf. When the cutter gets to 170 gf the blade is way past dull.

When the cutter strip has a well worn groove or damage it may need to be replaced. You may experience inconsistant cutting pressure across the platten as most users cut more on the right side than the left. Changing the cutter strip involves heating up the platten – pulling the old strip out – cleaning with an adhesive remover and plastic blade, – cleaning that adhesive remover off with alchohol – followed by replacing the cutter strip.

Dirty or worn blade holders will often not rotate well and do a stutter-skip cut. Remove the blade holder “nose cone” and make sure there is not any obstructions. If that is clear you may need a new blade holder. I have seen 3rd party blades bind on the blade holder and cause stutter skip cutting as well. A bit of 3-in-1 oil on the bearing is a good preventive maintenance.

Print Cut and Crop Cut are two different adjustments that the user may need to do occasionally. They are for different workflows. The characteristic of a need for an adjustment is when the cuts are off always in one direction – either left or right (scan dirrection) or to front or to back (feed direction.) Look for directions in your user manual on how to do this for each workflow condition on your machine.

Broken Parts:
When cuts in both Print Cut and Crop Cut procedures are off, but not in only one direction, but slowly gaining inaccuracy as the job continues this indicates a broken or worn part.

The most common part to fail is the rubber coming off the bearing of the pinch roller wheel. The left and right pinch rollers are tapered with the wide diameter being on the outside (usually there is a red or black mark – but you can roll the wheel on a table to see it turn – where the outside large diameter will be the outside of the circle.) I have seen users take a middle pinch roller and put it on the outside to bad effect. Don’t do this. Often a placing middle pinch rollers in place will cause this error to not be as bad. If you remove the stop on machines that have removable middle pinchrollers this will allow a middle pinch roller to be moved next to the right pinch roller (although this is usually not a great solution.) Change the broken pinch roller.

Pinch roller assemblies crack. Usually the left pinch roller will generate a hairline crack where the pinch roller assembly slides on the square bar. The crack is hard to see, but a dusty toothbrush brushed on the top front corner where the assembly is attached to the bar will show the crack when the pinch roller assembly is down and under stress. This requires a good flashlight and a very close eyeball. Changing this assembly probably requires a technician.

The linkages can also get worn. It is much too detailed to explain, but the linkage has a metal hole that gets elongated and causes the pressure to become inconsistant or loose. Again, a technician will be required to change out the parts.

[As always a well maintained machine by a well qualified technician assures the main functions work  properly. Have our technician do a preventive maintenance yearly for proper and consistant opperation of your Roland printer]