Digital Cutter

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In F08 MEF Generously gave us a Digital Cutter device along with Adobe Illustrator so we could do all sorts of cool machine aided design/machine rendered vector graphics/random whargarbl. Craig Kaplan has one too and will give a talk or tutorial if asked very nicely. The gist of the device, if you have no clue as to what it is, is a plotter with a knife (though you can also put a pen in it and plot things...).


The cutter came with a few physical things that we'd like to keep around. These things are kept on the shelves above guarana.

  • Cutter device
    • looks like a small printer, is the actual thing, kept on the shelf above guarana
  • Cutting surface
    • paper sized piece of plastic with adhesive on it
  • Cutting heads and pen tip
    • small parts in a little baggie taped to the cutter
  • USB B-USB A cable
  • Power Supply
  • Manual - This is important, it has a table of information about various cutting media that I don't want to retype.
  • Full page sticker sheets


If you have a vector graphic you'd like to cut out follow these steps for great success:

Physical Preparation

  1. Get the device down from the shelf and plug it in, hook it up to guarana if we have a usb hub, or wait until you're ready to

cut to unplug the mouse or keyboard and hook it up.

  1. Get the cutting mat down and remove the protective cover stuck to it (a sheet or two of paper), if the manual indicates you should use the mat.
  2. There should be a sticker sheet on the mat with the sticker adhesive up. If there isn't or if its old and damaged replace it. Take the backing off then cut two thin strips of paper and put them on the sides as tracks for the guide wheels so what you're cutting doesn't get stuck.
  3. Select the proper cutting tip according to the chart in the manual and attach it to the knife, take care not to cut yourself.
  4. Replace the knife in the orientation specified by the instructions inside the cutter.
  5. Feed in the cutting media using the feed knob on the left of the cutter

Linux use

Generate a post script in some way. Don't worry about color and fill commands these are ignored. A path is stroked by the knife cutting that path, so take care as to where your paths go, use a program like Inkscape to check this. Or if you have an svg convert it to postscript with Inkscape. Once you have your target postscript print it with the following command

graphtecprint <

or, if not in your path, check:

/opt/graphtecprint/graphtecprint <

We might configure cups to print by piping the postscript to graphtecprint or some other shenanigans. Anyway when it runs it will give you a graphical prompt with preview. Pick your paper size and cutting media appropriately, making any manual configuration changes you feel necessary to cutting speed and pressure. Hit print and watch the cutter cut.

Helpful Hints:

  • The card stock in the office is Letter sized, not A4.
  • The default cutting speed for card stock is a bit too high and may result in rough or incomplete cuts
  • The adhesive backing does not stick to the card stock uniformly. Ensure it is well pressed down so it doesn't raise off the backing during cutting.

OS X use

Since guarana has OS X you can use the cutter from there as well. Load the vector graphic in Adobe Illustrator then use the cutting plugin (called Craft ROBO). Follow the steps in the dialouge box which will look remarkably similar to the graphtecprint command's one and cut.


When you're done put the cutter away as you found it. Be sure to leave a sheet of paper or two stuck to the adhesive mat to protect it and extend its lifetime, throw out your cutting scraps etc.

Finding stuff to cut

This will link to Kaplan's talk after he gives it.