I'm trying to 1) print out a texture using a normal printer (for example, Mario's face), and then 2) use a laser cutter to cut the edges and perforate the folds. However, the laser cutter must be aligned very closely to the print-out. Even in professional printing, the cutter isn't aligned exactly to the print, so this isn't an easy problem.
These are the different high-level approaches I'm exploring, for aligning the cutter to the printer:
Note that there ARE hardware solutions that allow the cutter to align itself exactly to registration marks on the paper. However, these are fairly specialized machines, and many people (including myself) have access to a general-purpose laser cutter that doesn't have the alignment functionality built in.
- create a jig that allows you to align the paper to the rails in a consistent way
(I used a laser-cut jig made of 1/4" plywood, with small holes where I glued thumbtacks in, and the thumbtacks went through registration marks in the paper)
- I found this method to be 1) more complicated and 2) less accurate than the two-perpendicular-lines method.
- Print two perpendicular lines, eg. on the top edge and left edge of the page, and cut there with a paper cutter. These freshly-cut edges will go against the rails in the laser cutter.
- This relies on being able to manually cut accurately. I was able to get within 0.5mm using this method.
- Using a guillotine paper cutter was fairly inaccurate. I found it much more accurate to use a cutting mat, ruler, and cutting knife.
- After printing, put the page through a scanner. A piece of software would find the registration marks, and calculate the adjustments (the linear transformation) needed to be made to the cutting file, before sending the file to the laser cutter.