Monday, January 10, 2011

LD-MTC Beginner Series-Part 1: Setting Up the Cricut to use with Make-the-Cut

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Please note that this post was published on January 10, 2011. As of March 16, 2011, Make-the-Cut is no longer compatible with the Cricut. The program is compatible with many other electronic cutters. Please read here: MTC-Compatible Cutters.
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Disclaimer:
This blog uses ProvoCraft's Cricut electronic die-cutting machine with Make-the-Cut program and Lettering Delights' graphics and SVG sets. Please note that Provo Craft does not endorse the use of any 3rd party products, including 3rd party software, with their Cricut machines. Cutting or communicating to any Cricut machine with any 3rd party or non-Cricut endorsed software or device will void the warranty** of the Cricut cutting machine. As such, it might be prudent to wait until the warranty** expires on your Cricut machine before attempting to use any 3rd party products with it. 

I have been using my Cricut machine with Make-the-Cut and Lettering Delights graphics with no issues but the choice to do so is entirely yours. Use at your own risk. I will not be held responsible for the breakdown of any computers or Cricut machines.

** For the United States, the warranty period of the Cricut machine is 1 year from the date of purchase. For full details regarding the warranty of your Cricut machine, please see
http://www.cricut.com/warranty/
 
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If you are just joining us in this series, you have missed the following chapters:

- Why I am writing this series:
Because I once was a newbie...

- Who this series of tutorials is for: 
 LD-MTC Beginner Series: Why you need this.



Today we will talk about

Setting up the Cricut to use with Make-the-Cut


A. What you need

1. Cricut
To start, you need to have a Cricut machine. I am using a Cricut Expression but you can still follow this series of tutorials if you have a Cricut Personal, a Cricut Create, or a Cricut Expression. It does not even matter if you are using a Cricut Cake machine since it is basically a modified Cricut Expression. The Cricut Imagine, however, will NOT work with my tutorials because it does not work with Make-the-Cut.


2. Personal Computer
Next, you need a personal computer with Microsoft Windows and works with Make-the-Cut (MTC). I am using a laptop with Windows 7.  The system requirements of MTC as stated on the MTC website are as follows:

  • Windows XP (32/64bit), Vista (32/64bit) or Windows 7 (32/64bit)
  • 256 MB. RAM
  • 2 MB. Disk Space
  • 800x600 or higher screen resolution
  • Internet Explorer 7 or newer (for Gallery functionality)


There is currently no Mac version of MTC but you can use Parallels or Bootcamp to run the program.

3. Make-the-Cut
Since I use Make-the-Cut in my tutorials, you would need that too. You could probably use the other 3rd party computer program called Sure-Cuts-A-Lot (SCAL) but I do not use SCAL and will not be showing SCAL in my tutorials. These 3rd Party computer programs basically "talk" to your Cricut and tell them what to cut.

4. Lettering Delights
Finally, you need to have something to cut out. It can be an image or a letter from a font that you have on your computer. These fonts or graphics might have been downloaded from the internet or from a cd-rom that you have purchased. For my tutorials, I will be using fonts and graphics (SVGs included) from Lettering Delights.

To learn more about the type of Lettering Delights' graphics (besides SVGs) that work well with Make-the-Cut, please read my tutorial here.




B. Prepping the Cricut

1. Check Firmware
In order for MTC's latest version, v3.2 to work with the Cricut machine at "Optimal" or "Extreme Speed", you need to have the latest firmware installed on your Cricut. To see which version of firmware is installed on your Cricut, just turn on your machine and look at the LCD screen.


These are the latest firmware versions of the respective models of the Cricut machine:
Cricut Expression/Cake: 2.34 (or 2.35**)
Cricut Create: 1.54
Cricut Personal Cutter: 1.34

**If you had purchased one of the fancy colored Cricut Expressions from Walmart last year (2010), the firmware is probably 2.35 which is fine and will work with MTC v3.2.

If your machine is already installed with the latest version of firmware, you can proceed to Step 2 below.

If your machine is not installed with the latest version of firmware, you will need to do an update. To update the firmware, go to the Cricut Design Studio website and scroll down to no. 6. Note that if you do not own Cricut Design Studio, you will need to download the free trial version so that you can use it to update your firmware. You can get the free trial for the Cricut Design Studio here.

Follow closely the instructions to update your firmware. The following is a screenshot taken from the Cricut Design Studio website. You can go directly to that page by clicking here.



Once you have confirmed that your Cricut has been installed with the latest firmware, you are ready to move on to the next step.


2 : Install MTC
To follow my tutorials, you need to install MTC v3.2 in your computer. If you do not already have Make-the-Cut, you can download the free trial here. Note that the trial will allow you to cut images but it will also cut an additional line across the cutout. Once you have purchased and registered the program, it will no longer cut that extra line. You can purchase Make-the-Cut here.



3 : Connect Your Cricut to MTC
Set up your Cricut machine so that it can "see" your computer. You can do this by using a Certified USB 2.0 A/B cable to connect your Cricut machine to your computer. I am using the one that came with my Cricut Design Studio but according to the MTC website, you can use a "USB 2.0 Port with USB A/B printer cable (shielded cable recommended)". Do not use a USB hub.


This is what my USB A/B cable looks like:


This is how I connect the cable to my Cricut Expression:



This is how I connect the cable to my laptop:

If you are using a desktop computer, you should be able to locate the USB port at the back of the computer. For some computers, you may also have some USB ports in the front.


4 : Insert Cartridge
Insert a cartridge into the cartridge slot in the Cricut machine. It can be any cartridge as it is only used as a "key" to allow MTC to communicate with your Cricut.

5 : Power On
Turn on your Cricut machine. You are now ready to cut with MTC. 


C. Make a Test Cut

To make a test cut to check if your MTC is communicating with your Cricut, do the following:

1. From your computer, Start MTC

2. Click on the Import Basic Shapes icon (or use Control+Shift+B) 


3.The Basic Shapes window will open. Double-click on a shape to bring it to your mat. I am using a Square for this test.




Double Click on the Square to bring it to the mat.

4. Next, close the Basic Shapes window. Resize the Square by dragging one corner of it outwards or entering the W and H on the menu bar on top. In this test, I entered 4" for both the width and the height of the shape.



5. Place a piece of paper or cardstock onto your Cricut Cutting Mat. My Cricut is almost always set at a Pressure of 5, and a Blade Depth of 5 but you really should set the Depth Blade and Pressure on your Cricut machine that is appropriate for the cardstock that you are using. If you are using regular printer paper for this test, you can set the Pressure and Blade Depth to 3.

The cutting Speed of the Cricut is controlled by Make-the-Cut and turning the Speed Dial on the machine has no effect on how fast it cuts.


Tip: Above Rubies Studio has a great Cricut Cutting Guide for setting the Pressure and Blade Depth for different types of paper. You can get the free download here.




6. Load the cutting mat into the Cricut machine by pressing "Load Paper" on the Cricut.



D. Cutting with Make-the-Cut

1. When you have loaded the paper and mat into the Cricut, go back to the computer. In MTC, click on the "Cut Project With..." tab that is on the Top Menu Bar. Select "ProvoCraft Cricut". You will only need to do this step the first time you cut with your Cricut using MTC. You can skip this step for future cuts until such time when you change your cutting machine to one that is not a Cricut.



2. Next, click on the Blue Scissors icon to cut.


3. A new window will pop out. I always have my Speed set at "Optimal" for medium weight cardstock but for this test, I have set it at "Extreme". Click on the Start button to start cutting.



If you own a Cricut Expression, your machine might cut like this:



4. When the cutting stops, press the "Unload Paper" button on the Cricut and remove the mat and paper.



TROUBLE SHOOTING:
If your Cricut fails the test cut above, check the following:

- is the USB cord plugged in correctly?
- did you install MTC v.3.2 on your computer?
- did the firmware update complete?

The most common problem for the Cricut to not cut with MTC v3.2 as shown in the video above, is that the firmware update for the Cricut did not complete. Make sure that you follow exactly the instructions to update the firmware.

There may also be other possible reasons for the Cricut to fail my cut test. I would highly recommend that you use the MTC forum to seek additional advice. To go to the MTC forum, click here.


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If your Cricut machine passes the cut test, you are ready to follow in my next tutorial.


Tomorrow we will start on our first project. I will show you the Basic Tools of MTC including How to Import a SVG and Cut it out with your Cricut to make a simple card. 

Stay tuned.


24 comments :

  1. Awesome series Super Jin!!
    ~Joy~

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  2. Thank you for make the tutorial, I really needed.

    Indira

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  3. Great tutorial. Can't wait for the next.

    Vickie

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  4. Great job Jin. It is nice to have a tutorial that really starts from the beginning. Wish I would have had this when I first started out. Thanks for all you are doing!!!

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  5. Aloha Jin,

    Wow, great tutorial. Thank you so much for putting together this tutorial. It's very detailed.

    Fida

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  6. Wow, very detailed! This is going to be very helpful to the person who is just starting out!

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  7. Thanks so much for starting this series!

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  8. YAY, can't wait for more. You are awesome to spend the time doing this. Thank you.
    LA

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  9. OMG, I love you!!!! I have been wanting to buy this program for months and even posted on the MTC help forum last week if anyone knew step by step instructions. I got quick answers but tonight I find your blog from the twopeasinabucket message board and this is exactly what I have been hoping to find.. Now I can do it, well hopefully. Gonna subscribe to your blog. Thank You!

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  10. Thank you for all of your work. It sure will help me.

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  11. I know this is a stupid question but what does SVG mean?

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  12. Thanks everyone for all the encouragement!

    Lucinda, your comment made all the time spent writing this tutorial totally worth it! Thank you!

    Carol, that's not a stupid question at all. :-) SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphic. Basically you can size, manipulate, recolor and edit SVGs all that you want and they will still maintain their sharpness. You can trace an SVG image in MTC and cut out the layers as though you can cutting an image from a Cricut cartridge (except that you are really not cutting it out from a cartridge).

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  13. What a wonderful tutorial. I love how you went step by step. Amazing! I so agree with Lucinda! I bought the full version just a few minutes ago!

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  14. What a great tutorial. I had no problems at all following your instructions. Thanks for sharing.
    Vicki

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  15. Thank you so much, this helped a whole lot and now I am enjoying my cricut with make the cuts.

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  16. Thank you so much for this tutorial, I was so frustrated prior to finding this information. Thank you so, so much. I got everything to work beautifully.

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  17. Awesome! Thanks for the tutorial!!

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  18. I just used my MTC with my Cricut for the first time. thanks for the tutorial. Tomorrow i play with my LD purchased SVGs!

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  19. I have a new Cricut Expression, one of the funky colored ones from Christmas. I also have Design Studio. I have updated the DS program, updated the firmware and MC is STILL telling me my firmware is out of date! Your instructions are awesome and I absolutely understand them but I am not a fan of MC at this moment....any suggestions?

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  20. Kay, what is the exact error message that you see on the screen? Are you trying to cut and did you select the correct serial port? Don't choose COM3. Choose one that says "USB Serial Port".

    If that does not fix the issue, email me using the contact form above.

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  21. Jin, I just wanted to let you know that your tutorial gave me the courage to actually start using the Expression I picked up at Black Friday 2009!!! My husband was amazed to actually see this thing working and not just collecting dust. One tip that helped me, I downloaded DS from the Cricut website, but still got errors where my PC could not see the Expression. I had to update the DS software from inside the program before it would even see the cutter. Hope this helps someone else!

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  22. Well after 4 months I finally decided to download DS and update the Firmware on my Cricut Expression. I was so scared after reading all the bad things that have happened to people. I knew I could not afford a new Cricut if mine went bad.
    I did everything it said and so for the only TERRIBLE thing I see that happened (so far) is my Cricut is now cutting soo slow.

    I do not have MTC yet but I am reading up on it from you and thinking real hard about getting it. My only issue is I have had a bad run of Desktop computers from Best Buy (thank goodness for insurance)I'm on like computer #4 in a two year span.I do have a Laptop that I have to use when Desktop is in Shop.

    Thanks
    Debi
    cards_by_montana_reflections@bresnan.net

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  23. Suggest you help edit the Wikipedia entry on Cricut to expand upon using third-party software programs.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cricut

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  24. Thank you. Great tutorial. One correction...MTC will work with the Cricut if you bought MTC before the lawsuit was settled (early March I 'think'). You can just never again update your Cricut if you want to keep using it. I've had MTC for a few weeks but hadn't used it until a few days ago because I didn't have a cable. It works fine.

    Note: One thing beginner's might make note of is that when I went to print from MTC the Parallel Port was selected by default. I didn't notice this until a couple of failed attempts to print. After I set it to USB port, it printed fine. Just something to check if someone is getting error messages. It seems like a no-brainer, but...oh well.

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