UNSW Making

ZUND Cutter Basics Module

Everything you need to know about using the ZUND cutter!

For this learning module, you will need:

  • A Computer with Illustrator or Rhino
  • Sufficient knowledge of drawing with vectors

Getting Started


The Basics

What is a ZUND cutter?

The ZUND is modular cutting system that can be adapted and used to cut, route and draw on a range of materials. With interchangeable modules, tools and blades, the ZUND can be configured to cut vinyl, fabric, leather, cardboard, foam core, rubber and many more!


The Zund is best used for cutting materials that cannot be cut on the laser cutter or CNC such as; plastics, or foam rubber that release fumes, highly flammable materials like foam-core and cardboard, or textile materials. A secondary benefit of the Zund is that because it uses blades and does not produce heat like that generated by the laser cutting process, there are no burned edges on materials.

The Zund can also be used for more unusual materials such as wax, metal mesh, corrugated plastic, plastic films, fabric, foam and felt.

Because force is exerted by the blade moving during cutting (unlike the laser cutter), smaller features may not come out as cleanly or detailed as they would on the laser cutter. In general, the Zund is suited to larger features.


Possible Operations

Draw - Uses a ball-point pen to plot curves

Score - Knife cut that goes partially into the material thickness

Cut (Thru-cut) - Knife operation that cuts the whole way through the material thickness

Kiss Cut - Knife cut that goes through the top layer of sticky-backed vinyl leaving the backing layer intact

Module 1


File Preparation

File Types

File Types to cut on the Zund need to be from a vector-based program such as Illustrator or Rhino.

Illustrator files (.ai) are the best cutting as they preserve the layers really well. .DXF files that come from CAD programs will work but sometimes have issues with curves. Ideally files should be saved out of the CAD program as a .PDF and placed into Illustrator where objects can be arranged in correct layers.

The template below is set up with the layers relevant to the processes on the Zund. Place objects in the corresponding layers to the process you wish to use (e.g. cut, draw)

Zund Template .ai
ZUND Blade Guide-02.png

Setting Up Files

Files should be clean with curves having as few control points as possible.

Check file for floating control points or geometry.

Curves/lines should be joined into smooth curves rather than segmented.

In Illustrator release any clipping masks and ensure there is no fill within the curves.

When converting from Rhino/AutoCad to Illustrator ensure the resulting geometry is completely accurate as some changes occur during export.

Line weight and colour are not read by the Zund, machining processes are assigned using layer names.

If there are multiple layers of the same process, do not label them Cut 1, Cut 2, etc., simply label all layers by the desired operation and the Zund software will automatically number them in order.

Illustrator Layers.jpg Rhino Layers.jpg

Opening Your File in Cut Editor

  1. Open/import your file into Cut Editor
  2. Line colours should be assigned and the relevant processes should appear on the right-hand side based on the layers you used (eg. thru-cut, draw, etc.)
  3. Using the window on the right-hand side select material and thickness. This needs to be accurate and material should be measured using calipers.
  4. If desired cutting material is not listed, ask workshop staff for assistance.
  5. Double-click on the layers/methods listed on the right and choose the appropriate method for each. Order of layers determines the cut/operation order.
  6. Save and send to the Cut Queue software.

Editor Icon 1.png

Module 2


Modules, Tools and Blades

What's the Difference Between a Module, Tool and Blade?

The Module attached to the machine and is used to hold the different tools. There are various types of modules that perform different functions e.g. routing or punching. At the Design Futures Lab we have a universal module which can hold most cutting tools.

The Tool sits inside the module and is used to hold the blade, pen or wheel. Numerous different tools can be used in the universal module, each with different applications. At the Design Futures Lab we have a universal cutting tool, an electric oscillating tool, a kiss cutting tool and a universal drawing tool.

The Blade is held within the tool and is what is used to cut the material. Different blades are suited for different materials and can vary in size and shape. It is important to use the right blade for the material you wish to cut otherwise it can damage the tool and module.

ZUND Blade Guide-04.png

Tools & Blades at the DFL

UDT - Used for drawing on many different materials. Can be fitted with a variety of drawing implements.

UCT - Known as a 'Drag' blade with a cutting motion similar to a scalpel. Used for cutting cardboard, paper and cardstock, polypropylene, rubber, PVC and canvas.

EOT - A motorised blade with a oscillating cutting motion good for soft or flexible materials. Can be used for cutting leather, foam-core, felt, rubber or textiles.

KCT - The variable pressure of the kiss-cut tool enables precise cutting of vinyl and film without damage to the liner material. Used for cutting adhesive vinyls.

ZUND Blade Guide-05.png

Module 3


Operating the Zund


The console directly controls the cutter without going through the software. The console is used primarily for performing tool changes, turning the machine on/off and switching between online and offline mode.

The gantry can be manually controlled by the travel keys and moved rapidly by holding the 'shift' key.

The Vacuum can be toggled on and off by pressing the 'shift' key and 'VAC' key.

Pressing any of the travel keys of 'STOP' during a cutting operation will pause the job and raise the tool until the 'Online' button is pressed, resuming the job.

Light Barriers & Emergency Stop

The Zund has safety features to prevent injury during operation. The main feature is a series of 'light barriers' that are projected from one end of the gantry to the other on the front and back side of the cutter. If these beams are broken by someone reaching into the operating area, or if a piece of stock lifts up unexpectedly, the cutter will immediately stop operation. To continue the operation after everything is cleared from the table, press 'OK' then 'Online' to continue the cut from where it stopped.

While the light barriers are a soft stop, the red emergency stop buttons are a hard stop. When the emergency stop is pressed the operation immediately stops, cancels the current job and disengages the tools. To continue from an emergency stop the button must be twisted to be released, then follow the instructions on screen. The tools will re-engage and require initialisation and the job will need to be restarted from the PC.

If something begins to go wrong during the cut, such as the stock moves unexpectedly, the operation can be paused by pressing any of the grey directional buttons on the console or 'online'. The job can then be resumed by pressing 'online' once the issue is resolved.

Online Mode

The Zund has 2 main modes of operation, online and offline, which can be switched between suing the 'ONLINE' button on the bottom of the console. Most set-up operations are performed in offline mode, such as tool changes, parameter editing and moving the gantries. Online mode is activated before performing any cuts, or entering Interactive Mode through Cut Centre.

image2017-11-30 14_1_23.png
Source: Harvard GSD Fabrication Lab

Get Cutting!

ZUND Blade Guide-06.png

Navigating Cut Centre

Rotate, Scale, Offset and Mirror - allows adjustments to the objects before cutting

Interactive Mode - Zund must be 'online' to activate interactive mode. Can control placement of cutters and set reference points from computer.

Vacuum Power - Adjusts vacuum strength and can turn vacuum on/off.

Simulations - Starts a simulation of job before it cuts/draws. Used to check material placement and ensure tool paths are correct

Cut Centre-03.png

Operation Parameters within Cut Centre

  • Method: The type of operation to be performed. Each material has a set of available operations depending on its characteristics.
  • Name: What the layer will appear as on the right hand side of the screen.
  • Color: The color the layer will render as on the screen.
  • Line type: Whether the operation will perform along a solid, dotted, or dashed line.
  • Cutting mode: Always set to standard.
  • Tool selection: Drop down menu will allow the selection of the tool to be used during the operation, if multiple are allowed.
  • Tool insert selection: Select the tool insert (blade or bit) to be used during the operation.
  • Initialization: Where the tool will register height from. Alway set to base.
  • Clearing distance: How high above the top of the material the tool will retract to travel. Does not need to be adjusted from default.
  • Material thickness: Current thickness of the material. Cannot be altered through this window, needs to be set in the material selection window.
  • Base depth: How deep relative to the table the material will cut. Should never be more than +/-.005. Adjust in small increments (+/-.002) if blade is not cutting all the way through the stock.
  • Multi. pass max. depth: The most stepdown the router will perform on a single layer. Should not exceed .0500in.
  • Multi. pass last depth: The depth of the final routing layer. If using bridges, should be at least .0200in, as bridges are formed from this layer.
  • Machining depth: The specified depth for engraving operations.
  • Score depth: The specified depth of a score, either in inches or percentage of material thickness.
  • Acceleration, tool lowered: The maximum acceleration the tool will travel while cutting the material, from 1-4.
  • Speed, tool lowered: The maximum speed the tool will travel while cutting the material. Slow down for a cleaner cut in most materials.

Note: Red tool labels and red 'Start job' button in Cut Center indicated that the tool specified by an operation is not currently installed in the machine and will required a tool change.

machine step settings 2.png Tool Mismatch.jpg

Other Resources


Resources to enhance your Zund cutting skills!

Get yourself trained!

If you want to learn and/or increase your skills in using any of the machines don't hesitate to come and chat to a friendly Makerspace staff member. Make sure you complete the Badges that the UNSW Makerspace Network has for you!

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