One of the tools I use quite a bit is the Silhouette Cameo, although mine is the previous non-touchscreen version. Its an automated cutter that will do vinyl, paper, acetate and card – imagine a printer but with a cutting blade instead of an ink head.
Its controlled via USB (although it can also work from SD cards in a stand alone mode) and uses the Silhoutte Studio software to design your cutting files. The Cameo also has optical recognition built in so it can recognise registration markings that you have added to a print out. This allows you to use an existing image, add cutting paths for the blade to travel over, then print out the image on your medium of choice with registration markings in three of the corners of the page. The Cameo then scans these markings via the optical recognition camera to get the correct alignment and cuts along the paths you have laid out in software. This video does a good job of showing the entire “print and cut” method.
Like the majority of the vinyl cutters, the medium is held in place by a sticky cutting mat. The tackiness does decrease overtime with usage but it can be refreshed by using some spray adhesive. The supplied mat is a 12″ x 12″ but there are larger ones available as well as with different levels of stickiness. This is pretty good for the majority of work as it allows for A4 usage with ease (and A3 if you choose your alignment wisely).
The blade is replaceable but I have yet to need to do so after quite a bit of cutting. There are other replacement blades available from 3rd parties which are linked down below. The upside to these is that they are much cheaper but you do risk your warranty if you cause damage whilst using them.
Overall I think its a great tool and once you start using it, you can find all kinds of uses for it.
- Software is pretty easy to use, especially if you have some desktop publishing skills
- Print and cut feature is very useful
- The import of other graphics formats and fonts means that you can cut an infinite number of designs rather than restricted to a limited few (or pay for more) like the Cricut Mini
- Can do very detailed work down to 1mm wide
- Once the design is finalised, it is very easy to churn them out
- Tracing some images can be difficult and time consuming if the edges are not clearly defined
- Can be loud to some
- Official blades can be expensive
- The print and cut alignment can sometimes take a few attempts or requires the material to be moved on the cutting mat
- Occasionally it will get the alignment wrong which can be costly if you are using expensive/limited material although this was usually when I had plugged it in and out a few times
Links to discussons on alternative blade holders