Friday, 11 May 2018

Silhouette Cameo Craft Cutter: An Essential Tool for Maker Families - Review


I love to craft and making things but it wasn't until I met Tracy a couple years ago that I discovered the Silhouette die cutting machine! A new world opened up and I'm not quite sure how I managed for so long without one.

I've always just borrowed Tracy's craft cutter machine, but last summer I purchased my own - the Silhouette Cameo 3. It's an awesome machine for maker families and craft enthusiasts.

Tracy also has the Silhouette Curio machine, which we will write about another time.


Silhouette Cameo 3 - What's in the box?

The box is huge when it arrived, but everything was safely packaged which is what's important. It's not a cheap machine, but it's worth every penny. In the box, you will get your machine, power and USB cable, 12' cutting mat, auto blade, cross cutter and USB cable.

You also get access to the free basic Silhouette software, 1-month subscription to the Design Store and 100 exclusive designs to download.

How does it work?

A die cutting machine allows you to cut media such as paper, card, vinyl and other media varieties using software which is installed on a computer.

The Silhouette Design Studio software is compatible with Windows and Mac computers and allows you to design and then send your creations to the machine. The Cameo 3 is also compatible with a mobile app which is available for iOS, Andriod and Amazon Fire (I've not yet tried this application).

The machine is Bluetooth enabled so you can send your designs to it wirelessly. Admittedly, I've not been successful to get it to work with my Mac and find it easy enough to connect and send using the USB cable.

The machine comes with a free version of the software, but you can also upgrade to Designer Edition, Designer Edition + or the Business Edition. I've only used the free version and so far it's satisfied my needs. If you're hoping to run a small maker or craft business from home, it may be worth investing in the upgrade to improve your workflow.

I use Adobe Illustrator to create my designs, and although it is possible to export files and import them into the Silhouette Design Studio, there is a nifty plug-in available called Silhouette Connect. The plug-in allows you to send designs directly from Adobe Illustrator or Coral Draw (PC only).


Getting Started

Once you've downloaded the software and have a design the Cameo 3 is super easy to use. The autoblade functionality allows you to select the type of material you will be cutting and it will choose the settings for you.

When you use the cutting mat for the first time, it's advisable to place a piece of cotton cloth or paper over it repeated, to 'peal off' some of the stickiness. I didn't do this at first and then ripped my design trying to get it off the cutting mat after cutting. Over time the mat will become less sticky, but be careful with delicate materials the first few times you use a new cutting mat.


Print and Cut

A really nifty tool is the print and cut option. If you use the Silhouette software to create your design, you can send it to a regular printer to print and then place the printed sheet in the craft cutter to cut out the design. It's useful for making craft projects where the cut line and printed line needs to be aligned.

The Silhouette software prints a guide on the paper, which is then recognised by the cutting machine to make sure the cut lines are perfect. Note you have to tell the software which lines should be printed and which would be cut.

A tool for maker families

I've used my craft cutter a lot to prepare bulk craft for a toddler group. It's not really a machine for young children, but engaging with the possibilities of what it can do, can open a child's creativity.



Last winter, my son had a Christmas jumper day at school, we couldn't find anything suitable in the shops. He knew we could cut vinyl with the machine, so we made one! Read how we did it here.

Families who like to make things and customise products will benefit from having a craft cutter. Older children should become confident to use the craft cutter independently.

A craft cutter becomes another tool for maker families, alongside a 3D printer and other DIY manufacturing tools.


Other Tools for Maker Families:



Verdict

The Silhouette Cameo 3 is not a cheap machine, but it opens a world of creative making. We think a craft cutter is an essential tool for maker families. When you have making tools in the home, kids get familiar how they work and can learn to use them.
A craft cutter helps children learn about design, prototyping and manufacturing. A craft cutter allows you to personalise things and make your own. We encourage that ethos here at Tech Age Kids.

As the Silhouette Cameo 3 has been around for a year now, the price has dropped and so it becomes a much more viable option for families.



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