Crafter, Maker or Tinkerer? Check out our review on which Desktop Cutting Plotter is best.
Companies such as Cricut, Silhouette, and Sizzix are familiar to crafters and hobbyists alike who have used their products in the past to make scrapbooks and stickers. With the enormous growth in the DIY movement in the past few years, these companies are now targeting their products to the growing market of Makers. These machines are able to cut and score paper, vinyl, fabric, and more. Here at the Tech Center we were given the opportunity to test out 3 different Desktop Cutting Plotters in the hopes of finding one that worked well for our space.
Let’s plot our way through our review of the three machines.
In order to conduct a fair review of all 3 machines I decided to pick a project to test across all 3 Desktop Cutters. I landed on a fairly simple project which anyone can make to help youth learn more about 3 dimensional shapes. I chose to create a pyramid and a cube using perforated lines and numbers to represent each side of the shape. The test criteria for the project is as follows:
- Create something an educator could use in a learning environment so as to add a veracity to the review.
- Test the detail of each plotter in terms of how well it could cut the numbers on each face of the shape.
- Use a perforated technique with cardstock to create fold lines for each shape.
Overall these desktop cutters do a really good job at cutting and my recommendation for use is ultimately based on who is going to use the cutter and for what purpose.
- If you have little design skill, want to use a simple interface but also want to cut thicker materials and patterns then I would recommend the Cricut.
- If you have a lot more design experience and need to have control of different settings or values then I would recommend either the Eclips2 or the Cameo.
- For a classroom environment it will really depend on what the intended use case will be.
The Cricut will provide free software and an iPad application where students or youth will be able to upload and create their designs once they create an account with Cricut.com. You can also buy a bluetooth adapter that lets you send files wirelessly to your Cricut from a computer, iPad or iPhone. The Cricut performed well in the test by cutting through the cardstock but unfortunately it was difficult for me to create perforated lines using the design software. I had to create the dashed lines myself and substitute them for the solid lines based on where I wanted the folds to be.
The Silhouette Cameo, on the other hand, provides a free application called Silhouette Studio that that works for both Mac and Windows computers without creating an user account. A downside to the free version is the fact that you can’t import SVG files like the other two cutters but I was able to do a quick workaround by importing my design as a DXF file. The application can do very basic things but should be enough for a classroom environment. If you want greater control of the cutter and the ability to import SVG files then I recommend you pay for an upgrade to the application which opens open up different doors depending on which license you get. The Cameo did a good job cutting the cardstock but sadly did not cut the numbers all the way through. I know that with some time to play around with the settings I could have gotten the cut pressure dialed in correctly. A feature the Cameo has that I really love is the ability to turn a solid line into a perforated line with the click of a button without having to make dashed lines in the design file beforehand.
The Eclips2 unfortunately comes with software that is tied to a product license. If you want to use multiple computers with the eCal software you will need to deactivate the license on one computer to pass it to another. It works well for both Mac and Windows computers and like the Cameo does not require a user account every time you want to use the application. I really like the eCal 2 software that comes with the machine because of how jam packed it is with features. The Eclips performed on par with the Cameo by cut all the way through the cardstock but not cutting the numbers all the way through. I believe with some time to dial in the correct settings I could have cut the numbers all the way through. The eCal 2 software also gave me the ability to easily create perforated lines from my solid lines with the click of a button.
Personally, my top pick for our space was either the Eclips2 or the Cameo. I love having control over my settings because in the end I like having the ability to fine tune the cuts based on the design and material I am going to use. I also need a good interface to get my designs ready for cutting and this is where I see the Eclips2 having an advantage. The interface has a style reminiscent of Photoshop which provides the user the ability to create their designs inside the application and quickly send to the cutter while retaining maximum control over the settings for each cut.
For a learning environment like a classroom, library or makerspace it will really depend on what the intended use case will be. I have stated various reasons why one might be better than the other two for your particular usage. In the end, they are all very similar and perform well. If you want even more information about the cutters check out my video review below and find more information on our Blueprint site: Equipment Review: Paper / Vinyl Cutters