Sunday, March 22, 2015

Best Die Cutting Machine on the Market

So you've been looking at die cutting machines for a while. Maybe a friend has one. Maybe you've seen some of the gorgeously stunning projects you can make with them on Pinterest. Maybe you've started idly reading reviews and watching YouTube videos. And you're wondering to yourself, "Which one is the BEST? Which one is right for me?" Well, you've come to the right post!

What makes the best die cutting machine?

The best machine for you will be the one that fits with your own personal needs. So you need to decide what you will want it to be able to do. After all, a home die cutting machine represents a financial commitment, and you want to get it right first time.
I've chosen the features that I believe to be most important when comparing die cutting machines and assembled them in a quick-view chart so that you can compare the results easily.
I've chosen the three top sellers in the die cutting market; the Silhouette Cameo, The Cricut Explore and the Brother ScanNCut CM100DM. All three are similar, entry-level machines, and provide a good solid basis for comparison.

Comparison at a Glance

The Best Die Cutting Machine

My conclusion is that the best die cutting machine is a Cricut Explore. Read on further and I’ll break down why.

What is a die cutting machine?

For the uninitiated, a home die cutting machine uses a very small, sharp blade to cut out a pre-designed shape. The shapes are stored either on the machine, on a USB stick, on your computer, or on the internet. The cardstock, or other material is fed into the machine on a tacky mat which keeps it in place while the blade cuts.
Die cutting machines have many advantages over roller machines such as the Cuttlebug or BigShot. Two key ones are: images are a lot cheaper, and you can own thousands for the price of a few expensive dies. Also the images are flexible, and the image size can be dialled up or down according to your purpose.

Let's Get Down to Details

Silhouette Cameo
Cricut Explore
Brother ScanNCut
Cost of consumables
Mat $14.99
Blade $12.99
Mat $11.99
Blade $9.99
Mat $15.99
Blade $8.99
Mat size
Regular 12x12”
Extended mat 12x24”
Regular 12x12”
Extended mat 12x24”
Regular 12x12”
Extended mat 12x24”
2nd quietest
3rd quietest
2nd quickest
3rd quickest
Precision of Cuts
2nd best
3rd best
Free images
Included in the bundle
USB cable, cutting mat, cutting blade, Silhouette Studio software, 1 month subscription to Design Store
Silver pen, USB cord, Standard cutting mat, selection of cardstock, vinyl, iron-on, Duck tape
Standard mat, low tack mat, standard blade, deep cut blade, fabric support sheet, applique contact sheet, spatula, stylus
Additional Accessories
Fabric blade, PixScan cutting mat
Wireless Bluetooth Adapter
Photo scanning mat, pen holder
Software support
Silhouette Studio
Design Space
ScanNCut Canvas
% of negative (1-star) reviews
% of positive (5-star) reviews
Main negatives
No reply from help centre.
Problems with refurbished models.
Design Space is limiting: it is not easy to design your own images.
Must have an internet connection for Design Space.
USB memory stick needed to transfer images (no cable)
Has trouble seeing (and cutting) many images
Trouble with cutting pale images
Main positives
Easy to use right out of the box.
Sleek, slimline look.
Easy to design your own images.
Easy to use the Silhouette Studio software.
PixScan software means it can fussy cut for you.
Storage compartments.
No need to store cartridges.
No financial commitment; pay as you go for single images.
Carry tote.
Wireless USB adapter.
Precision of cuts.
Clean, crisp cuts
Flexibility when designing own images
Good for the broad crafter - for quilters as well as cardmakers
Will both scan and cut your own images in one machine.
Easy to add seam allowances.
Great for fussy cutting

What Have They All Got in Common?

Mat size: all come with a regular 12x12" mat, with the ability to take a longer 12x24" mat.

They also all have the same one-year limited warranty when bought from a licenced retailer.

Print then Cut

All three machines have this capability. For ease of use, the Brother has to be top of the list, since it is all part of the machine (you don't need to connect to a computer), but there are many problems with icon threshold which frustrates users: the paler the image, the less likely the machine is to pick it up.

The Silhouette and Cricut can both be linked to computers and software used for cutting your own images. The Silhouette's process is a little more complicated and requires some skill with image manipulation, whereas the Cricut's is more intuitive.

What's Your Hobby?

I fairly quickly discounted the Brother from my choices, but I have to admit that if I was more of a fabric crafter or a quilter I would be looking more closely at it. For a paper crafter like me, my comparison quickly became a two-machine race between the Cricut Explore and the Cameo Silhouette, so I spent some time looking into them both in more detail.

1. The Best Cuts
The Cricut Explore ticked all the right boxes and when it came down to a choice between the Cameo and Explore, the most pressing question for me was to do with the best cut, and this is where the Cricut excelled hands down.
The best price I've found for the Cricut Explore here.
The video below gives you a visual comparison of the difference in results, especially when it comes to the smaller intricate cuts.


2. The Print then Cut Feature

Both machines can cut out any uploaded image, but for two reasons the Cricut stood out again. First of all the Cameo Silhouette's software for this use is very clunky. A user needs to be fairly confident with manipulating images in order to go through the many steps required before their image will be cut out properly. The Cricut's process is much more intuitive, and much simpler. And secondly, the cuts from the Cricut are again more accurate.

3. The List of Cutting Materials

At first I didn't think this was a particularly useful way of choosing between machines. All three cut the basics - paper, cardstock, fabric, vinyl - but then when I started to really look into the lists, I found that the Cricut Explore went as far as chipboard and leather. The fact is, most of us don't choose a machine for chipboard or leather, but since it's a financial outlay, why not choose a machine that has the capability for the widest variety of materials? Makes sense to me. Here are a few of the things that a Cricut Explore can cut: chipboard, denim, corrugated paper, flocked paper, tissue paper, burlap, duck tape, window cling, wool felt.
For the full list, click here.

4. The Software

Users are completely divided over the software used by the Silhouette Cameo and the Cricut Explore. Some love one and some love the other. Some hate one and some hate the other. I will say this: I like the versatility of Silhouette Studio, but not the price. I like the fact that the Cricut software is more intuitive, but not that I have to by linked to the internet every time I use the machine.

5. The Best Die Cutting Machine for the Family?

This was something that absolutely sold me on the Cricut Explore completely, because I have a practical husband. Imagine you're after a new die cutter and you know it's a big investment, and even as a birthday or Christmas gift, the man of the house is not yet quite as "on board" as you'd like him to be. The list of cutting materials found above will help you here. It can cut all sorts of workshop materials such as light aluminium, leather, acetate and birch / balsa wood. (Think building model planes and boats with the kids). So the Cricut Explore is going to be just as useful in the mancave as it is in the craftroom. For the children of the home, it’s not just useful for gifts and crafts, but also when using material such as vinyl cling and construction paper (think door signs and Minecraft 3D…) So I'm a scrapbooker... What else can I make?

Decision made.


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