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Plotter Cutters - Materials & Tools. - More Practical Help - Your Model Railway Club
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 Posted: Mon Mar 30th, 2020 10:31 pm
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Dear all
A few people have been interested in my purchase of a cutting machine, so i thought I would share my first tentative steps here.  If any one else has experience with these machines, please feel free to comment/add/take over the thread.  However I will continue to post my early efforts for anyone else who is starting out.

I will also give my personal review of my machine - although bear in mind that I am a complete novice and I may well be doing things wrong!

So let the journey begin....


Michael



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 Posted: Mon Mar 30th, 2020 11:11 pm
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First up.... my machine.  I had wanted one for a while, and when the Silhouette Cameo 4 came out, which promised cutting up to 3mm of card, with increased pressure power, I set my sights on it.  I got a fabulous deal in the Black Friday sales, so took the plunge.
This is the machine.  It is a bit wider than your average printer, but not as deep.



The first thing to note is that these "home" machines are aimed squarely at crafters and people wanting to cut material, so there isn't a great deal of information out there for model makers.  However, some of the skills are relevant and there are plenty of tutorials - just not that many for the Cameo 4 at present.  However, Cameo 3 applications still apply, but the 4 has some built in time saving things, like an auto adjusting blade so you can do everything from your computer.  Or phone.  It has blue tooth built in so it can all be wireless as well, which I have found works without a hitch.

I shall begin with the negative points, because they are significant - although I would say I am pretty pleased with the capabilities of the machine, even with these problems.

The Cameo 4 has two blade holders.  The one on the left is for the auto blade and will cut up to 1mm thick.  However, this holder does not benefit from the additional pressure.  So it is like the Cameo 3, except that you don't have to manually change the blade depth.

The holder on the right has the extra pressure and will hold the kraft knife, which cuts up to 3mm.  Woohoo, right?  Wrong.  The deep cut blades are not that well supported in the software at the moment (more of that in another post) and they do not cut right angles.  They curve them, at best.  This is definitely designed for cutting material (there is a special material cutter), craft foam and leather and squarely set in the crafter's market.  I also tried the 2mm blade, with the same results. I have not tried the ratchet blade, I'm a bit concerned about buying yet another blade I won't use.  Unless I take up scrap booking!

So for modellers I would suggest the Cameo 4 is really the Cameo 3.25 because of the auto blade.  If anyone else has had any success witht he deep cut blades, please share it here!
Getting the right blade depth and pressure is really hit and miss for the type of materials we tend to use.  And how well stuck down your material is on the cutting mat plays a significant role in the effectiveness of the cuts.  Be prepared to make many, many passes to get a decent cut, and expect to do a bit of hand cutting to finish some things off - especially grey board.

The Cameo 4 can cut very quickly - but for accuracy of detailed parts, you really do have to cut slow, so the added speed of the Cameo 4 is lost to us.

The software is free, but if you want to import pdf files, for example (as I do, as I wanted to use it to cut scalescenes models) then you have to pay to upgrade to at least the designer edition.  The software can be buggy at times - I've had it crash on me a number of times - but it does auto save work which it then lets you re-open.  Or save regularly.  

The cutting mat gets dirty and loses its stickiness quite quickly.  You can clean it and use spray adhesive, but that is an additional cost and time issue.

You can't set it off cutting and go away.... you really need to keep an eye on it.  If your material moves, even a little, on the cutting mat, you are screwed.

There are quite a few "home" cutting machines. I have seen the cheaper Silhouette Portrait used by some modellers to good effect, and there are offers on the Cameo 3 at the time of posting this.  The main competition seems to be Cricut, but their machines are more expensive and again, tend to be aimed at crafters and material cutters.  A new YMRC section on patchwork anyone???

Michael



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 Posted: Mon Mar 30th, 2020 11:56 pm
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So, having got the negatives out of the way, onto the achievements so far.
Firstly, cutting:




This is a Scalescenes Warehouse kit, cut on the machine in 1mm grey board, so I had to use 4 sheets to get it to the right thickness (I could have made the walls thinner, but I didn't want to mess around with dimensions too much for my first attempt.  As you can see, the cutting is very consistent and  I am very pleased with the arched windows.  I could never get them this good by hand.  They did need a bit of finishing by hand to fully cut through the grey board, but that wasn't a problem and could be done quite easily.  


Here is a sample window and chair cut in 1/1000th inch styrene.  



Here are components of doors and lettering in styrene again....



And the doors and a window made up.  Great for creating bespoke details


This is my modified version of the scalescenes medium station, all designed and cut with the Cameo, with doors and windows in place.



And this is an island building designed and cut by the Cameo.  Scalescenes do not do the medium station in London brick, so it was great to be able to use their scratch built paper and apply it to the model, cut by the machine.  I also learned how to manipulate things in the software to include a course of red bricks and the red bricks above the windows and simply print them from the software to fix onto the card.


I've also experimented with scribing bricks in styrene (it didn't work in card) but that needs some perfecting.

While I am told that the software is quite basic, it certainly does pretty much everything a model maker will need as far as I can see.

So, my early impressions are that I'm pretty pleased with what the machine can do, even if it is not perfect and has a few drawbacks.

Michael



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 Posted: Tue Mar 31st, 2020 08:11 am
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Thanks for posting Michael.  Very informative.  Following with interest.  My wife has had a Cricut for some time but she is under the impression that you can't connect it to a computer for CAD use, and can only use the bought Cricut pre-designed shapes, letters, etc.  I wonder if anyone can clarify this.



Regards,



Terry


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 Posted: Tue Mar 31st, 2020 08:24 am
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Quick link as im a bit pushed but more info out there
https://www.ehow.com/how_6117652_hook-cricut-computer.html

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 Posted: Tue Mar 31st, 2020 09:08 am
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I do not know the cricut machines, but you can definitely design in their own software - Design Space.  However, I think it can be tricky to open larger files.  It is free to use for your own designs.  With both cricut and silhouette, you can download the software and make your designs, even if you do not have a machine, so you could experiment and see what you like. Or you can use other software and import your designs in, if you save in a compatible file.
Michael



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 Posted: Tue Mar 31st, 2020 10:23 am
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There is a long discussion (175 posts) on this forum back in 2013, well worth reading, I've just read it through again and it reminded me of a few things I've not used for some time

http://yourmodelrailway.net/view_topic.php?id=10103&forum_id=62&highlight=plotter+cutter



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 Posted: Tue Mar 31st, 2020 01:16 pm
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Interesting thread. It still looks like software is still the major issue, followed by restrictions to essentially card or paper. I almost bought a Cameo 4, then weighed up the investment versus the actual need. Turns out cheaper to go commercial custom cut with a laser (not styrene but other plastics are acailabke) or metal photoetching. I generally need partial cuts as well as full cuts, something that cutting machines do not appear to be intended for. 

Nigel



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 Posted: Tue Mar 31st, 2020 02:06 pm
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I have no problem cutting Slaters embossed plastikard with my Zing and have also managed to cut some 0.6mm hard plastic, still experimenting with some thicker hard plastic, but that is not essential for my needs in N gauge, it was cheap so I tried it.


As for software I use the "Make The Cut" (aka MTC) that came with the Zing, there is a newer one  "Sure cuts a lot" but I 've climbed the learning curve for MTC and that combined with a photo editing package work for me

Some of the cuts plus Peedie etched brass window and door frets in grey primer and a few cast or 3D chimneys and gate posts. The semi is Metcalf but with etched brass doos and windows and cast chimneys
.

Some of the resulting buildings plus a couple of kits for comparison, back row left end Metcalfe semi and Metcalf Pub and shop, back row Peedie cast resin shop (with red and blue shop fronts) Bay window and dormers on back row right are Scale link white metal castings


This cut from Slaters embossed plasticard, coloured to look a bit more like Purbeck stone using #hommebase emulsion "match pots" applied with a 4" roller, roof is York model rail slates, self adhesive strips, easy to apply and realistic looks




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 Posted: Sat May 2nd, 2020 11:33 am
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Hello,
What thickness was the styrene you used for the windows and doors.
Thanks
GreenBR



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 Posted: Sat May 2nd, 2020 09:09 pm
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Hi GreenBR
I used 1/1000 inch styrene, but I'm pretty sure it would cut 2/1000  too - possibly thicker still.

Hope that helps

Michael



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 Posted: Sun May 3rd, 2020 09:51 am
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Hello,
The reason i asked is because 1/1000 is 1/3 the width of a human hair (approx)so i am assuming you have use .010" which is still quite thin or maybe .020".
Sorry to be a pain
Regards
GreenBR



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 Posted: Sun May 3rd, 2020 11:29 am
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I much prefer to use etched brass doors and windows, I would suspect ones cut from plastic would be fragile by comparison. About the only etched brass windows I've not seen are church windows (looking at Peedie models, Scalelink Fretcetera and Brass masters ranges) York model rail do chuch windows in lasercut rowmark -( looks like a white plastic)



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 Posted: Sun May 3rd, 2020 11:57 am
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From my limited reading on the subject it seems that any machine struggles with 2mm grey board, a material we card modellers have an understandable need to use. There is also the problem of blades 'not turning corners' and windows have to be cut as 4 straight line rathet than rectangles.

Were your windows cut from plotted rectangles or 'straight lines', please?

I would like to know how they cope with the more manageable Finnboard.

On the latter point, I don't find that surprising, that is how I cut windows...?

Doug



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 Posted: Sun May 3rd, 2020 12:43 pm
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Some very impressive looking properties you have there Mike. :thumbs



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 Posted: Mon May 4th, 2020 11:11 am
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Petermac wrote: Some very impressive looking properties you have there Mike. :thumbs
Thanks Peter, I think I have enough terraces for now so I'm working on some 1930s houses and semis.



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 Posted: Mon May 4th, 2020 12:15 pm
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Oh dear - going downhill I fear !!  The pre-war era was, to me, among the worst we've ever allowed architecturally.  Absolutely no "style" !! 

IMHO of course ........................ :thumbs



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Hey,
That looks very cool! That is your secret for getting your station looking so sharp on your main thread! It was an interesting read seeing your issues and successes.  I've never even heard about these machines let alone considered one! 



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 Posted: Tue May 5th, 2020 10:54 pm
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GreenBR wrote: Hello,
The reason i asked is because 1/1000 is 1/3 the width of a human hair (approx)so i am assuming you have use .010" which is still quite thin or maybe .020".
Sorry to be a pain
Regards
GreenBR
Yes, you are of course right!  .010 for the windows and doors, but they are also layered, so thicker in the end.  I am pretty sure it would cut .020 - possibly more, I just haven't tried.
Sorry for the confusion

Michael



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Hi Chris
Yep!

And the last version of the warehouse.  

It also helped me design and cut the small station buildings on platform two and the parcels and luggage offices.  So now I am going to have a go at scratchbuilding something more complex and hope that it will help again.

To be honest there is probably better software out there I could use and then cut by hand, but using the Cameo made me learn, so I shall stick with the associated app.

Michael



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