22 August 12 The Straits Times by Tan Chong Yaw
This is cutting-edge technology. Literally. The Silhouette Cameo is an electronic cutting tool that can cut shapes on paper, even if those shapes were as complex as Chinese characters.
The Cameo looks like a portable scanner, the kind you hook up to a laptop to digitise a document on the go, but much larger. It is 53cm wide but weighs only 2.95kg.
Pop the cover and you will see why it is so light. Inside, it is basically a roller and a cutter.
It can be linked to a laptop and controlled, like a printer, via a USB cable. It also works untethered, reading files saved to an SD card.
A small monochrome LCD on the control panel shows a thumbnail image - one at a time - of the files saved on the SD card, to help you choose the right file.
The bundled proprietary software, called Silhouette Studio, includes a library of 51 designs ranging from a simple maple leaf to inspirational phrases such as "Believe in yourself".
The Studio can also create shapes, from geometric to freehand ones with text. I keyed in the names of my children and chose a font. Feeling ambitious, I downloaded the Chinese characters for my name and used the tracing tool to work the image into a shape the cutter could recognise.
To get my design cut out on an A4 sheet of photocopy paper, I first had to stick it on the cutting mat. This 305 x 305mm piece of tough, translucent plastic is supplied.
Grid lines on the plastic help you to position the paper or cardaccurately. Its sticky side holds the medium in place.
With the paper mounted on the mat pushed against the roller, I used the control buttons and loaded it in.
After I chose the design and set the machine to cut, the roller and cutter did a tango across the paper. The paper waltzed back and forth and the cutter dipped, clipped and darted to the next spot.
My simple design took almost two minutes to cut. A more complex pattern that I put together using files from the library took more than five minutes.
Separating paper from mat without tearing the finer bits demands a truckload of patience. But what satisfaction to see your creation etched out on paper.
But the machine is not silent. Everyone within a 5m radius of my desk noticed the noise.
The cutter can also handle materials such as vinyl with adhesive backing and heat-transfer sheets, both available at art supply shops.
The cutter comes with a US$10 (S$12.50) prepaid card for buying more designs via its Studio software.
- Although this is a niche product, the Cameo will suit arts and crafts enthusiasts and small art departments.
Maximum cutting area: 305 x 305mm with a cutting mat
Media: Vinyl, card, heat transfer material, photo paper, copy paper, rhinestone template material, fabric
Maximum media thickness: 0.8mm
Dimensions: 531 x 127 x 165mm
Value for money: 3