Enormous thanks to my colleague, Viola Lyons, for contributing this – as she did the research for the purchase, it made sense that she was the one to comment on the experience.
When we were investigating which machine to buy, it was difficult to find a truly unbiased review. We eventually settled on one of two options: the Cricut Explore Air or the Silhouette Cameo 3. While we chose the Silhouette, we know of many people very happy with their Cricut.
The main feature that kept coming up in comparisons was the fact that the design studio software for Cameo 3 is more advanced and allows the user to create designs from scratch. Having the ability to design is an important feature for us since we are providing the use of the machine in part at least to promote creativity. Cricut has a large library of existing designs to import, and you can subscribe to keep receiving new ones, but it is not possible to create “one of a kind” designs to the same extent. We look forward to exploring this option with members of our sewing club who will create custom iron-on transfers for their creations.
The flip side of that is that there is hardly a review out there that doesn’t mention that the learning curve for the Cameo 3 machine is steeper! Cricut is promoted as being an easier machine for the beginner to learn on. It has taken some time for us to get up to speed on the Cameo 3, but we’re learning lots and have been pleased with results to date.
Here are some of the factors in our decision-making process:
Material Length: The Cameo 3 enables the user to cut longer lengths of material (up to 10 feet) which is great if you intend to work on larger projects. Cricut can cut up to 24 inches. (We haven’t had need for anything longer at this point, but there is some interest in larger projects such as wall quotes).
Blade settings: The Cameo 3 comes with an autoblade. This blade will automatically calibrate to the correct setting each time you set up a project. You still need to “tell” the machine what material is being used but it will then do the adjustment for you. The newest Cricut has a smart set dial which I believe accomplishes essentially the same thing so the difference here is likely quite minimal.
Cutting Force and Materials: Both machines will cut over 100 types of material and so far we haven’t been limited with the Cameo. However, some Cricut fans claim that the Cricut has a greater cutting force and is able to cut materials such as cork or leather – the Cameo is not designed to cut these thicker materials.
Precision: Some posts claim that the Cricut cuts with more precision. For our purposes, I don’t think this will be an issue. Everything that we have created with the Cameo, including some very intricate pieces, has been expertly cut and meets our needs.
PixScan Technology: One feature which we have not explored is PixScan technology. This feature is only available on the Cameo3 and enables the user to scan and cut preprinted images. We’re not quite there yet!
So far, we are delighted to have it – we are able to whip up letters and shapes for bulletin boards and displays with ease and we are looking forward to using it in our makerspace for personalizing water bottles, laptops and other creative endeavours.