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Paul Brown

Meanderings on plotting cutters and stuff.

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After several months of prevarication I finally splashed out on a plotting cutter. It's a Silhouette 4 which is supposed to be the best of the home/desktop cutters. You download Silhouette's own Studio software for creating designs and sending plots, although as I'm a daily Autocad user that is my preferred platform to work with. The software allows you to import dxf format files, which is a doddle to create in Autocad. I had to work out that if the dxf is saved full size then Studio will read it full size. So for instance if you wanted to create masks for a 1/72 model, then you need to draw the designs at 1/72, simples! One snag was that some objects were appearing as folded up and out of shape in Studio, but I correctly deduced the software was not sophisticated enough to read closed polylines (CAD dudes will get it) and after exploding them all was well. When it came to sending a plot I found the software less than intuitive, but got there in the end and after a first botched cut managed to produce a set of wheel masks for my Crusader build. 

My first attempts at cutting were somewhat farcical, but I succeeded in not throwing the machine out of the window. The Studio software is not intuitive, which is half the problem. The lack of clear instructions is the other half. I spent a fair bit of time Googling and watching vids, and finally the penny began to drop. Drawing designs is not a problem (that's my day job) and Studio reads dxf files so I can do stuff in Autocad. I needed some circles for masking tank wheels as mentioned above, which were very easy to draw, but I couldn't get a plot to send because the cutter was not 'reading' the registration marks on the cutting mat. Eventually I realised I wasn't positioning the media correctly and finally got a cut. Then I saw on a vid that is was a good idea to cut backed vinyl without a mat - using the mat as little as possible keeps it sticky for gripping media. First off I had probs loading the media, then after sending the plot it was trying to find non-existent registration marks. Then I thought 'what if you switch off the marks in the software?' It doesn't tell you that anywhere, but bingo, it worked. Now feeling more adventurous I replied to a request for masks on another forum, registration letters for a privately owned JP5.  Easy peasy!

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Next!

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Very cool! I had a bit of a play with a vinyl cutter to make Space Invader stickers for a retro games cabinet I built (retropie) but that’s just about all I ever did with it

Will try and come up with a neat model project suggestion or two

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I use my Silhouette Studio a lot. It's realy useful for masks (I've done several serials for Daggers where the numbers are 'negatives' of the camouflage colour) and you can also cut plastic. I've used it to cut plastic sheet too, to make tail fins for some drop tanks I cast and to simulate the cooling grooves on the brake rotors of my Mazda 787B. It's a really useful piece of kit once you get your head round it.  

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18 minutes ago, goon said:

I've used it to cut plastic sheet too

Out of interest, how thick is the plastic sheet you've managed to cut? I assume it would struggle with anything over 0.25mm.

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That sounds about right Gorby. I think I've done a little thicker but the parts had to be 'popped' out of the sheet by flexing along the score lines.

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On 19/10/2020 at 15:02, Gorby said:

Out of interest, how thick is the plastic sheet you've managed to cut? I assume it would struggle with anything over 0.25mm.

@Gorby REMEMBER the budget! you can't get one fer two and a kick tha' knows................

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Always wondered what the "resolution" of those things was?  Example: I needed to cut a new basket-frame for a submersible model last year.  I needed to cut exactly 1mm think frame-bars with exactly 1mm (and 2mm) wide gaps between the frame-bars; in some cases going to a triangular point for the cross-braces.  I drew it all in MS Visio and printed to thick paper before cutting by hand with an X-Acto knife and a steel-rule.  Not perfect, and I had several go wrong as my knife slipped or whatever on corners etc etc, but I got there in the end.  Would that sort of 1mm (or less?) "resolution" be possible with one of these cutters? 

Also, having never used any drawing package more sophisticated than MS Visio, how easy is the proprietary software in comparison?

Just curious.  Cheers.

Edited by Nobody Significant
typo

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As I understand it the resolution is limited by the size of the blade and the media you're cutting into. I've not explored this very much as yet, but I would think 1-2mm is close to the edge of the envelope. Perhaps @Nigel Poole might be able elaborate?

 

It's easy to draw with the software, but I would regard it as a sketching tool. I'm probably prejudiced because I work daily with AutoCad, so I'm accustomed to drawing things very precisely and within a coordinated framework. It may be possible that you can work precisely with studio and I simply haven't worked it out yet. For me it's a no brainer to create a dxf file and then import into Studio.

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I think 1mm is, as Paul says, close to the limit. It might work, but it would very much depend on the material you're cutting.

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I

On 15/10/2020 at 23:36, Paul Brown said:

After several months of prevarication I finally splashed out on a plotting cutter. It's a Silhouette 4 which is supposed to be the best of the home/desktop cutters. Y
 

I would strongly dispute that as I had one that I swapped for a Cricut Explore back in 2018, that eats it for fine detail, accurate lettering etc and is doddle to set up for up to 20 thou card: That said the Explore has the worst software suite I've ever seen and and requires you to use its web based software to perform a cut (until recently) but like you I use either AutoCAD or illustrator to trace & create shapes. That said I would still recommend the Silhouette  if you don't use something else to create your shapes as its own software is dire and connection is via a very flaky Bluetooth setup.

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You can improve the Cameos ability to cut plastic etc by using the Graphtec blades:

https://www.silhouetteschoolblog.com/2015/10/how-and-why-to-use-graphtec-cb09-blade.html

Get some Oramask 810 in as well as you'll find the Tamiya tape sheet material is not that great for things like Balkenkreusz, RAF roundels, letter/numbers etc as it distorts easily but then the Oramask wont easily conform to deep curves but is perfect for wings and flat fuselages , and occasionally curved ones:

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On 24/10/2020 at 10:24, Nobody Significant said:

 Example: I needed to cut a new basket-frame for a submersible model last year.  I

Read this, its few years old but will give you an idea of what a cameo can do:

https://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/79025-a-guide-to-using-the-silhouette-cameo-cutter/&/topic/79025-a-guide-to-using-the-silhouette-cameo-cutter/?p=1241172

My Circuit is my workhorse and creates canopy masks, camo, insignia etc with ease and even did these very fiddly exhausts and custom doors in1/72 using 10 thou card: The Cameo will pretty much match it except for the ultra fine details

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Anil

Edited by azureglo
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On 22/10/2020 at 18:42, phoenix54 said:

@Gorby REMEMBER the budget! you can't get one fer two and a kick tha' knows................

@Nobody Significant be confused no more! @Gorby is known to be slightly careful (See, I DIDN'T say tight, Mark!) with his money. If it was the reference to 'two and a kick' this being 2/6d (or half a dollar!) in proper money, £ s d. If further elucidation is required, just post another 'confused' emoji............ :whistle::wink:

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13 hours ago, phoenix54 said:

reference to 'two and a kick' this being 2/6d (or half a dollar!) in proper money, £ s d.

Thank you.  So in "new money", I assume he means £250, as (being very literal) 2/6 would actually be 12½p these days....  (who remembers "new money" ½p coins (retired in 1984 (when I was 19)...?!)

😉

So if I'm reading this right, in summary, the Cricut has better more friendly software, but the silhouette cuts finer details????

This is all academic at the moment anyway, as I'm not really considering buying one right now.  Just curious.

Edited by Nobody Significant
typo

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I had no idea of what these things could do for you, until I watched some sales videos on Hobbycraft stores web site.   I am sure other places sell them, but there is somewhere you can get to have a look and feel at one.   Then when we recently went to the Mansbridge Road Haskins garden centre, next to Hobbycraft - @Nobody Significantyou know the one I refer too, just off Jn5,  I had a wander in, and it passed a few minutes as I investigated further.     

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Mrs B has become something of an avid crafter over the last couple of years and I knew that she would have an eye on getting some stuff done on the Cameo. This has allowed me to learn a few more tricks and whilst what I'm showing is not model related, it could have use in a model project. My task was to get an image of Spiderman, print and cut it out using the Cameo so it could be affixed to a greetings card. This is a first effort so there's bound to be ways of refining the process to get an a good accurate cut, otherwise here it is:

 

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First off I had to find a suitable image, that didn't take long. In imaging software I isolated the figure and removed everything else. It was then imported into Studio and using the trace tools a cutting outline was created. This was fixed over the image so it could be printed in Studio along with registration marks. The design was then printed onto heavy card, mounted onto the cutting mat and away we go. It took a couple of attempts because the machine was failing to register, but after some adjustments it did a cut. This was, however, a misfire due to incorrect cut settings with the blade not going far enough through the card. After another print and using heavier knife settings it produced a successful cut that was adjudged 'near enough is good enough' for a greetings card. I'm thinking that it may be possible to create a graphic to print onto white decal paper, then use the cutter to trim out the graphic accurately enough to produce a custom decal. I don't have any impending projects to try this out on, but I'll report back if I ever try it out.

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Here's a teaser for Duncan.

 

DSC_0659.JPG.7990a1cd6c8da6acae9efa1fe31f05ab.JPG

 

The letters are 12mm high, the outlines 0.5mm. I read on a Facebook group that anything less than 1mm was not likely to be workable, so that and the fact that I'm still a noob at this lark is quite pleasing.

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From the playing around i did earlier this year with Sean I would agree, serial numbers on 1/48 fighters are about as small as you want to go 1mm or less just won't let the paint through. 

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