Yes, Silhouette America knows how to throw a party! Last week I attended the Launch Party for the Cameo 4 near Silhouette America headquarters in Lindon, Utah. I saw lots of friends, had some treats and did some make-n-take projects. Most importantly, I got to see the new Cameo 4 machines in action. Later that day, fellow All Things Silhouette Conference instructors Lori Whitlock, Kelly Wayment and I got to play with one of the first machines. Since you probably weren’t there, I’ll share some photos, videos and impressions so you can live vicariously through me.
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UPDATE: The Cameo 4 is now out. You can purchase it here.
Silhouette America rented an event venue for this party. In other words, they were serious about this! Guests received to a goodie bag as we walked in. Here’s mine with some funky paper balloons.
Just inside the door was a photo booth with confetti.
This large balloon display shows the celebratory theme.
You can just see the beautiful Utah mountains in the background. We had big rainstorms in the morning, which is unusual for our state, but the afternoon was clear and bright.
In the center of the room was a huge paper cake and streamers hung from the ceiling. We hoped someone might jump out of it and surprise us all with sample Cameo 4 machines to take home, but that didn’t happen.
A table on one side of the cake contained a display of past Silhouettes cutters — a “machine evolution” of sorts. The Portrait isn’t there, but all the other models are. They are (from the back) the Original QuicKutz Silhouette Digital Craft Cutter, the SD, the Cameo 1, Cameo 2 and Cameo 3. I heard lots of stories from party go-ers and Silhouette America staff about folks who still use all these machines. My first machine was the Original, which I passed on to my son and I know he used it just last month. I think it’s amazing that machines that are 10 years old still work and can still use the same software, blades and mats as current machines.
The table on the other side of the giant cake displayed Cameo 4s, which I’ll get to in a bit.
The overall atmosphere was definitely festive!
Inside our bags, we each had a scratch-off game piece.
Unfortunately, I was not a winner. 🙁 But 3 lucky folks walked out with a Cameo 4! Since there were a VERY few numbers of machines in the first shipment (30, I believe), this was big. There were a few smaller prizes as well, such as baskets full of vinyl.
There were plenty of goodies to munch on.
If you’ll look back up at my photo of the goodie bag, you can also see the pretzel wall in the background.
Since looking at all this cool stuff was bound to make us thirsty, Silhouette provided these cute cups:
I stuck with water, but there was also a table for a Utah favorite — dirty sodas. That entails mixing different sodas with flavored syrups (Torani in this case). The cart included a “recipe” board so you could make a cherry-limeade, tropical flavored, etc.
There were 2 Make-and-Takes. Here, we’re making pins from shrink plastic:
There were various designs and a couple of cool tips.
- Use an embossing gun rather than putting the shrink plastic in the oven. Brilliant!
- Hold the shrink plastic down with a bamboo stick while you heat it. Just be careful not to hold it down too hard or you’ll dent it.
- Use the wood base of a Mint stamp to press the piece down while it cools. That keeps it nice and flat.
- Use a glue such as E6000 to attach the pin to the back of the finished shrink plastic.
Here’s my finished pin:
The second one was a key chain. Here are the materials:
Each keychain used 3 beads and a piece of leatherette. We used hot glue to attach the leatherette to a length of leather cording attached to a key ring, wrapped the leatherette to form a tassel, and finished with another dot of hot glue.
Personally, I’d use a different type of adhesive or way of attaching the tassel. Mine came apart in my bag before I even got home, so I’m sure it wouldn’t last long in daily key use.
I decided not to partake (I actually had make-up on), but there were temporary tattoos as well.
We also had a TON of fun with the photo booth. I’ll show you that in the next section! And, of course, the most important activity was machine demos. I’ll show you that, too.
Bloggers, teachers, retailers, designers, etc. were given a special invitation to enter an hour earlier than the general public. There were about 50 of us. I was included in this group as a member of Silhouette Elite. We were able to view and photograph everything more easily that way.
Tickets were also made available to users who were interested in getting one of the first glimpses of the Cameo 4. There were about 100 more in this group.
I would guesstimate that about 50% of the party-goers flew in from out of state. I asked a few why they would go to that trouble and expense (it was only about a 20-minute drive for me). Most said they had always wanted to visit the headquarters and this was a great opportunity to do that as well as see the new machines. (I’ll show you pics from my tour of the headquarters in a future post).
Here I am in the group of instructors from the All Things Silhouette Conferences.
Back row: Lycia Evanoff, Elly Habets, me, Terri Johnson, Julie Huggins
Front row: Barbara Foster, Libby Ashcraft, Mandy Graham, Kelly Wayment, Lori Whitlock, Amy Robison
Just for fun — here’s our confetti throw in slo-mo!!!
If you want to hang with these fun ladies and learn from them, be sure to join us at the next conference. More info here. There will be plenty of classes on the Cameo 4. But don’t delay — fewer than 25 seats remain.
There were plenty of Silhouette staff members there. I was able to catch up with lots of folks I knew from when I worked there, as well as meet new people. Here, on the right, is Mr. Arakawa, the President of Silhouette America. We actually got him to join in the confetti play!
The machine and tools
Okay, I know you’re anxious to see the machine! Here it is closed and powered off. The design is boxier than previous models and you see no buttons.
The touch buttons and machine name are backlit when it’s on.
Available colors: only white is available now, with pink and black coming around holiday time.
Instead of lifting up, the lid retracts. HOWEVER, it does stick out the back.
The Cameo 2 and 3 feature a crosscutter in the back, but the design is poor on both groove and tool. The new Cameo 4 crosscutter is much improved (more on that below). Here’s a closeup of the mechanism.
The Cameo 4 has a built-in roll feeder for when you’re cutting things like vinyl or HTV without a mat. It pulls out from the front of the machine under the platform.
Here it is in action:
Because of the roll feeder, the storage drawer and mat supports from the front of the Cameo 3 are gone. There’s a much smaller storage tray on the left side.
Here you can see the pause button as the machine is cutting.
Here’s a closeup of the tool holders.
The blades and other tools are redesigned with a different collar around them. You use adapters that come with the machine for everything except the AutoBlade. The adapters lock around that collar. I’m pointing to it with my thumb in the third picture here.
Here’s the new lock for the right roller. You press in that gray part and slide it along the bar.
I filmed Silhouette America’s T.J. Da Rosa demonstrating the Cameo 4 cutting felt.
My impressions so far from playing with the Cameo 4
Between the Launch Party and dinner with the ATS instructor ladies, Lori Whitlock and Kelly Wayment came over to my house and we played with Lori’s Cameo 4 machine. Kelly has been testing one for awhile, so was able to help us with some of our questions. Here are my very earliest impressions of the Cameo 4. Keep in mind that I’ve only played with it for about 2 hours.
One of the things we were all REALLY excited to try is the matless cutting. Instead of the blade being right over the cutting strip, it’s over a groove in the machine. You select a setting in the Send panel to tell the software you are going to cut matless (not just in the Page Setup Panel as you would currently for vinyl or HTV). I was so excited to play that I didn’t remember to get any video. But I do have some pictures and descriptions.
How it works
What the machine does is alter the force a bit in some of the areas of the cut (like it does with the Score action on a Cameo 3). That leaves little tabs along the cut line where the material isn’t cut all the way through in order for the cut pieces to remain in place and not go floating off into the machine. You may have seen something like this on some of your cuts if you mat has debris on it, your cutting strip has a gouge in it, your blade isn’t locked in, etc.
One of the settings you can adjust is how much that force difference is and how long those tab areas are. There seem to be 2 settings for the length, but I’m not sure what those both are yet. Perhaps length of the tab and length of the distance between the tabs? Right now, the developers told us not to adjust any of the settings. We found that the default settings didn’t work as well for good quality paper as for just cheap cardstock from the office supply store. We suspect that’s because we couldn’t adjust blade number or force.
Here’s the result with the default settings on the lengths of the tabs…
…and with that length shortened. You can see it’s much better.
After a bit, we did play around with the settings and did okay.
The main drawback at this stage is that those little tabs are areas that aren’t fully cut through, so the cut isn’t super clean.
With really good cut settings and an adjustment of the tab length, it does get much better.
If your cardstock has a white core, those tabs are going to be more noticeable…
…than if your paper has a solid-color core.
We also found that areas where the cut lines were close together or when the using a piece of cardstock that already had holes in it, the results degraded. There didn’t seem to be enough sturdiness in the paper and it pulled, resulting in misshapen cuts. For example, on this piece, we cut the circle on the left, unloaded and removed the circle, then reloaded and cut the right circle. It’s hard to tell here because the cardstock isn’t laying flat, but the circle on the right isn’t perfectly round.
And it was much harder to get a clean cut near the center of this flower….
…than on this one.
We didn’t test anything tiny, but I suspect that would be hard as well.
The bottom line
I think this could be a great feature once we all get it figured out. You can see we did much better just with a little testing and adjustment. But I wouldn’t expect to use it all the time and never buy mats again. I could definitely see it helping when you absolutely need to get a cardstock project finished and your cutting mat is shot. Just keep in mind the limitations:
- You can only use full-sized sheets.
- Sheets with holes in them already are difficult or impossible to cut (just the same as with vinyl or HTV).
- It may take quite a bit of testing to get the settings just right.
- You will still see the little tabs, particularly on white core cardstock.
- The tradeoff for shorter tabs is that the cardstock isn’t as sturdy.
Overall the design of the Cameo 4 is fine. I’m not one who cares that much about colors or aesthetics — just how well the machine cuts.
There are some issues I have found because of the redesign of the control panel. Although you can pause the machine during the cut, there is NOT a way currently to adjust the settings before continuing the cut. That’s a big disadvantage to my mind. The option to hit “Repeat Job” is also gone. We (several of us in the Beta testing group) have asked the developers to address this.
One more thing that’s missing is a slot for a USB stick. In the Cameo 2 and 3, you can save a file to a USB stick in a specific way, insert it into the machine and cut directly from that. On the Silhouette SD, you could do that with an SD card. You can see here that the Cameo 4 doesn’t have this feature.
You may ask why you’d want to do that. There are several reasons:
- To cut from multiple machines at the same time without having Business Edition, or if you have more machines than USB ports on your computer and don’t want to or can’t use Bluetooth. I did this when addressing the envelopes for my daughter’s wedding invitations because only 2 USB ports on my computer worked and I had 4 machines. That and the “Repeat Job” option for the return address saved me a great deal of time. I wouldn’t be able to do it in the same way with only Cameo 4 machines.
- To cut without being tied via USB cord to your machine or without using Bluetooth. Sometimes you have to have your machine farther from your computer than the length of the USB cord, or too far for your Bluetooth to handle accurately.
- So you can take your machine to something like a crop, or other event or location where you know you’ll be cutting the same file over and over and so don’t need your computer.
This is something that’s not going to change, so just keep in mind how you use your machine and therefore what you want on it.
New Tools and Greater Force
I would love to try the Kraft Blade, Rotary Blade and Punch Tool, but they aren’t out yet and won’t be until around the holidays. That means you are limited to just 1 tool holder for now and can’t take advantage of the extra force. Yes, you read that right. One of the main features of the Cameo 4 — the increased force — is one you can’t use or even test until the new tools are released in a few months. It’s the same with the Strong Tack mat, which will be the go-to mat for the thicker materials you’ll use with some of those tools.
Quicker AutoBlade Adjustment
The new AutoBlades definitely adjust faster and I like that. The tricky thing to watch out for is that the numbers are reversed from the AutoBlades used in the Cameo 3. On the 3, 0 is all the way to the left and 10 to the far right. On the 4, they go the opposite direction. Why does that matter? If you are used to the AutoBlades for the Cameo 3 and so are checking to see if one on the Cameo 4 is adjusting correctly, this could be confusing (especially since the numbers are so tiny).
Easier roller bar lock
The new design of the adjustable right roller makes it MUCH easier to move. HURRAH! However, like the Cameo 3 you have to make sure you get it into the groove well. It is possible to lock the roller and relock the roller bar and the roller not be in the actual groove. That means when you cut, you’re not getting the right amount of pressure to hold the mat/material and the cut won’t work.
Updating the firmware is much quicker and easier. In the Send area, the software told us to update the firmware. We downloaded it and it installed automatically without all the holding down buttons and waiting for the screen colors to change.
The crosscutter is SO much better!!! Clips clamps down on the vinyl to hold it securely and then the crosscutter slices through it all at once like a guillotine. No more sliding a wobbly tool through a loose channel and getting a wonky cut that makes it hard to load the next time. And because it works well, you don’t have to unload and reload as often, which is definitely a plus when cutting without the mat.
Built-in Roll feeder
The roll feeder is a nice feature, but it doesn’t seem very sturdy. I’m hoping my regular roll feeder will still fit the Cameo 4. I think I would rather have kept the larger storage drawer and mat supports.
3 adapters come with the machine so that you can use older ratchet blade styles, some of the new tools, and things like the Amy Chomas etching tool. I expect the adapters to get a good deal of use and they, like the roll feeder, are pretty flimsy. If possible, you will probably want an extra set to keep on hand.
The adapters and AutoBlade each have a different plate (metal or magnetic — I couldn’t tell) on the back. This is how the machine senses what tool you are using and makes sure it matches what you have chosen in the software. I see some potential pitfalls with this if you are using tools in ways other than originally intended or using ones from other manufacturers (Amy Chomas tools, foil quill, etc.). The adapters might help with this, but it’s hard to tell at this point.
From what I’ve heard and seen pen holders with the screw mechanism will NOT fit in the adapter. The older style pens may or may not work (I’ve heard differing stories on this one).
Another issue that we’ve brought up with the developers is whether or not you can “air cut.” That’s when you pause a cut and take out the tool because something is going wrong. If you want to understand more about why and how to do that, see this post. We (the Beta testing group) have asked for clarification on whether or not this will be possible with the adapter system and automated tool detection.
Pausing and cancelling jobs
As the machine is RIGHT NOW, I have some issues with pausing, resuming and cancelling jobs.
- Once the machine is cutting, the pause button is lighted up on it. Pausing isn’t a problem. But to cancel the job, you currently have to hold it down for approximately 10 seconds. That can be tricky and confusing.
- Once you’ve paused it, there is NOT a way to adjust the settings before resuming the cut. I find that to be a major drawback, as it limits how much of a project you are able to save if part of it cuts wrong.
- On the Cameo 3, if you cancel a job during the middle of it the blade carriage does NOT return to the upper left origin point. You have to unload to get it back there. If the Cameo 4 is the same and you can’t adjust the settings and can’t remove the tool to “air cut,” you’re in a catch 22.
- There are times you have to turn off the machine during the cut, or the power goes out and it stops, etc. One friend of mine testing the machine had a issue with this where the right tool holder would no longer go down after that happened.
This is another issue we’ve asked the developers to look into.
Redesigned Tool Lock
If you have a Cameo 3 or Curio, you know that when you push the blade lock in the tool often pops up, meaning the tool isn’t at the right depth. That’s been redesigned in the Cameo 4 so that doesn’t happen with the new AutoBlades. The adapters surround that collar that I showed you on the Sketch pen so that other tools stay put.
I like the fact that you can save vertical space by sliding the lid back rather than lifting it. But since it now protrudes from the back, it means you need more clearance behind the machine.
Faster Cutting Speed
We did not test this so I can’t speak to it much. But according to Kelly, the blade carriage will move faster between cut lines. Right now, as the motor box finishes one cut line and goes across the page to a new one, it moves at the same speed as the cutting. The improvement is that it should move quickly across the page, then drop back to the slower speed to cut. As I understand it (this is limited knowledge), the cutting speeds of 1 to 10 themselves are the same.
You will need version 4.3 to run the Cameo 4. That version is still in Beta mode (open Beta now, so that’s further along than closed Beta). Look for it as the regular version soon, but the testing I and others are doing still shows quite a few bugs. Those often take some time to get worked out. So, again, hang on to your current machine for now.
New Sketch Pens
The sketch pens, as I mentioned above, have been redesigned to fit the new style of adapter and tool holder. But even at this important Launch Party, I see the same issues with them skipping in the samples they were doing there.
There is a new pen holder that will work, and I would still recommend using that. (See my post on using sketch pens here and on assembling the pen holder here). The older pen holder, as I understand it, will NOT. The Amy Chomas one definitely will not either due to the screw on it.
Where to pre-order the Cameo 4
So if you are ready to pull the trigger and order your Cameo 4 (shipping approximately 9/27/19), go here to get one from Silhouette America. Use my code SMART at checkout to get free shipping to the 48 contiguous US states. If they are sold out there or you want store credit for my site that you can use on memberships here, check out these bundles from Crafter Cuts.