About a month ago I came across the Brother Scan'n'Cut, and it intrigued me. I'd never been tempted by the die-cutters on the market for quilters, since I want to cut my own shapes - and different ones for every quilt. But the idea of this machine is pretty evident in its name; scan a shape and cut (or draw) it. It also has lots of other tricks; once a shape is scanned, you can duplicate it, rotate it (in 1-degree increments), accurately position it, resize it and so on. This has potential!
They're not cheap though. Here it's AU$700, or there's a $600 Spotlight-only version which is internally the same, but comes with fewer accessories (they're all available separately, and none of those 'missing' were ones I especially wanted) and fewer inbuilt designs (again, not an issue for me). Here's a US comparison chart. Then I just happened to receive a Spotlight (I think the US equivalent is probably Joann) voucher, for 40% off a single item. No more convincing required!
It sat unused for a few weeks while I finished off the landscape quilt, but this weekend (it's a long weekend here, plus with my lovely part-time days, that translates into a wonderful 5-day weekend for me!) I was able to try it out, and used it to cut the applique shapes for my next quilt. My design uses nine different shapes, and nine fabrics, with each shape cut five times from one fabric.
I printed my original templates straight from EQ7 where I designed the quilt, and it was easy and intuitive to scan and manipulate the shapes. But I'm still playing with setting options to get it to cut perfectly. There's a choice of 2 mats, 'standard' and 'low tack'. In this context, low tack means lower tack than the standard mat, which is really quite sticky. You can adjust the cutting pressure, and the depth of the blade, as well as the cutting speed.
My only problem is that while the paper-backed fusible web stabilises the fabric for cutting, the fusing process also ever-so-slightly warps it, which stops it from sticking (and holding) to the tacky cutting mat. This means it can buckle, and then the cut is wrong. My imperfect solution so far is to remove the paper backing. This allows it to stick much better, and though it seems to peel off the mat well enough, there is a risk of the fusible web coming off the fabric and remaining on the mat. In future, I'll try fusing more carefully, and I'll test out mirroring my image (I think the machine will do that for me) and cutting the pieces the other way up. Brother does also produce a fusible product which may stay flatter, but I admit I'm not keen to swap from my preferred Lite Steam-a-seam2. (As an aside, this product is temporarily hard to obtain - story here - so it's fortunate I have a roll.)
The positioning function prevents you from positioning the shapes too close to the edge, but you can get them economically-spaced. (The hot pink piece in the photo shows the minimal wastage - the extra at the lower edge was intentional - it was the selvedge.) However, it does make it harder - though not impossible - to use up the smaller scraps of fusible web left from other projects. There is a way to scan in what you're cutting from (e.g. the fused fabric) and position the shape to be cut directly onto it - I just haven't tried it yet.
When held in place properly, the cut is smooth and accurate. I don't think it saved me much time this first time, but in future it probably will. And anyway, I bought it more for saving my wrist when cutting, rather than saving time.
There are a number of consumables and accessories available. As well as the mats which do need replacing eventually, there are larger mats (which take the scanning and cutting area from just under 12in x 12in to almost 24in x 12in) as well as replacement blades, blade holders, coloured and erasable pens, and so on. I definitely want to get the bigger mats, and at some point will also try the erasable markers.
Disclaimer: I have no connection with either the manufacturer or retailer; I bought my Scan'n'cut machine with my own funds (yes, and the discount voucher!) and the views expressed here are simply a summary of my first experiences using it; I receive nothing for my review.