I know what you’re thinking. A love story…? Stay with me here. I’ve now been using my Silhouette Alta 3D printer to print my own cookie cutters for over six months. When I first opened the box there were fireworks, cannons of confetti, and sprinkles flying through the air. It was love at first print. However, the longer we got to know each other the more things got real. I learned it’s quirks, we had to work through things, and if I’m being really honest there were many moments I shouted IT’S OVER ALTA! Like a Taylor Swift song we were madly in love in one moment and a hit breakup the next. But then a new clever cookie idea would come to me and I would go crawling back. You could say my relationship status went from IN LOVE to IT’S COMPLICATED. But my
really irritating silly little quirks and I’ve fallen in love with it more than any other cookie tool ever, and I’m ready to move from it’s complicated
So here were are. I’m kicking off my Silhouette Alta 101 3D Printer Series. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be sharing all about the Silhouette Alta from getting to know the machine to
WHAT IS THE SILHOUETTE ALTA & WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ANYWAY? THE SILHOUETTE ALTA VS. OTHER PRINTERS
Let’s start with the basics. The Silhouette Alta is a 3D printer that uses a heated plastic filament to print three-dimensional designs from the bottom up layer by layer. If you just happened to stumble upon this post and the concept of 3D printing is new to you, I recommend you check out this source for an intro. For most of you, I’m going to guess that you’ve been considering getting a 3D printer to be able to print your own cookie cutters right at home. But you’ve heard stories from
A PLUG AND PLAY USER FRIENDLY MACHINE
This is where the magic of the Silhouette Alta comes to life. The Silhouette Alta serves as a bridge to fill the gap between users who just want to print designs at home without a
THE REAL MAGIC, THE SOFTWARE
Sure a great setup is awesome, but the real shining star here is how Silhouette took the process of designing prints and made it totally user-friendly. No matter what printer you choose you’re going to need files to print. You need a locate or design a file and then the file needs to be turned into a 3D model and “sliced” so the printer knows how to print the design layer by layer. Typically this takes two different software, lots of time, research, and learning. Which has most of us
You can use any of their 1000’s of designs in the Silhouette design store, free or
As a matter of fact. The Silhouette Alta 3D printing software has a cookie cutter import setting so you don’t even have to take the time to create a cutter file. But I’m going to tell you right up front, I do not like the automatic cutter import. It creates a bulky design, and I’ve figured out a super easy way to custom create the 3D cookie cutter files in their design studio. My hope is the cookie cutter import will be improved with time as the company collects input. But don’t worry I’m going to be here to teach you all the things. I’ve got you! But don’t get caught up on software, the starter versions of both software are free, you can download them right now, here, and play before you buy.
STENCILS AND CUTTERS?! A PERFECT PAIR!
Before we move on, my main reason for why the Silhouette Alta stands out to me as the best 3D printer for cookie cutters. As I said above, the printer pairs with Silhouette’s existing design studio which many of you already know and love. This means you can not only print all of the cookie cutters of your dreams
OK, BUT HOW MUCH TIME DOES IT TAKE TO PRINT COOKIE CUTTERS?
When I asked for all of your Alta questions there was one major theme/question/concern. How long does it take? How long does it take to design a cookie cutter, and how long does it take to print a cookie cutter with the Alta? And I get it. Most of you are rocking mom buns and getting it done. We’re balancing trays of cookies and carpooling. So although the magical idea of DIY cookie cutters seems great, it also seems like one more total time suck. This is a question I can’t entirely answer for you, but I can give you a good idea. If you are designing a digital cutter yourself, the time will obviously be up to you and your creative process. But once you have the shape, whether it be custom or not the process to prep the cookie cutter file only takes a few minutes. I’m going to cover that process step by step in my next Silhouette Alta post next week.
The actual printing of the cutter will also vary greatly. The amount of time it takes to print a cutter depends on the SIZE and the QUALITY of the print. With the
THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE PLASTIC PRINTING TRUTH
IT’S NOT ONLY GOOD LOOKING IT’S GREAT WITH THE KIDS
I’m going to list the positives and the negatives below so you can weigh them all out. But before I dig into what things drive me nuts about the machine. I wanted to gush over one more thing I love about the Silhouette Alta. Girlllll as far as 3D printers go. It’s
OK BUT WHAT’S THE CATCH?
Even though they have done a great job at making this printer so user-friendly there is still a learning curve with all 3D printing no matter that machine, it’s just less steep with the Alta. You’re going to have to learn how to unclog your nozzle, troubleshoot, and so on. Sometimes you’re going to end up with a pile of plastic filament and you have no idea why. In the beginning, it’s hard to tell the difference between USER ERROR AND MACHINE ERROR. As much as I don’t want to admit it, the more I learn the more I realize it’s not the machine, it’s me. And I plan on passing every bit of knowledge I learn to you guys. Most often my cutters now turn out awesome, but I still do get the occasional bumps, blemishes, and troubleshooting.
THE SOFTWARE, GROWING PAINS BABY
Ironically my biggest complaint with the Silhouette Alta is also what I love most about it. The software. Because it is totally one of a kind and new on the 3D printing scene there are still bugs to be worked out. For example, the software will sometimes freeze up on me. Additionally, loading filament has been an on again off again pain for me. I will go weeks without an issue then one day I can’t seem to get the filament to load (However I think there is a solution to this coming!). I remember when the Silhouette cutter was brand new, or better yet, the iPhone! With all new tech comes growing pains. If Silhouette remains on the brand there will be new versions of the software, and it will get better and better. *UPDATE* Just after typing this I found out there is a huge software update available. I’ll update this once I try it out a bit.
IS A SILHOUETTE ALTA THE RIGHT 3D PRINTER FOR ME?
Well, guys besides the FAQ + PROS/CONS below. This love story has been told. Hopefully, I’ve laid it all out and given you more than enough insight to decide if the Silhouette Alta is the right 3D printer for you and your cookie cutter printing journey. To sum
However, if you’re looking to design and print flawless, 100% customized commercial level cutters in bulk for a shop or larger more detailed print subjects the Alta is not for you right now. You’re going to need to spend a whole lot more time educating yourself on 3D printing and it’s necessary software first.
Although I’m madly in love with my Silhouette Alta and I intend on creating hundreds of cutters in the near future, I completely understand the responsibility that comes with recommending a 300 dollar investment to you. For me, the end result of having whatever cookie cutter I want at my
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A FEW FAQS + SPRINKLES OF INFO
- Price Point: $299 (This is my affiliate Amazon link to a very reputable seller.) The Alta is only available through Swing (linked) or Silhouette.
- Prints up to 120mm tall and 116mm wide. Approx 5inX5in.
- Uses any 1.75 PLA filament which is considered food safe.
- Silhouette has 5 colors of filament available but any 1.75 PLA filament can be used with the Alta.
- Prints Silhouette 3D files as well as .STL and.OBJ formats.
- Supplies needed: Software, machine, platform, platform tape, and filament all included in with purchase.
- The machine comes calibrated and ready to use.
- Platform tape must be used on top of the platform disk. This will need to be replaced from time to time, I get MANY uses from one tape.
- You will need a computer to run the software.
SILHOUETTE ALTA PROS
- Super easy to set up, lives up to its plug and play claim.
- Looks great right on your desk!
- Enclosed design + locking feature makes it safe to use around the kids.
beginer level, no need to spend hours and hours learning the language of 3D printing.
- Software is included.
- Thousands of cheap designs available in the Silhouette design store.
- Availability to easily create your own cookie cutters in a short amount of time.
- For the price, the print quality is really good.
- Shipping and waiting for cutters? NO MORE!
- Made by a reliable American mega crafting company.
- Cookie cutter lost, broke, or simply the wrong size? Print a new one!
- Pairs perfectly with other Silhouette machines to create even more custom cookie options.
- The ability to provide many more themes to your cookie customers without the expense of buying dedicated cutters for that set.
SILHOUETTE ALTA CONS
- Software glitches! New software = growing pains.
- Did I say software glitches?
- Non-heated base.
- Small print space though comparable to other printers. Would like to be able to print sets of printers at once.
- Price is a little steep compared to a few other popular printers of this size. (I think this comes due to the user-friendly software.)
- Replacement tapes will need to be bought in order to use.