PROS / This die cutter is also a 300-dpi scanner, so you can easily capture your own images and backgrounds for later use.
CONS / This die cutter is limited to materials up to 2 millimeters thick, despite its multiple settings for cutting speed, pressure and depth.
VERDICT / The Brother ScanNCut is an excellent option for beginners. It comes with a full starter kit and works with and without a computer.
In our evaluation of the best die cutters, the Brother CM550DX ScanNCut stands out because it lacks dies, cartridges and even computer software, making it an electronic cutting machine rather than a die cutter in the traditional sense. The Brother ScanNCut offers several tech features. Its full-color touch screen comes with a stylus and acts much like a mobile screen. You can edit images; even flipping, moving, or welding shapes together. It allows you to arrange designs on the same material to conserve space and reduce waste. The ScanNCut is also USB compatible. The die-cutting machine already works as a 300-dpi scanner, but you can import other images directly to the machine to access them without a computer.
Like power tools, you have to adjust settings on your die-cutting machine when you work with different materials. For example, delicate materials, like tissue paper, can rip easily if the blade applies too much pressure and speed. Likewise, your die cutter won't make a scratch on tough materials, like rubber or leather, if the machine doesn’t apply enough pressure to the blade.
There are 12 blade depth levels to adjust for materials up to 2 millimeters (mm) thick. This limits the die cuts to lighter materials, but the machine itself is small and only weighs 8.25 pounds. You may have trouble with tough, thick materials, even materials that are 1 mm thick. Light cotton, flannel, felt, magnets or sticker sets are compatible with this Brother model. It also works on cardstock, glitter paper and vinyl. In addition to pressure adjustment, you can adjust the cutting speed and depth level. For quilters, the Brother can adjust the seam allowance by seven levels of width.
The Brother ScanNCut comes with plenty of tools and extra accessories, such as a pen set to replace the cutting blade for drawing, multiple digital patterns, and an idea book. These are especially useful for newcomers who want to test the limits of the die-cutting machine.
Stock images are useful when you want to create simple crafts or cards. If you find a premade design you like, you can still adjust its height and width. In addition, you can duplicate, mirror and weld designs and fonts. The Brother comes with 700 built-in designs, 140 quilt patterns and five fonts to get started.
Brother offers customer assistance with via telephone, email and the website's FAQs page. The website divides its support section by product type, so you may have to sift through some drop-down menus to get to the answers you need. The phone line is automated and asks you to state a problem with your ScanNCut rather than connecting you with a representative.
The Brother CM550DX ScanNCut is a good choice for beginners or users who want to avoid learning new software. It features a large full-color screen, simple menus and comes with a large starter kit of patterns and tools for inspiration. The screen makes it easy to adjust designs, and this paper die cutter doubles as a scanner. However, you may have trouble printing on materials over a 1 millimeter thick, so you may want to think twice about buying it if you plan to cut wood, leather, rubber or metal projects.