Cricut: A protoFab Example


Anyone seen this thing: the Cricut cutting device (Link)?

Late last week while scoping out displays and purchasing some sample products, I walked by an aisle display with these things on it (actually, the smaller version). I may have heard of this device, but I’d completely forgotten about it. Apparently it’s only been out for about two years so my forgetting isn’t a big surprise. Just goes to show where my mind has been the past year or two and how little time I spend in craft departments at large retail chains. Only I didn’t see this in the craft department; I saw it in the general aisle with everything else.

I have to admit, this thing looks pretty nice. And with papercraft and scrapbooking still going strong (I think), I would imagine this device is finding a healthy niche.

Sure enough, when I briefly check around I find there’s a relatively impressive community making stuff with their sophisticated little toy. Considering it’s relatively new, the site’s online discussion forum seems well stocked with posts, and an online search yielded plenty of hits. Not bad.

If you read a few forum threads, like me you might be surprised at how extraordinarily positive many comments are. Some people have complained about their initial use of the device, but from what I’ve read it may be that some units shipped with a dull blade installed; easily corrected.

Even so, many posts sound like paid endorsements. I was thinking they were, but some of the people who were initially disappointed (due to things like the installed blade problem) come back later and sound the same: they seem to love this thing.

I’m still skeptical (big surprise), but I’m thinking that assuming it moved from the corner craft department at Wal*Mart into one of their main aisles, this thing is probably selling well… and likely that’s partially a result of some seriously positive word-of-mouth. Aside from the WOM, I can understand why it’s been moved out into the store: this is a DIY product for the non-home improvement market sitting in a crowd of consumables. It’s golden. Any wonder the $499 unit is out of stock?

Somewhat surprising, I’ll admit, is that from watching the videos there doesn’t appear to be support for loading up computer files via the available USB port. Supposedly that’s in the works. Only not having that feature isn’t an issue with this crowd. In fact, not requiring a computer to operate this thing is an obviously deliberate selling point. However, when custom content can be loaded via that USB connection, I suspect we’ll see a small content market develop around this product. I even expect that people who’ve steered clear of computers will have a good reason to learn how to use them, if only to download custom designs into their unit.

This product is more than a device for cutting paper; it’s worth watching for what it can teach the emerging 3D fab market.

Just watch, in twenty years this thing will be on Future eBay; like those toy vacuum forming and molding kits. Can you imagine what’s going to happen when a home fabber hits the market? a device similar to this thing (and some printers) which doesn’t require a PC? I’d bet there are a lot of potential users for such a device.

Last night I watched videos showing some very cool 3D form creation using a free, downloadable modeler. I can imagine high-quality amateur jewelry will be everywhere if people put those two together. I can imagine Etsy‘s user base ballooning as people start selling their designs. I can imagine whole new sales sites emerging and I’d venture eBay would set up an entirely separate category for such items… and it would be popular.

I can hardly wait to hear announcements made at Rapid 2007 next month.

In the meantime, kudos to Provo Craft for delivering what I suspect is a product they truly believe in. Not every company does that. Even while watching their rehearsed, amateurish infomercial videos, I got the sense the enthusiasm was genuine. And I suspect if I spent some time on their forum or a few others outside their control, I’d find a community outreach program that would put most big corporations to shame. With so many lousy examples in that department, we sure could use a few good ones.

{Image Copyright © 2007 Provo Craft & Novelty}

2 thoughts on “Cricut: A protoFab Example

  1. Cricut? heck yeah, been out for awhile for those of us who scrap and make cards. Pricey for many hobbyists though. Scraphappy’s here in Tulsa offers classes and ‘work nights’ where hobbiests can use their machines. Although Hobby Lobby and Michaels offer coupons sometimes they won’t apply to the cricut machine, but they do put the little discs on sale and coupons apply to those. Occasionally they may put the machine on sale but very infrequently.

    And yes, this hobby is going strong. Sometimes the scrap book pages are a little overwhelming and you lose the pictures in all the junk hobbiests surround them with. What this kind of machine does though and the niche (one of your favorite words) it fills is for those who aren’t ‘free radicals’ it lets them choose their decor from pre programmed discs and then ‘design’ their pages. Some like me, still prefer to free hand cut or draw our designs.

    BTW ever used chalk in school? Loose chalk? I would like to use it on cards but am not sure of application or preservation, brush on? Drying time?

    Love your non-techie social worker sister

  2. I’ve read about the coupons (Provo even has a press release explaining the pricing policy – and apparent controversy – surrounding some of that; tho I didn’t bother reading it).

    And I think that once they activate that USB (though how they intend to do update firmware with an unconnected device is beyond me) people who prefer their own designs will be easy: scan image, vectorize it, transfer it to the device and cut away.

    As for “chalk”, I’d recommend just using pastels (they come in varying degrees of hardness, iirc). After you’re finished, hit the page a fixer. Unfortunately it’s an aerosol, but a brush will affect the art. Dries quickly.

    Love, your too-techie, niche-obsessed brother.

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