Thursday, July 8, 2010

Will the eCraft SD Memory Let Us Use Our Cutter Like Our iPod?

I was in a conversation with someone about the Razor/Razorblade concept that dominated Provo's thinking when they first introduced the Cricut. The idea was that once a person bought the initial machine the real money was in the secondary market for cartridges. After all, it has worked for the printer companies like HP and Epson. Surely it's a great idea for the cutter market!

Or, is it?

Let me take you back to 1981, with the first generation of video game consoles. I was with Astrocade then, the manfacturers of the Bally Professional Arcade.

Initially game cartridges were in very limited in both variety and supply. So, parents had no trouble at all choosing the top five or six game cartridges and they generally spent at least as much on games as they did on the console itself.

But, that all changed in late 1981 when the number of game cartridge offerings exploded.  When parents were faced with hundreds of choices they threw up their hands and made no choice at all.  That was the principle reason for the video game market crash in 1982.

In just a few minutes of researching the web, I see that there are more than a hundred different cartridges available for the Cricut and more are coming.  On the one hand this is great.  It provides for a huge number of prepackaged shapes.  On the other hand it also threatens to give us a huge headache!  How in the world does one know they are making the best investment in a cartridge when they have more than 100 from which to choose?  At some point brain freeze sets in.

And... I also think that at some point we begin to realize that the prize images we'd like to cut are distributed over many cartridges.  So, in order to purchase the 10 images we want we might have to purchase multiple cartridges at enormous cost.

People faced that very same delemma with music albums.  There was a time when in order to get the one song you liked, you had to buy an entire album.  But, along came the cassette tape and people started compiling their own tapes with just their favorites on one single tape. 

And, then came the ultimate in freedom of choice and that was the iPod revolution where single songs could be purchased and a person could compile hundreds of their favorite songs that could be individually accessed with one appliance.

I'm hoping that the SD chip concept that eCraft is introducing does that for die cutter fans.  Instead of selecting from hundreds of pre-compiled cartridges, we should be able to locate individual favorite images and download them to an SD chip.  That SD chip then becomes the equivalent of our iPod... our own personal compilation of our own personal favorite images.

Yes, the number of choices goes up.  But, if the efficiency in finding the right image also goes up by enhanced cataloging and search techniques, the it all gets so much easier when sitting at the machine and having that one compiled SD of favorites always available.


Lysa said...

Hi Tom,
I have been cutting with a plotter since '06, started with the wishblade and now own 4 others. I am considering the ecraft as well but the oh so long wait for it to be available has put me off a bit. I was disappointed that I will not be able to use any of my existing software (and I pretty much have them all) to cut to the ecraft. I am a huge print and cut papercrfter and have been hearing rumors of a possible provocraft new machine. I would like to hear your take on the possibility of a home cutter that has the inkjet cartridges built into it. Thanks for your articles. I will check back often.

Tom Meeks said...

I'm surprised that, up to now, none of the cutters took advantage of inkjet technology and combined that with a blade. 3D Printer manufacturers, for instance, embraced the inkjet cartridge concept, from the very first, to build up layers.

Moreoever, cutters are merely adapted from the much older plotter technologies and we had plotters that knew how to change their own tools as long as 15-20 years ago.

So, there is plenty of room for innovations and improvements in the digital cutter field. The limiting factor is that costs must be kept low for a craft product. No matter how innovative or useful a product might be, it cannot cost more than a certain threshold to be justified by scrapbookers and other craftspersons.

A matless cutter might eventually permit the precise application of adhesive with both a top and bottom print head. Now that might be useful.