Electronic die cutting powerhouses ProvoCraft (makers of the Cricut line) and Silhouette both unveiled new machines and new functionality at the CHA Summer 2011 show. Both companies are vying for a larger piece of the market, but they’re doing it in completely different ways – ProvoCraft by reaching out to the lower-cost market and Silhouette by beefing up the size of its machine.
Provocraft announced two new additions to its line of Cricut electronic die cutting machines. The first, the Cricut Expression 2, is a remake of the Cricut Expression 2 Anniversary Edition that was debuted at CHA Winter 2011. The restyled machine, capable of cutting a mat size of up to 12″ x 24″, retains most of the Anniversary Edition’s feature set including a sleek new design, LCD touch screen with mat preview, cutting area light, and the ability to save cutting settings for specific materials such as chipboard, fabric, or cardstock. The differences between the Cricut Expression 2 and the Cricut Expression 2 Anniversary Edition are actually purely cosmetic and content-related. The newer Expression 2 ships with silver endcaps instead of the bright green of the Anniversary Edition (though both models advertise swappable side trim pieces), and the new machine also lacks the two exclusive cartridges (Just a Note and Cricut Decals Cartridge) that the Anniversary Edition shipped with, sporting only Cricut American Alphabet and Cricut Essentials in its pre-loaded content library.
While ProvoCraft’s flagship Cricut Expression 2 remains largely unchanged since its debut, the company is showing signs of reaching out to a new segment of the market by delivering a brand new machine, the Cricut Mini, at a relatively low price point. The Cricut Mini (MSRP $119) is ProvoCraft’s new small, lightweight, and portable electronic die cutter sporting a mat size of 8.5″ x 12″ – a departure from the long-standing 6″ x 12″, 12″ x 12″, and 12″ x 24″ mats that have been standard for Cricuts in the past. Size isn’t the only thing that’s different about this machine – the Cricut Mini lacks both a control mechanism (the only buttons are the power and load buttons) and a cartridge port, because it’s designed to work exclusively with ProvoCraft’s upcoming Cricut Craft Room software. The Cricut Mini will connect to either a Mac or Windows computer (both wireless and wired connections are supported) and will also include a cartridge port to link your cartridges with the Cricut Craft Room software. A ProvoCraft representative that Scrapbook Update spoke with at CHA confirmed that the new machine will also be compatible with the existing Cricut Gypsy device.
The smaller size and lower price point of this machine makes it more appealing to crafters who may only want an electronic die cutter for occasional use – perhaps for a DIY wedding or to have on hand for school projects. The 8.5″ x 12″ size also makes it a great option for cardmakers who often work with 8.5″ x 11″ paper and don’t need (or want to store) the bulk of the larger Cricut Expression.
Provo Craft’s Cricut Craft Room software is still in beta testing but is due to be released (along with the Cricut Mini) later this fall. The software will give users the ability to design with the entire Cricut cartridge library on their computer screen (both Mac and Windows are supported), though cutting will only be allowed using cartridges that the user owns. The program will also include search capabilities and allow the user to store their projects and cartridge content online and then access them from any computer at any time.
Silhouette also introduced a new size of their popular electronic die cutting machine at CHA Summer 2011. The Silhouette Cameo (MSRP $299, available October 2011) is capable of cutting materials up to 12″ wide and up to 10′ long, giving a huge boost in size over the now discontinued Silhouette SD. Like its predecessor, the Cameo is compatible with both Mac and Windows computers.
Silhouette actually had a Cameo on hand in their booth at CHA Summer 2011 along with several display projects like this intricate lace paper, similar to popular laser-cut papers that are produced commercially.
The Silhouette Cameo is capable of making extremely intricate cuts, one of the hallmarks of the old Silhouette SD.
Each box in this pair of advent calendars was cut using the Silhouette Cameo and shows the amazing variety of items that this machine can produce.
While CHA Summer 2011 may not have seen some of the massive innovations (such as the Cricut Imagine’s integrated print & cut feature from CHA Winter 2011) that have been debuted at past shows, the cutters that were shown have solid feature sets and have made improvements either in size or functionality in response to user requests. Those looking to buy their first electronic die cutting machine or to simply upgrade from an older one will have plenty to choose from in this new crop of devices.
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