Craft & Design
Cricut – on sale!

A1-29-0001-2
John writes –

Hey Phil! I just came from Michael’s where I picked up a “Cricut” for $139.00! Usually they are about $299.99, but they are on sale until the end of the month.

It’s currently a standalone auto-paper cutter (uses font/shape cartridges), but it has a USB port that the manufacturer has decided not to release drivers for. I happen to do a bit of USB protocol hacking from time to time, so I’m going to take a stab at reverse engineering the protocol. I can see lots of potential uses for this little beauty that involve attaching a Dremmel tool to the head! Ha ha!

Cricut – Link.

82 thoughts on “Cricut – on sale!

  1. They are basically marketing it to old ladies and stay-at-home moms that happen to be computer illiterate. I say that because I saw some of the “easy” ways to create shapes and it seems pretty complicated. Also, each cartridge is about $90! This thing is just waiting to be hacked…

  2. Check your Sunday paper, Michael’s puts out a 40% off coupon every week, and a %50 off about once a month.

  3. When I disassembled the included font cartridge “George and Basic Shapes”, I was surprised to find that there were no components inside. Just traces connecting six of the pins. This mean that “George” is built in to the device. There is a version of Cricut that is sold through the QVC shopping channel, and it comes with a different font called “Doodletype”. Neither cartridge can be purchased separately, so I’m betting both are in the Cricut memory, and you just need to figure out the correct traces to hook up on the cartridge port. Now all I need is a picture of the Doodletyp PCB.

    I went and bought another font cartridge called “ZooBalloo”, and it’s no wonder they are so expensive. There is an ATMEL ATMEGA16 Microcontroller in there! There is also a JTAG interface, so if you have a cable handy, and some JTAG boundry scanning or programming software, you can have a look at the inner workings of the font protocol.

    As I see it, there are four or five possible hacks:

    1. Hack the cartridge port with a PC Interface that emulates a font cartridge.

    2. Figure out the traces on Doodletype, and enable the second font in your Cricut. This may be a way to enable other things too, but I havent opened the Cricut yet.

    3. Figure out the Serial protocol of the XYZ controller (via USB).

    4. Add alternative “Pens” like dremmel tools and plotter pens.

    5. Cannibalize the thing for parts and build your own CNC machine.

  4. I got a deal on one of these too, and thought the same thing. Unfortunately my hacking skills are not up to the task. Good luck with the reverse engineering and let us know if you have any success!

  5. This baby needs a website or forum for people to share their ongoing notes and collaborative hacking goodness, to speed the process :)

  6. They did just put out a software design studio that puts the USB to work. Unfortunately, this software only allows you to view and sample other cartridges and let you play around with it, but you can’t cut anything unless you have that specific cartridge. I’m sure there has to be a way around it. Of course, this software is like $90 and has its own special 10FT USB cable. I was able to download the trial version and play around with it, but I guess I’m a bit confused why someone would pay $90 for something that basically only allows you to ‘paste letters together’ or ‘weld’ from cartridges you already own. Is it worth it? I don’t think so. If Im paying $90 for software, I better be able to sample and CUT from other cartridges. Before this software came out, they claimed port was for ‘repair and testing’ use only.

    I Have found cartidges around $40 and under online. I own one because I do scrapbook. No Im not a stay at home mom, and Im not old, unless you think 34 is old.

  7. I found the cricut on sale for $64. However, I am leery about buying it. Is it worth the money? I was trying to find some feedback from people who actually have this machine before I make a bad investment.

  8. I found the cricut on sale for $64. However, I am leery about buying it. Is it worth the money? I was trying to find some feedback from people who actually have this machine before I make a bad investment.

  9. Lisa, it depends on how much you think you’d use it.

    If you do a lot of scrapbooking/papercrafts then it is really fun and useful – certainly easier, more adaptable, and less expensive than buying massive amounts of the prepackaged die-cuts or alphabet stickers that never have enough vowels. And it’s certainly a lot less work than the hand-cranked die-cuts. The cartridges can be expensive, though (retail is $80, but they can often be found for $50 easily), so if you know anyone else that has one it’s best to coordinate which cartridges you buy.

    Unless, of course, you are talented enough to figure out how to hack it – in which case, please post instructions! :)

  10. Yes, Lisa, please share where you found it for $64. JoAnn’s and Michael’s “exclude” their coupons from being used on the Cricut. I’m kicking myself for not purchasing it at WalMart the day after Thanksgiving when it was around $130.

  11. I purchased the design studio software on e-bay for $68.00 including shipping. One has to have some creative ability to make it do what you want. I for one love it. I have the small personal die cut and the expression. They are the best thing for card makers and scrapbookers to ever hit the market. It is amazing that there are folks out there who can only find fault with something and want to hack it. Why don’t you hackers do something constructive, build a cartridge, market it at a cheaper price, and let us see if you are as good as you think you are. I have never paid over $60.00 for any of the cartridges (most in the $40.00 to $50.00 range)including shipping. Some good deals can be found on e-bay and internet sellers. HAPPY SCRAPPIN

  12. Is there USB sniffer software to capture the feed from the trial software to the Cricut? I’m guessing that since Provo requires the cartridge to be inserted while using the software, they aren’t sending XY plot commands but rather “draw font Z at location XY”. If so, this makes it less useful as a CNC machine until they open up the API or provide a generic driver.

  13. If you can find a Cricut Design Studio Serial Number online (this comes on the CD when you pay the $90 for it) it gives you access to the full program.

    I havent been able to find one yet to use but no hack is needed then

  14. PLEASE GOD SOMEONE HACK THIS! I was sucked into the “special” some months ago, where you try it for 30 days for s/h only ($20) I thought I’d get it, use the heck out of it then return it. Of course I didn’t do it. Now, I’m stuck ($299 worth somebody slap me) with equipment that pretty much caters ONLY to moms. Every freaking overpriced cartridge is loaded with child-like, cartoony images and fonts. *blech* I was told by cricut via phone that I’d be able to cut my own images from my computer in the near future. Uh, yeah, for an extra price to BUY that software from them. Oh, and NO, you can NOT print your own images from your own computer. *scrrreeeeeeeeeaaaaaaming*

  15. Graphtec’s Craft Robo rules the world of home die cutters controlled by software! Provo Craft (makers of Cricut “Crycut or Cricket?”) only want to leech money from their customers! By the way, Cricut Design Studio software requires activation in addition to the serial number for installation, and the activation is hardware-keyed, so it is not transferable!

  16. I Think there migth be anoither angle to hack this it seems all the cartidges are loaded on the design studio software and it has to verify that you have each cartidge before it will sent the information for the cut to the machine so instead of hacking the machine I think its the software that needs to be hacked. BTW there is a new software out now called “sure cuts a lot” and it will cut any ttf on your computer onto the cricut machine I Just purchased the software and it does work so thats a start

  17. If enough Cricut users got together and sent masses of messages around the Cricut members forum at http://www.cricut.com to request the inclusion of the features of “Sure Cuts a Lot” then ProvoCraft would have to sit up and listen! Lets get started on this – let the contest begin!

  18. There is no technical reason why Cricut Design Studio and Cricut machines should not be able to cut OS TrueType or OpenType fonts plus owners independently-designed shape designs. The only reason this is not currently available in CDS software is because ProvoCraft are greedy and protectionist! If an independent program can provide the features, then it shows that ProvoCraft could provide for their customers! They do not want to lose out on the highly-profitable market in cartridges, though. Why they do not market a machine without the cartridges for computer-based cutting is no puzzle. However, the Cricut Expressions model with cartridge functions is very well made and it sells for a lot less than the large Craft Robo Pro (a non-cartridge machine), so it would compete even better with a non-cartidge version of its large cutter – or would it? Without the lucrative cartridges, they could not subsidize the cost of the machine as much, just as inkjet printer manufacturers subsidize their printers in the knowledge that they will recoup their money (and then some!) by after-sales of ink cartridges.

  19. CDS software stores its fonts in a password-protected compressed folder inside the program folder. It does not install the fonts in the OS fonts folder, in order to protect the designers rights and income. This has some bearing on the issue of using OS-installed fonts in the program, since it does not use the OS font renderer to display the screen – it uses its own renderer and then passes the video image to the OS video display handlers. CDS does not allow import or placement of external graphics in its design mats.

  20. If enough Cricut users got together and sent masses of messages around the Cricut members forum at http://www.cricut.com (and publicized it everywhere else) to request the inclusion of the features of “Sure Cuts a Lot” then ProvoCraft would have to sit up and listen! Lets get started on this – let the contest begin!

  21. Do not let ProvoCraft buy out the “Sure Cuts a Lot” program or they will kill it and bury it to get rid of the “problem”. Only by having a viable alternative will they keep on their toes! It is like the minnows versus Microsoft! Yahoo told Microsoft where to go, and the maxim applies here. Just get ProvoCraft to give users the features they are asking for!

    PROVO CRAFT MAKES GOOD MACHINES BUT SELLS CRAP SOFTWARE FOR USE WITH THEM. THEY SHOULD GET SOME FIRST-RATE SOFTWARE LIKE DESIGN MASTER AND BUNDLE IT FREE WITH THE MACHINES AND GET A HUGE AMOUNT OF GOODWILL INSTEAD OF CUSTOMER RESENTMENT!

  22. these are really great for scrapbooking, i’ not an old lady eithor i’m 23, nor am i computer illeterate, i’m actually a graphic designer, and yet i still enjoy my cricut, how can that be!!?!?! there a good investment if you spend a lot of money buying embelishments for scrapbooking!

  23. I am using my Sister’s Cricut to make some wall lettering. (That is fun.) When it comes to cutting the card stock here comes the problems and I would never pay that kink of cash for this product for scrapbooking. I am 38 and a stay at home Mom a scrapbooker and paper crafter and I can find lots of other bigger and better toys to spend my money on.

  24. There are several other computer controlled, desktop sized die-cutting machines already on the market. Xyron Wishblade, Pazzles, Craft Robo and Quickutz Silhouette (which I own) and probably others too. The Sihlouette and the Craft Robo are basically the same machine and use the same software and also have plugins for CorelDraw and Illustrator. These machines will cut what ever you want, no cartridge needed. It is true, however, that if you don’t have the artistic ability to draw your own shapes, etc. you will have to purchase them (it only cuts vector graphics and you might find graphics at free clipart sites). But buying shapes from Quickutz is a lot cheaper than buying Cricut cartridges. Also, these machines cost more than the Cricut but the ability to cut any truetype font you have is well worth it. Plus, there are literally hundreds of free fonts available online. Also, the Silhouette comes with a pen holder so it will draw as well as cut.

  25. you can buy scal and download fonts off the internet. It also uses al lyour true type fonts from word etc. The cricut is portable so you don’t have ot stay hoem. The software design studio is great too. Us stay at home moms are not computer illerate! I left a job as a stock broker to raise my daughter. Anyways cricut is great and you can get on e for 170 at roberts craft stores or the expression for 289 at walmart.

  26. the cricut cartridge is the memory for that cartridge. There is an overlay that makes it so you know which buttons to push. The cartridges go on sale for 40 each a few times a year. Messing with the machine isn’t going to work and you will void your warranty.

  27. cricut is awesome!!! All you complainers obviously haven’t used it. It is a scrapbooking tool. If you don’t scrapbook a lot you won’t appreciate it. There are lots of cartridges without kiddie graphics. Each cartridge has over 500 choices. You don’t have to love them all. Don’t buy new arrival or the school cartridges then if you don’t want kid things. But joy of the season and paper doll are great. Get the machine just to cut fonts and you get your money worth.

  28. if you want to hack the software get creative. You can capture a screenshot of what yo utype into design studio and put it into another program and then import it in the correct format to scal. This is very time consuming. Finsd a look a like font or dingbat online and use scal is my suggestion. Or just buy the cartridges when they are a good deal. Other words watch the ads.

  29. Hack the cartridges!!!
    Sure Cuts a Lot is all that is needed.
    the Provo software is crap/useless.
    haveing to invest in cartridges is WAY too expensive.

    All that is on each cartridge is a font set, someone needs to come up with a way to get that out of the cartridge and save it as a TTF file then my wife wont be asking me every day “can we get this one!!”

    OMG help me I should never have let her have this damn thing!!!!

  30. I’ve opened one of these before to troubleshoot a problematic stepper motor. (I ended up getting a replacement since it was under warranty, but got to look under the hood first.)

    Anyhow, I figure with a couple of weekends and a schematic program, like ExpressPCB or Eagle Layout Editor, we could reverse engineer the whole design. I guess there are probably a couple of proprietary ICs used, but the bulk of them must be standard COTS stuff?

    I’m sure dumping the ROM would be difficult, but there has to be folks on this site that understand JTAG, have logic analyzers, and can write some code to sniff the USB data. Now that they’ve put out a Windows Software package that allows communication with the Cricut, the binary driver can be disassembled to get the basic USB data frame types this thing supports?

    I don’t mean to trivialize this, because it’s pretty time consuming, involved, and difficult… but surely there is enough data out there and enough talented people here to start some sort of concerted effort?

    1. First, I am a Computer Systems Architect with Electrical and Computer Engineering expertise.

      I ordered a Cricut this week along with 3 carts and Sure Cuts A Lot (SCAL). I was able to go to a local store with the Demo SCAL software installed and in a matter of a few minutes cut some pretty sophisticated artwork into some VERY specialized material using Inkscape, True Type Fonts, and the SCAL demo. (I used the Personal machine but bought the Expressions for size considerations).

      Comments on hacking the Cricut Carts:
      I have looked at similar electronic products and while ‘reading’ the cartridge is not as easy as reading ROMs, (Read Only Memory), several things can be deduced from the ATMEL microcontroller that is in the cartridge.

      1) The main reason for the cost of the cartridges as I see it is the ATMEL microcontroller in each cartridge (except for the ‘George’ cartridge which is just wires and is built into the machine. Check out those hacks on You-Tube and elsewhere).

      2) The difference between say a Disney and other non-licensed cartridges is usually $10 retail. That means that the licensing fee is in that range.

      3) Hacking these will not be easy but is doable. Since there is a basis for reverse engineering the ATMEL microcontroller. I am working on details of reverse engineering it.

      All that said, Do any of you have cartridges that you are willing to sacrifice in the interest of hacking them? I should be able, at some point in the future, to just plug them into a reader and get the fonts out. (That means using their decryption algorithm which may take time). I may be able to scrounge some cash for them but I have a fixed budget which I just blew on the machine, software, and the cartridges.

      RAH

Comments are closed.

Tagged

current: @adafruit - previous: MAKE, popular science, hackaday, engadget, fallon, braincraft ... howtoons, 2600...

View more articles by Phillip Torrone