There are a number of die cutting machine
s on the market including the Cuttlebug and Sizzix. These machines use the traditional method of die cutting which involves placing paper over a template, covering it with a protective board, and running it manually through a press machine to punch out the shape. This method has proven effective and can cut multiple impressions of an image at once. However, there are some limitations when it comes to selection, storage, and size.
The Cricut machine has renovated the world of die cutting. It is a completely electronic machine. The traditional dies have been replaced with small cartridges jam packed with images and options. The cartridge is similar to a USB thumb drive in that it has a small plug that inserts into the front of the machine, stores mass amounts of data on it, is small, easy to store, and is portable. The Cricut functions by having the user insert the cartridge, cover the machine key pad with the custom cartridge key pad, and select the images desired. By using the cartridge the user has more options. They can print multiples of the same or different images, choose special effects like shadows or italics, and most importantly alter size! The ability to alter size is one of the best features of the Cricut machine providing the user with the freedom to change an image to fit their design layout not the other way around. The Cricut machine has size adjustment that can go as small as desired, although you want to limit this to ensure image quality, and it can max out at size 12X12 or 12X24. The computer inside the machine tracks previous cuts and knows how much space is left on the remaining paper altering the user if there is space issues and when cutting multiple images knows which sections have already been used. This opens up a world of creative possibilities that were never possible with traditional die cutting machines.
However, the machine is not perfect. The Cricut expression like the traditional machines can be used to cut a variety of materials including card stock, paper, vellum, plastic, rubber, and vinyl but the user must remember to adjust the cutting settings or risk a miss-cut and damaging the cutting blade or the material. The Cricut expression requires the use of specially designed sticky mats which the paper needs to be attached to for insertion and cutting. This means that these boards will have to continually be purchased and if the company decides to stop making their machine or accessories the users will no longer be able to use the machine; this is not a problem for the traditional die cutters which do not require special equipment. The stickiness of the cutting mat can also be an issue; when the mats are first used they are very sticky and can actually damage the paper causing it to tear or curl when removed but after several uses it becomes easier to manage. If a customer finds a design they like by another company such as cuttlebug they are out of luck because they cannot use it in the Cricut but they could use it with their Sizzix Big Shot or Cuttlebug machine which provides more freedom in choosing a company and the images available. Finally, the nature of the machine only allows it to do die cuts where the Sizzix and Cuttlebug are able to do embossing and put crease marks into paper which produces a wider range of options for their users.
Overall, the Cricut expression is a great tool for any paper crafter. Like all tools it has benefits and drawback and it is up to the end user to do the research and decide if it is right for them. The Cricut has recently come out with a computer software allowing users to design a layout on their computer and send it to the machine to cut opening it to the digital and computer world of crafting; a similar device is coming out for Sizzix but will not require a computer instead using a hand held device and electronic cutter very similar to the Cricut. With all of the options it is just personal choice if you want more freedom in sizes and more options then a Cricut might be for you. However, if you prefer versatility, the ability to do embossing, and want to use other brand dies then a traditional cutter would be the better choice.
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