Cricut Decides To Charge Rent For People To Fully Use The Cutting Machines They Already Own

In our community we like to think of ourselves as pioneers in the field of domestic CNC machinery, with our cheap 3D printers. But there’s another set of people who were way ahead of us, and they’re a rather unexpected one, too. Crafters were using CNC cutting machines well before we were, and while some may deride them when used for sparkly greeting cards sold on Etsy, they can be an extremely useful tool for much more than that. Probably the best known brand of cutter comes from Cricut, and that company has dropped a bombshell in the form of an update to the web-based design software that leaves their now very annoyed users with a monthly upload limit of 20 new designs unless they sign up for a Cricut Access Plan that costs $9.99 on monthly payments. Worse still, a screenshot is circulating online purporting to be from a communication with a Cricut employee attempting to clarify  matters, in which it is suggested that machines sold as second-hand will be bricked by the company.

UPDATE: Hackaday was contacted by a PR company claiming to represent Cricut. They clarified that machines are not deactivated upon resale, but the new owner will need to set up their own online account.

UPDATE #2 (3/21/21): In the wake of this controversy, Cricut have announced that they will not move forward with the upload limit for customers who are not paying subscribers.

Also, soon we will be making changes that affect members who use the free Design Space app without a Cricut Access plan. Every calendar month, these members will be allowed to upload up to 20 personal images and/or patterns. Members with a paid Cricut Access plan will have unlimited uploads.

We’d like to think that given the reaction from their online community the subscription plan will backfire, but unlike the world of 3D printing their market is not necessarily an online-savvy one. A crafter who buys a Cricut from a bricks-and-mortar warehouse store and uses it with Cricut cartridges may not balk at being required to pay rent to use hardware that’s already paid for in the same way a member of our community with a 3D printer would. After all, Cricut have always tried to make their software a walled garden. However if the stories about second-hand models being bricked turn out to bear fruit that might be a different matter.

There are of course plenty of alternative CNC cutting machines (The favourite in ones that have made it here seems to be the Silhouette Cameo) that don’t come with this type of baggage, and the online Cricut community are busily raising their profile in the wake of this news. Probably because of their restricted functionality there have been very few hacks here using a Cricut machine, but all of this leaves us wondering whether the machines themselves could be exploited to take less restrictive firmware.

Header image: Factorof2 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

236 thoughts on “Cricut Decides To Charge Rent For People To Fully Use The Cutting Machines They Already Own

    1. Last few years on hackaday.com have been technical people saying how HORRIBLE cloud based products and services are likely to be or already are. Here is just another example and it’s exactly what was known and expected and we keep seeing. Not that we have not seen any already catastrophically fail already and then be written about. Stop buying this junk and stop supporting companies that do that. Obviously someone is going to come up with a workaround but this company just went from potentially well known in my opinion to now total junk to avoid.

        1. No everyone. I use mine all the time but use my own designs and fonts. I’ve never had a need to pay. I’m getting rid of my machines and will go with a Cameo.

        2. I use my cricut maker all the time and I Do Not pay for design space. I design in another program and use the upload to get it to cut…. Well I did. Until I or someone else finds a way to use it without design space it will be a very expensive paperweight!!

          1. The only reason I can think of for using their subscription is the fonts. but then it is possible to make your own/adapt existing fonts for it, though it take a lot of effort.

      1. Alas it is not at all evident to many that it was cloud based software or that they would be locked to using Cricut Design studio if they were used to other vinyl cutters or pen plotters since that is not at all standard. They have desktop software who would ever assume that it was just a glorified web browser and that the simple 2d slicing had to be done on their servers? Or that ever single user made image had to be uploaded to their servers? Surely with all the free users that would be an unnecessary financial burden on the company!

        Unfortunately many places that sell a Cricut, like Michaels in Canada, do not allow ANY returns once the product is open.

        And now 2 years after first purchasing one it’s clear why they did this.

    2. This is the way: ironclad right-to-repair legislation that protect owners from being charged for hacking anything they own. Let Cricut and the rest do their evil best to wall their tech; businesses and large institutions will pay their fee, the rest of us will torrent the jailbreak.

          1. I’m researching into this right now actually and it doesn’t seem as simple as that.

            I am starting to look at going down the route of replacing the main board with an esp32 instead.

            Replacing the hardware is probably the better option because they have a habit of suing people who circumvent their software. If I remove their proprietary system entirely, that may be more difficult.

            I’d rather wait to see if they reverse their decision before dismantling my explore air 2 though.

    3. People have paid for these machines. How dare you charge rent too..that is like charging rent on a car that is paid off..If this happens Sales should go down…always trying to milk what’s already good. There may be unforseen reasons people have not used machines yet..this is a pandemic and this makes it worse..stop it!!!

      1. Ever “buy” property in the USA? You pay for it, pay the taxes & transfer fees. Then you get to pay for the upkeep, pay rent on the property every year (property tax), Improve the property, and the “rent” goes up. Stop paying the “rent” and the owner (government) repossess it and charges you. for it. If they want to use the location for some big campaign donor, they confiscate it under eminent domain, give you a pittance, and send you packing. Oh, and there are rules and ordinances you must follow, or they fine you. Sell it, and you get to pay for the “profit” you made. You can’t even count all those “rent” expenses you had over the years. And you thought cricut is evil?

        1. You chose to live in a country that has, in the very first paragraph of its core founding document, “provide for the common defense” and “promote the general welfare.” How do propose those things get paid for? You don’t wanna pay taxes? Boo-fucking-hoo. Move to some podunk place in the middle of nowhere with zero in the way of services if you want to pay the lease property taxes. Better still? Buy a boat and live on the high seas. Don’t forget to renounce your citizenship (and pay the tax LOL) before you shove off.

          1. Are you implying that if my municipality doesn’t provide common defense or promote general welfare with the local tax dollars then my property taxes are unconstitutional?

            Get out of here with shaming people for expecting more because you’re a defender of revenue. I live outside of the 11 largest city in the US and get zero in the way of services. No plowing, no trash collection, no water, we had to pay $4500 to send our kid to kindergarten at a public school ffs.

            Just because something _can_ be a virtue doesn’t mean it is. People can make _anything_ evil.

      2. I agree. I bought mine a year ago and still brand new never opened box. If they charge rent I am going to sale it and give up on Cricut. They are way to expensive and they can’t even consider adding a instructional handbook. I am a visual, hands on person and this would really help. At this point If they do charge for rent they will lose many customers. They really need to consider thier decision before acting.

    4. it’s to bad they wouldn’t focus there. efforts on fixing there current DS problems.
      not all computers ,tablets etc have equal functionality on design space.i have all the updates in all this crap and my macbook is not compatible to use the new updates so does that mean i still have to pay the so called
      rent.
      such bullcrap.
      definitely heading to silloette.

    5. Why can’t we cricut owners, upload our own images on to our own devices, not on to cricut’s cloud and use as many as we would like? CRiCUT claims the fee is for cloud storage space. CRiCUT does not work without design space . It is free to use design space of you own your own images. They just limit uploads to 20 a month. So you spend a thousand dollars on cricut equipment and can only make 20 uploads , and one t shirt could take say 5:uploads if your design has 5 images or say a name, in print, a sentence in cursive,a fleurish you add, a scroll picture etc .Al that money spent and you are so limited. I think it has to be illegal to sell something then to make it virtually unusable unless you pay randsom on upload ability. I don’t use their images I buy or design my own svg. Any lawyers out there who know? Is this legal?

        1. You are actually paying for the instructor in that case aren’t you?
          I assumed it still worked as an exercise bike without paying the service..
          Still don’t get the idea, you want to cycle, get a damn bike and enjoy the outside, even in the wet and cold cycling can be really enjoyable…

          1. It’s meant as a stand-in for those (expensive!) indoor cycling classes more than it is for people who ride road bikes, who are more likely to toodle around with zwift and a trainer.

            Those indoor cycling classes are usually 20 bucks a pop so compared to that, Peloton is actually kind of reasonable.

      1. Cricut’s change to uploads isn’t based on server space it’s based on “increasing monetization of existing customers” – part of the growth strategy in their stock IPO.

    1. I consider it a bait and switch in principle. If I bought a good (as a “regular sale” under U.C.C.), and later on it is retroactively transformed into a service. Then something of value was taken without consent.

      Actually winning in a court case is beyond my training and education. It’s probably a fool’s errand to fight these increasingly common occurrences of poisoned pill DRM.

      1. I’d argue considering what happened to Sony for the PS3 and Linux lawsuit that resulted in payouts, I’d argue Cricut may have bitten off more than they want to chew by pissing off a bunch of mother’s and women who are stuck at home due to COVID’s disproportional impact to them. I can feel the sharks in the water already.

        1. Sony removing OtherOS is also what started the goldrush on hacking the platform, before then people were reasonably content. Maybe that’ll work for circut. If nothing else I have a friend who has 2 machines who I expect will reach out to me soon. I can’t imagine it’d be too expensive to spin out a PCB or repurpose one of the many that already exist.

    2. Your right and when people stop or slack off buying them then what people don’t have money to pay for all that n machine s aren’t cheap customer service is a joke n any linked cartridges you can’t use

    3. Boy, do I agree. When is this supposed to begin? I’m going to be sitting at my Cricut uploading 100’s of saved designs until this day arrives. This infuriates me! I have never paid for Cricut access because everything I could ever want is offered free somewhere online. Now to upload the crap out of it‼️

    1. I’m tempted to see if I can pick up a used model for next to nothing in the time in between Cricut bricks them and someone figures out how to run regular G code on them. Worst case is you can probably run it on an off the shelf CNC controller like a Smoothieboard.

        1. GRBL, Marlin, Klipper – all take gcode from onboard storage or a serial stream. If you look at the Marlin docs, it’s got support for just about any type of CNC machine you could name – mill spindle, laser head, even coolant flow, though it’s mainly a printer FW. so it seems perfectly reasonable to me to expect a Marlin-powered board to be able to run a Cricut

        2. Smoothieware and marlin are both based on GRBL.

          Smoothieware would have no issue with this task. I have long been debating hacking one of these.

          If anyone wants to work on it feel free to reach out…I am willing to help anyone do a smoothieboard swap.

          1. Seriously interested in This! I have a maker and will hunt for another, they seem to be getting sold every where now all of a sudden! lol, gee wonder why!

          2. Mine has sat in a box for 2 years. I wont pay them or use their design space. I want to swap this for a marlin board. Please lead the way. I want to rock their world. Greedy Cricut!!!

  1. Technically, in the Cricut, you have all the framework for a CNC. Just take the brains out and put your own in using the already existing motors, servos, etc. I wouldn’t do it for a new machine but, a second hand? Problem solved.

    1. Your less-than-technical friend/aunt/mom might not have the tech skills to “re-brain” a Cricut.

      You got an easy to follow tutorial for re-braining one of these?

    2. No no, don’t put your brain in.
      That hardware don’t work with that mushy stuff.
      If you try you get something like the movie “De Lift”
      https://www.themoviedb.org/movie/11417-de-lift

      But if it has steppermotors you can easily put in some PCB designed around GRBL or Smoothieware (which started as a fork of GRBL.)

      Smoothieware is apparently going more in the direction of 3D printers while GRBL is more geared towards CNC milling /routing but apparently also used in 3D printers.

      1. That’s a shame to hear about Smoothie. I have one of their 5 axis (v1?) boards from a couple years ago. I really liked it over TinyG because TinyG isn’t as open source as they try to make you think. I tried for over a year to get the firmware to compile with zero luck…no help from anyone; tech support was like “I don’t know why you can’t compile”….yes they do. I got the Smoothie and was able to compile the source immediately. That said, since Smoothie is open source, I can still do all the mods I need for CNC use.

        1. I use the Smoothieboard in a CO2 Laser cutter. I’m not sure I totally agree that they’re “going the way of 3D Printing” The feature work being done may have more commits in that arena, but I’d wager it’s because there are more devices.

      2. That isn’t true about Smoothieware. It has had a ton of work to make a GRBL mode which is mostly LinuxCNC/NIST compliant Gcode. http://smoothieware.org/grbl-mode

        Over the last few years there has been quite a bit of misinformation floating around out there regarding the project…Arthur can’t “whack” every mole. Best place to find the info is the wiki…but as I recently started noticing…it reads like a datasheet more than an instruction manual.

        I would argue there are more boards running on lasers/mills than there are printers.

        V2 is still in the works by the way…major moves being made in the last few weeks.

        source: I have been doing QA on Smoothieboards since the original Kickstarter.

        1. Sidenote: To anyone who is using Smoothieware on any machine I recommend looking into one of Wolfmanjm’s most recent gifts to the community “Smoopi” https://github.com/wolfmanjm/kivy-smoothie-host

          I personally use the raspi/touchscreen on a few different machines and it is amazing. It isn’t meant to be a replacement for Octoprint so to speak…but it was just a host which is more tailored to what smoothie does. It has all the stuff for WCS and DRO, HB04 pendant support, spindle cam…etc…etc. Also, it can be used on different system types….not just a raspi. After using it on a smoothie based Mill as well as a 3d printer I haven’t looked back to any other method.

          Every couple weeks it seems to have another feature which makes it even better in my toolchain.

    3. While technically possible with a lot of work, those machines use closed loop motors with encoders fixed to the back. The gantry isn’t much different from other plotters and 3D printers, and the Y axis is basically a roller that moves the cutting pad, but the Z axis and the detection pieces in them are the trickier pieces. There’s a few tear downs on the tubes but when you compare their builds to the louder silhouettes, they’re pretty impressive machines. I was expecting cheap parts but found them to be pretty robust. I do have a busted maker (their top of the line plotter that adds a fourth axis) that was replaced under warranty after the roller detector failed that I’ve been thinking about trying to get grbl working by my wife won’t let me since the drag knife still functions.

    1. Though Silhouette did nerf SVG processing, requiring a paid upgrade of their base software to use the leading format in the industry. I have to produce cutting files in their proprietary. *.studio format when I distribute SVGs or most silhouette users can’t cut my designs.

  2. The company that makes the CRICUT, whom I wont name here, have proven themselves to be scum bags over the years, so this is NOT AT ALL a surprising development if you understand their history. They have already shown their disdain for their userbase, community, and customers multiple times, and have made it abundantly clear that they exist to bilk creative, non-tech savvy persons of their money in order to allow them walled garden access to sub-par tools and expensive consumables. Its a wonder they still exist at all, in the eyes of much more capable and flexible solutions on the market for less money, but therein lies the problem. Those of us who understand this, and are capable of educating and helping them need to step up to the plate, to help scum like Cricut die a slow painful death.

    There seems to be a void for open source projects that work well for non-tech savvy persons wanting to use tools like this. This may be a good opportunity for enterprising individuals to make a move. I’d be happy to help with hardware and interfacing for such an endeavor, and would be willing to work any promising open source projects working towards this goal.

      1. What most people Fail to realize is that 99% of what these machines do has been done in the professional sign making and graphics industry for decades, and that low cost, standard machines that speak the normal documented protocols/etc and process the same materials are available all over the place. There is a learning curve, and that is what turns most people away from the more available and open options. Plotters have been using drag knives to cut sheet material for decades in a variety of industries, and there are a lot of software tools available to work with them. Depending on your needs, a good place to start looking is the inkscape community. You can find plugins, and information about what people have found works well with an open source workflow. You can check out https://inkscape.org/forums/cutplot/ to get some ideas where to start. The CRICUT shiny box and bow is a lot like propaganda: once you start to explore it, the shininess fades away, and you realize you were duped.

        1. THIS!!! And you can buy a semi-decent cutter for cheap. I literally bought a GCC Sable and a Graphtek CE-1000(or maybe it was a 6000?) for $300. It took me a bit to learn how to use them and find drivers but once that was done, it was a LOT better than that nonsense that Cricut makes you go through. The software was easy enough to find. If you don’t want to kill yourself with some of the semi-kludgy open source stuff, I recommend Sure-Cuts-A-Lot. It’s got a wide range of support and they’re really fast at getting you up and going.

          1. I love SCAL software. I have ancient first gen cricut machines from an independent craft store back when they first came out and they would be doorstop without SCAL. Cricut screwed over independent dealers by making cheaper machines and selling them to Wal-Mart to resell for less than dealer cost. Cricut screwed consumers with their $90 font cartridges and then sold them software, tools and accessories that they discontinued and quit supporting. Then they would keep releasing firmware updates to change it so you couldn’t use SCAL or MTC software (cricut was open source originally) until they finally just sued any company making cricut compatible software and the small companies just couldn’t fight them. Cricut has done lots of sleazy stuff over the years. Glad I got out when I did and can actually use my machines.

    1. Might be because Cricut is easily available retail, much like Windows is preinstalled. Alternatives need to be in the same channel as Cricut with the same level of support.

    2. Not sure why you wouldn’t name the owning company: Provo Craft & Novelty, Inc. is doing business as Cricut. 10855 S River Front Pkwy #300, South Jordan, UT 84095 CEO is Ashish Arora James Thornton is President. Emails appear to be first initial last name at cricut dot com. ie AArora at cricut dot com.

    3. I was gifted onenof their drag-knife vinyl cutters and was able to find a library to feed it from dxf or svg files but it was a PITA. I feel like anyone who makes the decision to transition existing customers to a mandatory (or practically mandatory) *-as-a-service mode should be drawn and quartered plain and simple. Same goes for cloud-tie-in. If it can’t be operated on an air-gapped network with no contact with home base, someone needs their skull crushed in.

  3. So how exactly does their process work?

    1. You design something to be cut.
    2. You upload it to Cricut.
    3. Cricut does something.
    4. Cricut sends it to the machine.
    5. The machine cuts it.

    Now what does 3. consist of?
    Is your design somehow processed into something the machine understands?
    Is it some kind of cloud storage for all your designs?
    If 3. is something substantial it would not be entirely unreasonable that you would have to pay something for it.

    Or 3. just there to keep you away from the machine’s controls?
    In that case we should just vow to never buy products that do not give full control to the user.
    The machine does not use open protocols for control? No sale.
    There has to some cloud service between me and the machine? No sale.

    1. They actually stop it at number two. In order to use the machine at all with your own graphics, you’re required to upload it to their cloud. What they’re proposing to do is implement a counter, stopping you at 20 uploads a month, unless you fork over $10/month. Thing is, their software is horrible – to do any actual designing, you pretty much have to do it with an external program. And it still may take multiple uploads before you’re happy with the way it actually looks in Cricut software. But those multiple uploads will count against the 20/month.

      The only reason that Cricut has a business at all is that they did (somewhat) successfully bring plotting/CNC machines to the creating masses with a user-friendly learning curve and cute graphics.

      But this latest change looks like it’s proving to be a hard-to-swallow pill for the majority. We might see the raw might of a herd of angry Karens!

      1. I can confirm that Cricut’s software is horrendous. As soon as I bought my Expression back in 2010, I got Sure-Cuts-A-Lot and made it a million times more functional. SCAL was cheaper than even one of Cricut’s font cartridges.

      2. This pretty much describes my experience. I got one recently and the hardware is pretty cool. The only cool trick their software has is changing things like Jpegs into cutable vectors simply. As mentioned most things are better done in another program and imported unless it’s really simple. Most months I won’t hit the 20 uploads but if there is a month I have time and projects to do, the limit will be pretty annoying.

    2. 3 takes the vector design (whether you uploaded it or created it in Design Space) and turns it into cut paths, separates cut paths by color, and optimizes the cut to save material (which invariably frustrates first-time users who draw 3 shapes in a particular arrangement only to find Cricut has separated them and moved them to the top-left of the mat). It could definitely be done on the local computer- it’s done on the cloud, probably, so they don’t have to maintain code for a zillion different platforms.

      1. The irony is that much of it is actually done as a locally hosted web service (or at least was a few software versions ago). We’ve got a Cricut Explore here that I got in clearance, mostly to cut custom gaskets, which I still haven’t done, but it’s become a valued part of the craft and making toolset of the family. Unfortunately I had foolishly assumed the protocol would be sensible when I bought it, but it turns out it’s encrypted and the foul manufacturers have actually sued folks into oblivion for offering software that could work with it (grr dmca). There was also something about bricking user’s devices then too. So there’s exactly 0 reverse engineering info public on anything but the super-old devices.

        If they don’t backpedal on this, our unit will either be replaced or possibly have its electronics replaced with a 3D printer mobo running Marlin or something. It’s a ridiculous move on their part, but it’s also not out of the ordinary for this company.

          1. Not sure marlin will do the z on a cricut. It uses a pwm to control a solenoid rather than a motor.

            It would be better to use an esp32 with grbl which is what I am in the middle of doing. I’m hoping to have a Jerry rigged explore air 2 in a few hours.

    3. In total agreement here..I refuse to “rent” a machine that I’ve already paid close to $300.00 bucks for. Will easily switch… there is always something going on with updates of the software. Every year they come out with something more expensive to make more money. Like the Cricut Joy…does the same as the Cricut… O really don think they made as much. Now they have the Cricut infusion machine… smh

    4. What bothers me most about the Cricut cloud model is that the user has no opportunity to claim their own copyright, ie all things created using the DS tool stay in the cloud and user does not get to save to their own local filing or own cloud system. That is just plain wrong.

    1. I wear a Pebble time steel. Oops call it a Rebble time steel because the hacker community saw fit to keep it running for me when Fit was going to brick it. And it still works great! Thanks, guys!!

      I’ll bet these guys at Cricut didn’t write everything themselves. Strong possibilities there is open source code running under the hood.
      In a group of folks that re-create Atari code, doesn’t this look like a noble project, to re code the box and set up a new “community” site?
      Aunt Bea will really appreciate you ☺️.

  4. I never trust “cloud IDEs” or other similar tools I don’t own.
    This is exactly what I expect to happen in such a constellation.

    Is Windows still useable rent free?

    Not a rhetoric question! Kind of living in a *nixens and mictcontroller bubble for ~2 decades now I totally lost contact to it.

    1. Windows is still technically “Rent Free” but Microsoft is really, really pushing it. Unless you have the Pro or Workstation editions of Windows 10, Microsoft pretty much has free reign on your system. You can’t disable updates and can only deeply them for a short period of time before Windows just installs them anyway. Also have fun with Cortana always running, or all the random crap that the “App Store” recommends and “helpfully” add a link to in your start menu. Oh and your ‘start menu’ is a bunch of hyperactive tiles arrayed across a black rectangle that will usually, but not always, appear when you summon it.

      I have a crappy application that requires Windows at work, but otherwise I use what I consider to be my real computer: An old flat-screen monitor that had an embedded thin client. The thing has an old dual-core Celeron chip, 512 MB of DDR2, and a whole 8 GB of storage (courtesy of a CompactFlash card). It runs like a champ for 99% of my daily tasks, especially after I slimmed it down to pretty much just Linux+Busybox+NanoX+IceWM plus a handful of small/light applications.

      1. For Windows start menu stupidities, install OpenShell, the successor to ClassicShell.

        Your real computer sounds like an old i-Opener. i-Opener hacking and modding was a bid deal for a short while.

  5. Companies have to make money. But there’s something weird with the textile/craft industry in that it isn’t terribly lucrative. I have a friend who is using an embroidery machine from the early 00’s and the thing has a physical compact-flash card key. This key costs $2000 and locks/unlocks the software. Crafts/Textiles have been closed source since they started talking to computers. It’ll be interesting to see how Cricut survives. I bought one of their cutters for work, and it was the biggest piece of garbage I’ve ever worked with. Mandatory web-communication, shitty software, etc and now they want to charge money for that. LOL.

    Since OP dropped the silhouette in the post I’m going to look into that. There’s surprisingly few options available for cutters.

    1. Oh god, those high-dollar sewing and embroidery machines. What a nightmare. When I had a tech support job I had about a dozen older women with these machines they bought years ago for $10k (or more!) and now they want to run on Windows 8 or 10. The company that sticks out is Janome. They didn’t have support past XP for a while after it was discontinued, and the new beta software for Win7 and up was difficult to configure to be polite about it. Half of the women had bought replacement cables with bootleg FTDI chips. This was many years ago, so I may be misremembering a bit, but if I never have to touch a computerized sewing machine again I’ll be thankful.

      1. Ones like the late 90’s Bernina Artista were stuck on old hardware for similar reasons as old CNC mills…they required a parallel port to use the dongle and stuff. Apparently, it was pretty difficult to find a usb interface one which would still work with the DRM.

        My mother had the old one and now has a newer one…

        It is a shame embroidermodder didn’t take off like I expected. https://embroidermodder.org/news0.html

    2. This was common in all sorts of software based industries. When I worked for PTC (Pro/ENGINEER) we started with license dongles and then moved to Flex/LM and we had a whole support group who dealt with problems with the Flex license server.

      Then again, 1Password wants me to purchase a monthly subscription to access my password vault after purchasing a license years ago. Yeah, no.

    1. This is possible, as long as you never want to use your already purchased, horribly expensive cartridges again, at least for the older machines. This may be a separate issue from the article though, as the newer machines only use the online service and apps. Not sure about the guts in the new one either. Older ones are definitely hackable in that regard. I think the original ones were even based on an open source project!

        1. Yeah I don’t know if anyone uses the cartridges these days. That stuff is like from a decade ago. Now folks make svg files (in inkscape mostly, some illustrator I assume) and trade them on Facebook. You can get way more and more interesting things there, than thru the Cricut cloud thing, and they’re mostly free. That said, I’m pretty sure I bought hardware at a fair price. It wasn’t some cheapo razor blade razor thing (though their blades are very pricy)

          1. There is a HUGE market of users that still use cartridges with their legacy cutters, or they have uploaded them into the Design Space place. There is another group that shelved their Cricuts, now they are dusting them off and using them again, or some are buying them used to use with Sure Cuts A Lot (SCAL). SCAL was sued in 2011’ish for connecting to the older Cricuts. Now you can connect using a THIRD party plugin not related to SCAL. They are coming back in droves…ProvoCraft made those cutters legacy in 2018 and plugged the plug on their software that supported them. So every few years they yank out the carpet and leave thousands with useless equipment.

  6. “Crafters were using CNC cutting machines well before we were” citation needed?

    I’ve always felt there is a large overlap between “Crafters” and hackers. At least when creating a makerspace, I would cater to both.

    Hope Glowforge doesn’t follow the same path…

      1. Ah, great example, thanks!

        My mum had a manual knitting machine in 90s. It tooks punch cards and no power (great for power cuts), but is a great example of CNC at work before I’d ever heard of hobby/home CNC set ups (not saying they didn’t exist, just not common like today). I used to make punch cards for my favorite computer logos and get a custom knit jumper out of it (the BBC Micro Owl was my favorite of those).

    1. The Charlotte MakerSpace (https://www.makerspacecharlotte.org/) celebrates that overlap. We teach classes on basci sewing, using a Cricut, embroidery and a local cosplay club meets there weekly. We’ve also partnered with 2 local woodworking clubs. We have FDM and resin 3D printers, large format printers – to print patterns and signs, laser cutters/engravers, CNC machines, a CNC plasma cutter, a kiln, forge, a bunch of welders, and a decent electronics and computer lab. We hope to start offering ocb manufacturing and a automotive body shop as well.

  7. Singer, the sewing machine company used to offer discount on their new machine in exchange for the old one, which then they broke into useless junk. The idea was to limit the number of second-hand machines on the market, so everyone would have to buy new ones. Cricut just does the same, they just won’t have to offer discounts, nor collect, transport and destroy the broken machines. Most electronics today is designed to be replaced at a cost, and sometimes companies, like Apple, try to force their clients to update hardware by breaking firmware. Others, like Creative and Plustek never update their old drivers for new operating systems makng their hardware incompatible, even if it is an USB webcam or flatbed scanner…

    In the end all this electronic junk will either be recycled, or smelted by the poor in some n-th world country, where life expectancy due to “recycling” is around 25…

    1. “Singer, the sewing machine company used to offer discount on their new machine in exchange for the old one, which then they broke into useless junk. The idea was to limit the number of second-hand machines on the market, so everyone would have to buy new ones. ”

      That’s one way of looking at things. The other is the idea of recycling and not clogging landfills. Glass-half empty, glass-half full way of looking at the world. That’s why there’s a saying about no good deed goes unpunished.

        1. The TI-80s? Those have never dropped down in price, despite being mandatory for some classes.

          I think I still have my TI-30 from 1976, I suspect TI wouldn’t want much for it. Ithink I paid thirty dollars for it, that level of calculator is now ten dollars.

      1. My first sewing machine was a used trade-in from a Singer seller.
        I never heard of trade-ins being scrapped.
        My wife’s first sewing machine was also a used (trade-in?) Singer.

        1. What seemed to be the deal to me, in some part of the 70s or 80s, was that Singer (and Hoover with their vacuum cleaners) would take in used models as trades, then have them reconditioned to spec, selling them with as a form of “certified used” with a short warranty, at some discount, but not near the bottom pricing. This would I presume hold up used prices enough that anyone who could actually come up with the cash might think “may as well get a new one”, while those watching pennies could still get a quality, not beat to death machine, and their reputation was maintained because of lack of trashed ones in circulation.

      2. You misunderstood me. Singer took perfectly good sewing machines that were in basically mint condition, except for some lint here and there, and broke them on purpose. And that purpose wasn’t recycling.
        My brother uses a sewing machine that’s over 100 years old. A Singer that wasn’t exchanged for newer version. Older machines, even those made in 1980’s were built usually with solid metal parts inside that made them last for decades. So every year Singer would try to sell “new, improved” models that differed from the old ones only in shape and number of sewing patterns, from which people usually used one or two. They were doing smartphone marketing before most of smartphone designers were even born…

  8. Rather than try to hack the original firmware, I simply removed the insides of a Cricut Personal Cutter and the much larger Cricut Imagine (which also included an integrated HP inkjet priner), and then connected the steppers and solenoid to an Arduino-based GRBL board. That leaves you with a cutter/pen plotter that’s easy to use with Inkscape with the Inkcut plugin. Getting inside the Personal Cutter was pretty easy, and after removing the keypad assembly and motherboard I kept the case for and simply extended the wires as needed so I could mount the Arduino board to the top of the case. The Imagine was even easier, since once you have the case open you can simply unscrew the cutter/feed roller assembly in one piece. I ditched the case and printer guts for that one, and simply mounted the cutter assmbly on a baseboard. The mechanics of these machines are actually quite nice and easy to work with, so I recommend grabbing one from Goodwill (the company’s move to lock you into a subscription is going to result in a glut of donated machines, I would guess). It’s a great way to have a very open cutter/plotter.

    1. I did a quick check of Craigs List and Facebook Marketplace for cricut machines. Oddly enough the sellers all seem to be asking pretty close to list price and in some cases (Cricut Air 2) are asking ABOVE the current sale price. Go figure.

      1. I’ve been thinking about posting a guide on Instructables on how I converted these for use with Inkscape/Inkcut – seems like a good time to do so. I’ll drop a link back here if I’m able to do that in the near future. However, for wiring, once you get the machine apart you’ll need to look up the specs for the stepper motors in your specific machine. The CRV001 (Personal Cutter) and Imagine machines that I used both had 6-wire steppers, which can be used in a 4-wire configuration that’s required for use with the Arduino-based cnc controllers. I followed this guide to determine the wiring of my motors (https://buildbotics.com/wiring-stepper-motors/#:~:text=B%2D%20and%20B%2B%20must%20drive,the%20B%2D%20wire%20is%20purple.), and this guide for wiring the stepper motors to the Arduino CNC controller (https://osoyoo.com/2017/04/07/arduino-uno-cnc-shield-v3-0-a4988/). To control the cutter solenoid, you’ll also need a mosfet driver or relay board (I used the former), which can be triggered from the spindle or coolant enable pins on the controller board. Both machines also had and end-stop switch for the home position on the x-axis, and this is simply connected into the -X axis stop on the controller board. I powered my setup with a salvaged 20 volt laptop power supply. Finally, here’s the link for the InkCut page https://www.codelv.com/projects/inkcut/.

  9. Cricut are about to do a IPO – they are looking to maximise their stock price. Having a forced revenue scheme on all existing users will make the stock look more attractive because this action will be a big boost to profits.
    Also by remotely bricking second hand machines will also boost the stock price as without a second hand market, people wanting a Cricut will only be able to pay full price. Again this is to boost profit, and so increase the value of the stock.

    Existing users are being sacrificed for the short term gain. The fact they paid for and fully own their machine is no barrier to Cricut.

  10. Dang, I was thinking of replacing my Cameo with a Cricut, glad I didn’t do that yet. The Cameo’s USB stopped working a while ago after some Windows update, but it can read files from the SD card, and their offline app produces these files, so it should be pretty much safe forever.

  11. @Jenny List

    Thank you so much for this article! I purchased a Circuit Air 2 as a UK Mother’s Day present to my wife yesterday, based on The Wirecutter review. It’s still unopened in the box, and it’s going back for a refund right away.

    1. Yes Return it ASAP! A better option would be a Silhouette device, their software is superior to Cricut in every way and none of this ridiculousness Cricut is doing to force more moeny from consumers, However there is likely something even better that I am not aware of!

      1. Well, not “none” of this ridiculousness… the “free” version will not import SVG files, doesn’t have rulers, layers, and a ton of other features that require a paid version. However, it _is_ nearly infinitely better than the Cricut nonsense.

        1. Silhouette Business Edition costs a mere 50$ and you get all the bells and whistles including saving as SVG which enable you to upload to cricut and directly cut through design space…..

  12. My sister bought a Wishblade. Then she discovered in the EULA that they claimed ownership of all her designs. So she never used it and bought a different machine.

    It seems to me one might make a nice cottage industry configuring Arduino Mega 256 or similar MCUs with connector kits to make it easy for a novice to convert the machine to open source FW.

    The crimp style telephone connectors and clear instructions of which wires to connect and cut should be pretty tractable. Most of the user community for such things are pretty handy with hand tools, just not electronics savvy.

    1. I would love to be able to open my Cricut Maker, swap out the circuit board, put the lid back on, and cut using a non-Cricut application. Love it. I wish I had more skills to contribute to an effort to get that done.

  13. My Cricut Maker is just over a year old, and I’m infuriated by this latest move – I sincerely hope an open source option becomes available. The Cricut interface – what they want to charge for – is terrible and very limited. Originally another company did offer an alternative (SureCutsAlot) before being sued into submission (although their software remains superior for SVG creation.)

    Someone asked what does the software do, the “step 3.” It transfers the SVG to the Cricut, but especially with the Maker, it also conveys blade pressure, and by indicating the material, pressure and necessary tool (which all work similarly other than the knife tool.)

    I’m used to (and love) my 3d resin printer and wish open source could make the Cricut as useful.

    1. Realistically what will likely happen is some company in a less copyright concerned country like china will come up with something similar and post on servers outside US jurisdiction. I’d like to see cricut try and go after them. I doubt they would be able to accomplish more than wasting their time and money.

    2. As I understand it that has lawsuit had nothing to do with the dickcut itself but with “backing up cartridges”.

      I’m not even sure what those “cartridges” do. Apparently it’s a rom module and it holds a handful of vectors to represent some lineart.
      I find it completely unbelievable that people even buy stuff like that, but for the “law” it’s probably comparable to game cartridges.

      What the dickcut needs is a brain transplant. Either replace the uC, or erase the whole firmware and re-flash it with something decent. At least here in Europe there are no laws against that that I know of.

      1. From what i understand (through reading a bunch of articles recently, not at the time) the lawsuit was based on accessing their cartridges, but the vector was the custom driver they developed. basically you could plug in a cartridge that had premade images and text on it, and the software could be used to lay things out. make the cut made a driver that controlled the unit so you could use it with their software… they had no intention of ever using the cartridges… but cricut said that the driver was a vector in order to use their copyrighted images on the cartridge regardless of whether or not it did.

        none of the current machines eve have cartridge slots. you can enter the cartridge serial number in their web based software and get access to what is on it. but regardless of this fact i think circuit has threatened anyone else who has attempted to reverse engineer their protocol based on this win.

    3. THIS. I had MTC when this happened. The creator developed a way for users to upload designs created in MTC to be cut on their Cricut without being resigned to using one of their cartridges. They were sued. It was a bully move by Goliaith on David who was trying to help a community better use their Cricuts with software that was 100% more friendly, in addition to creating a marketable option that didn’t require the ubiquitous Cricut. Sadly the creator lost interest in updating MTC (and who could blame him when he bullied into a financial corner by the bug) and left the community. If there was a way to ‘hack’ the Cricut in order to use a different software that would allow continued use without being tied to crappy Design Space, Cricut’s useless product that seems to spend more downtime vs working time, it would have to be done in absolute secrecy. It wouldn’t surprise me if Cricut begins trolling for hackers who claim to be able to do this so they can crush them in their corporate fists. The consumer owns a Cricut but Cricut actually owns the consumer. Ridiculous.

    4. Both Make The Cut! (MTC) and Sure Cuts A Lot (SCAL) provided support for early Cricuts. Both were sued by ProvoCraft (MTC twice!). People dumped or shelved their old Cricuts, or kept the last known working version of the software and didn’t upgrade or installed newer versions in a separate directory in order to run two versions of the software. SCAL is still going strong, and with a THIRD party plugin called libcutter, SCAL 5 will cut to old Cricuts.

  14. I am a current cricut maker owner and let me tell you – I am PISSED that I will no longer be able to use MY OWN DESIGNS to cut on the machine unless I pay Cricut each month ! I do have a Cameo 4 and a curio (from Sihouette) They are great machines, however, the maker does create a cleaner cut. I am a hobby crafter, not a business. Now I do have a background in IT…. I can follow directions on , dare I say, Hacking the machine. I would so love to be able to use some other software to send my designs to my machine … Regarding Cricut ‘bricking’ used machines – I have not heard about that yet but I would not doubt it. BUT, wouldn’t one have to start the cricut software with their machine connected in order to provide the connection to cricut company and cricut device in order for the command to brick to be sent to the device? The machines have bluetooth and usb connection – not wifi so they would have to be connected via the software, correct? It would be awesome if some people could start an open source project , I would certainly be happy to test it!

  15. Seems to be a part of Apple INC *gg*

    Be aware to buy future “Apple Cars”.
    Every time the Fuel is low and you are only allowed to refuel at Apple Stations with certified Gas up to 200% and beware of flat Tires that require a complete Motor Change to fix it with a new warranty agreement for the next 5 Years and only 100mil/year ;-)

  16. I have a cricut Explore Air – I’m entirely willing to make any good-faith modification to this. I’ll pull the main board and replace it, or just flash it, or whatever as long as there’s a reasonable chance it’ll all work in the end.

    I have a spare Teensy, or Rpi Pico I could potentially drop in.

  17. For what it’s worth, I just finished an online chat with “Rachel” from Cricut. When I asked, “Is it possible to sell a Cricut Maker to someone else?” she replied, “The machine is your property, so you may sell it as you wish. However please know that the warranty on the machine is only valid for the Primary user” (and further details to that effect.) When I mentioned the alleged discussion about the machine being “deactivated” for the next user, she added, “oh no, That is not true at all :) we only deactivate a machine if it is broken and getting replaced. :)”

  18. I own one of the original Cricut Expression machines; the type that can connect directly to Sure-Cuts-A-Lot(SCAL)….and that is why I now own 2 non-Cricut machines to do real work. Cricut think they own everything and sued SCAL into removing that functionality from their software. The irony? I ended up buying my 2 machines for less than I paid for my Expression. When I realized that Cricut charges for all their fonts, images, etc. that anyone can get on their own from the public domain, I abandoned their nonsense right away.

    1. When you use a Cricut machine with a pen, it needs a “single line” font (rather than each letter being a filled shape. There are very few single-line fonts out there without paying Cricut.

      Would you care to point us to where we can find all these public domain single-line fonts?

      1. Do you mean “without paying someone.” rather than “without paying Cricut”? With exception folks tend to want some recompense for their work, and a friend who creates them tells me they’re time consuming to design.

        A site entitled “singlelinefonts.com” came up first in a search and appears to sell just that at a reasonable price. As someone who isn’t currently using single line fonts (specifically, I’ve licensed others) is there something I’m missing?

      2. Truetype and opentype font are defined by contours that depict polygons and their apertures. Postscript fonts are similar.

        Inkscape lets you turn a glyph or glyphs into the paths defining their outlines, which can then be exported as gcode, HP-GL, SVG, or anything else you care to write an exporter for.

        The font used in:

        https://media.inkscape.org/media/resources/render/laser-cut-example.png

        is simply a truetype or opentype font, where the glyph outlines have been exported from inkscape as gcode for a laser cutter by the inkscape2laserGRBL plugin.

        Analogously, if you were to attach a cheap control board running GRBL to a circut’s stepper motors, you could send it tool paths in exactly the same way from Inkscape.

  19. Never buy anything that relies on a proprietary app unless you consider it disposable, or they’re making enough from data collection to keep providing support indefinitely(Assuming you’re OK with having that in your house).

    Cricut isn’t the best machine anyway, Brother ScanNCut2 actually scans the paper and lets you line up the cut pattern perfectly, plus it accepts SVG files via USB stick directly.

  20. This is why you should never, ever buy hardware that requires an external web site to function. Either this will happen, or it will get “retired” in 5 years when the company pivots or goes out of business.

    There’s no reason to design a product in this way *except* to put your customers over a barrel down the line. People need to understand that.

    1. Ever heard of the old Divx player? Not the codec, but the physical disc player. You’d buy a disc for like $5 but you could only play the disc by paying a “rental fee” of a dollar or so every time you wanted to watch the disc that you already owned. I was like 16 when this came out decades ago and even as a kid, I knew this wasn’t going to last. Sure enough, the company went kaput and took their decryption with them. As for as I know, no one has ever reverse engineered it. That left people with unknown amounts of money spent on discs that could never be played. The least the company could have done was to unlock all of the players before going under. But no…. For that reason, I have never, nor will I ever, “purchase” anything that relies on a third-party to function. If it’s not self contained, and can be made obsolete at a companies whim, then I have no use for it.

      1. Huh. You know? I always thought that Divx was FlexPlay. Never realized it was just a weird-o DVD spec with a built in barcode and telephone based rights management. The more you know.

        I guess the Divx discs makes more sense to me. People seem perfectly okay with paying to rent something more than once if they don’t have a physical copy of it. This just saves you the requirement of retrieving the data somehow.

  21. So which cutter does everyone recommend to get j stead of my cricut explore air? I’m not dealing with cricut anymore. I do a lot of intricate paper cuts and small vinyl lettering is the silhouette better or the brother?

  22. Wow. This is the exact reason I bought a Cameo instead of Cricut. Web based, must be connected, software. Silhouette’s software has a free and a paid version, but not a subscription or web version. I got the paid version for like $40, so I could use layers from my svg and dxf files. Works great, and 3 years later, I am still getting updates.
    And yeah, it has many more uses than cards on Etsy. I use it on my paper sculptures, since I have a disease that robs me of my hand strength.
    Autodesk’s software is a real leader in the “take a dump on your customers” race. My company paid $1500 for a perpetual license that perpetually ended in 2018 (I think, it may have been, earlier…) and now we pay that much for one year, or roll back to 2018. Or whatever year it ended. Annnnd, to top things off, you have to now be connected to the web TO USE SOFTWARE THAT YOU PAY $1500 A YEAR TO USE. I found this out when trying to work remote from an internet deficient location. I literally could not use Maya. I ended up using Blender to kick out some meshes and animations in fbx format and turned them in when I got back to civilization. This constant emptying of pockets and turnip squeezing for blood has to end somewhere. I can’t take it much longer.

    1. I have a Sillhouette Cameo, which I cut my ASCII/Baudot/USN etc. teletype paper tape on:
      https://github.com/1944GPW/ptap2dxf

      Not long ago the Sillhouette Designer software stopped working and put up a dialog forcing me to download and install the latest version. It did not allow me to continue with my installed version.

      So it’s not just Cricut who angers their users, it’s Sillhouette too.

  23. I bought a Cricut Explore Air 2 a couple years ago. Did a bunch of research first, but failed to notice it was a walled garden. Almost bought a commercial sign cutting model for not much more $$ but settled on the Cricut in the end for the size, I have very limited shop space. The Design Space software sucks and there is no alternative. I have learned to work around its quirks and limitations using Inkscape and have (for the most part) been happy with it– until now. This latest development seriously pisses me off and this is exactly why the DMCA needs to be repealed. I will certainly chip in to fund development of an alternative control board for it. In the meantime I plan to flood Provo-craft with angry emails and raise a stink on social media!
    [I was under the impression that the silhouette cameo was also a walled garden, is that not the case?]

    1. I have the Cameo 3 and it is not walled… at least not to the extent of the Cricut. The basic (no charge) software allows you to make your own designs using whatever fonts you have on your system and you can import DXF files you have created or exported form other software. (SVG support requires a $50 upgrade.) I have been told, but have not confirmed myself, that the communications protocol is well known and may even be the same as some of the larger “sign cutter” machines.

  24. Hey Jenny, I’m sure you did not mean it like this, but I find “Crafters were using CNC cutting machines well before we were, and while some may deride them when used for sparkly greeting cards sold on Etsy, they can be an extremely useful tool for much more than that.” to belittling. Making greeting cards in itself can be a very challenging hobby, and is a way to apply my talents to show love to my family.

    I am a C++ programmer at a large fintech company and I spend my spare time writing pretty complex python and C++ software to design vectors for greeting cards using computational geometry algorthms.

    I looked into trying to bypass the cricut software but unfortunately the traffic over the USB is encrypted, and between learning how to break encryption or building an inkscape extension that fixed the vector elements the design space couldn’t parse, the inkscape extension was easier.

  25. I keep a windows 7 virtual machine with sure cuts alot. My virtual machine is not connected to the internet. I have an original cricut and if it connects to the internet in will update the firmware and sure cuts alot will not work any longer. I used adabe illustrator to make my designs and export them as SVG files witch I load into the original cricut software, and I can cut any design I want. Been doing this since the beginning. Screw cricut and their locked up system.

  26. This could be the beginning of the end of Cricut. You tick off customers, you suffer the consequences. Cricuts decision to charge customers to use machines they purchased before this announcement is going to come back and bite them. I have a Cricut Access account, but honestly their decision to do this has taken the fun out of using this medium.

  27. I foresee a class action, since all of their previous advertising includes using the free design space “with 50.000 designs, or use your own designs or fonts free”
    Yes, I have spent some time downloading as saving Cricut adds..

  28. This is exactly why I spent the extra $45 and went through signmaster. I got a bigger machine, UNLIMITED ACCESS, and a much better product. I looked at Cricut, and explored their services. But overall, signmaster has everyone beat hands down. My machine can draw, cut, laser, and a multitude more functions than Cricut ever thought of, and guess what, NO HIDDEN FEES, NO MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTIONS, and better customer service.

  29. If Cricut needed to make changes to their platform and charge for their cloud services, that’s OK; BUT they NEED first to provide users an alternative. Some of us don’t want nor need their designs or cloud services. We’re not asking for free service. As every other peripheral (like any other printer or embroidery machine), Cricut should provide us with a basic local software interface to install on our computers so we can use OUR machine offline, outside their cloud service and outside their servers!

    NO ONE should pay a monthly fee to use their already expensive cutting machines without limit!

  30. Just another way to put more money in their pockets. This is just WRONG! The cutting machines are already cost too much. Maybe they could make more money if they put effort into making their brand of vinyl actually even half as good as other vinyl, such as Siser and Oracle. Instead they decide they would rather just screw people over and charge them for something that they shouldn’t be!!

  31. Back when Cricut only had cartridges, I added up the price of all the cartridges available at the time. The total was over $3,000. Then they came out with software that included the complete library of their fonts and shapes and you could make designs with all of them, but you could only cut what you had the cartridges for.

    So now they’ve gone even worse. Just spend a bit more on a machine without this crap with the software side and be able to cut anything you can think up for a design.

  32. Is anyone willing to donate some time, energy, and maybe some (broken) Cricut hardware so we makers can do the right thing and liberate these devices? I’m thinking there’s two areas of concern: swappable hardware for control, possibly with some custom pcbs, and the Cricut Designer like software based on open source software. The goal is to make this “follow this youtube video” as we’re not dealing with users who are busting out microscopes and solder paste, and it would likely be cheaper in the long run to keep implementation to others with clones. Inkscape, despite being extremely powerful, has a learning curve that’s too high compared to other tools. I don’t think reverse engineering the communication protocol is the way to go since that likely would run afoul with DMCA, but the hardware itself being swapped is open game.

  33. Thanks for the enlightening discussion. My wife is a novice Cricut user, a gift from our DiL.

    So, pardon my ignorance in advance.

    It would seem that the ‘hobby’ is mostly populated by casual users, albeit they are talented, with resources and time to go up a learning curve.

    With respect to those would alter the mechanical/electrtical components. that mod oversteps the average user.

    Rather, the development of alternative control software and dispersal of project files is a more likely path to liberating the previously purchased hardware from the clowns who, after the fact, attempt to lay down cradle to grave control of their product.

    1. There’s a few problems with this:

      1) the communication between the Cricut and the computer/bluetooth is encrypted in the newer devices, so any communication control would have to be cracked 1st.

      2) Doing #1 will likely lead to a DMCA complaint at a minimum, and a lawsuit at the extreme, the path that Cricut has already taken at least 3x.

      Yes, it’s easier to think of this as a software problem, but if the choices are buy a competitor’s product or get sued, it’s not worth the law suit.

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