Update: Tammy from cricutcritters has gotten answers from PC on a number of these items. If you are not familiar with the machine and want a good introduction see Tammy’s Ten facts video. Tammy now has a machine in house and a brand new Imagine blog.
Joy from the Obsessed with Scrapbooking blog has a machine in house and is running it. She was gracious enough to spend a very long time answering my questions by phone today.
SweetSassyDiva has also been very patient with my questions.
Thanks a bunch to these dedicated ladies who are working hard to get us the information we need to make an educated decision.
Some general info/details of interest:
I have sifted through dozens of available videos, hands on reviews and Provocraft marketing materials to put together the following summary of information on the new Cricut Imagine machine. I have tried to be as objective as possible and hope you find it helpful in evaluating the machine for your use and for asking questions of Provocraft when you have the opportunity.
We know the Imagine (MSRP $599 $499) is not the advanced machine described in the patent, but instead is a Cricut Expression and an HP color inkjet printer sharing the same case, combined with existing optical alignment technology and a “Gypsy-like” color touch screen controller. Gypsy-like turns out to mean from a hardware standpoint only (it seems to use common components to a Gypsy). The controls parallel the Expression’s, with added choices to support the print function. In other words, there is no design capability in the controller that would compare to a Gypsy.
We know it will use HP’s Vivera ink; and one black (MSRP $34.99) and one dye-based tri-color (MSRP #39.99) cartridge, pictured here. Armed with this information, we can find a Wilhelm report for a printer that uses a corresponding Vivera tri-color cartridges and find test results that should be representative for the Imagine. The Imagine does not power off automatically which is good news for conservation of ink and data.
We also know that in addition to ink cartridges, the Imagine can use existing Cricut cartridges (now called “original”), Imagine Art Cartridges (MSRP $89.99) and Imagine Color and Pattern Cartridges (MSRP $49.99). It will have its own mats (MSRP TBA) with an improved adhesive. Preview images from all of the Imagine cartridges are here. The Imagine cartridges appears to have an SD card interface, as was easily predicted. Imagine carts will be linked through the Imagine machine (like George is linked in the Expression).
The machine weighs 28 lbs and measures 24.5 x 13.5 x 7 inches. You will also need clearance at the front and back for mat travel (12 inches each way) and you will want a permanent location for it as inkjet printers do not take kindly to being moved. A simple calibration procedure is available to ensure best print to cut alignment. Best alignment will be gained at the top of the page with decreasing accuracy the further down the page you go. I suspect this the reason that 12 x 24″ is not supported.
The Imagine (starts at upper left) uses a different coordinate system than either the Expression (starts at upper right) or the Gypsy (starts at lower right).
What it can do:
-Cut shapes (layers) from existing (now called “original”) Cricut cartridges up to 10.5 x 10.5 inches (updated per Chris D).
-Flood fill shapes (layers) from original Cricut cartridges or Imagine Art cartridges with solid colors or available patterns* and cut them out. See Melanie’s post on a Disney Princess
-Print composite images from any of 12 Imagine Art cartridges up to approx 11.25 x 11.25 inches with a white border or colored bleed (sometimes called sticker style).
-Print solid colors and available patterns* up to approx. 11.25 x 11.25 inches.
-Make archival printouts on certain HP Photo papers.
-Make water resistant printouts on certain specialty papers.
-Print on any material that will print on a typical HP inkjet printer and cut almost any material that can be cut with a Cricut Expression.
-Perform all the same functions of the Expression (except center point): autofill, flip, multicut, adjust speed, adjust pressure etc. on the LCD screen. Load last seems especially helpful.
-View a virtual cartridge overlay on the LCD screen.
-Print and cut with special inkjet vinyl to make stickers.
-Be updated like a Gypsy (presumably meaning online via a multiplatform webapp). It ships with a nice long USB cable. FAQs indicate an initial firmware update will be necessary and is accomplished via included Art cartridge.
-Use the blades and housings from regular Cricut machines. The blade housing is plastic, not metal.
-Make interior cuts in an image. Confirmed here.
-Change out plastic panels to have different accent colors to better match your decor.
-Has a variety of standard basic and decorative shapes built in and 18 colors that are available regardless of the cartridges you have installed.
-Save 16 custom colors in the onboard palette.
-Queue multi-mat designs.
-Print and cut on any size paper.
-Queue multiples of an individual cut or of an entire project.
-Automatically scale patterns with respect to the size of the cut.
*Available patterns include any pattern on an installed Imagine pattern cartridge or an installed Imagine art cartridge (which also includes patterns). When cutting from a Gypsy you can use patterns from any linked cartridge.
What it can not do:
-Work with Cricut Design Studio software.
-Use a 12 x 24 mat. (PC is “working on it” but it is unclear whether it will be accomplished)
-Be used as a computer printer.
-Print full bleed 12 x 12 (physically, it can, but is limited by software so as not to overflow ink onto the mat.) PC has stated that this will be available in the October Gypsy update?
-Print without a mat.
-Print a composite image (one piece) from original Cricut carts to cut them out as shown below. (Tammy reports that this will be possible in the future but only with a Gypsy).
-Make archival prints on plain paper. The Provocraft FAQ states: “According to HP lab tests, the ink will retain its color quality for decades on plain paper.” PC is quoting HP’s blanket statement for all its inks that refers to internal dark storage testing of documents (as opposed to photos). See HP’s info here. In my opinion, this is not a high enough standard for scrapbookers, but fine for cardmaking, party favors, etc. Under glass results (like you would need for a shadow box or wall decor) results are closer to just under a decade on plain paper.
-Make waterproof prints.
-Cut closely around an image with a narrow outline like the image below (which I did on an Expression).
-Cut chipboard or other stiff materials that cannot negotiate a slightly bent paper path.
-Cut more accurately than other Cricut machines or avoid Cricut “creep.”
-Allow you to replace individual ink colors (except black) when one runs out.
-Print just the details on an image and cut around that, like printing the face on a paper doll or details on a Disney character.
-Use mats from existing Cricuts.
-Weld without a Gypsy or otherwise overlap or combine shapes.
-Save designs (with custom colors applied, for instance) without a Gypsy once the Imagine is shut off or a new project is created.
-Print small text or other detailed designs and center it within a shaped cutout (wedding invitations, for example, or sentiments for cards).
-Place images at a specified location with respect to the mat (analogous to x y coordinates on the Expression) without a Gypsy. You do not have control over the location on the mat at all. Imagine places them for you.
-Change the colors within a pattern or change the scale, orientation or position of a pattern.
-Conserve ink by not coloring the interior of layers that will not show. (for example, 2 nested ovals. Bottom is covered except for outer edge yet whole shape is colored with ink)
-Cut without cartridges installed.
-Just print a filled image from an original cartridge. Printed images will have bleed as if cutting so it would be similar to printing a shadow version.
-Ink the edges of, or shade an image.
What we still don’t know
-If mat, size, and material limitations for print and cut operations still apply if just printing (mat/paper does not travel though lower pass or negotiate bend when just printing). It may well be possible to print on chipboard, but don’t know that this has been tried yet.
-What media are required for moderate or high water resistance.
-What media are required for archival print permanence and how much does it cost.
-The minimum white border or colored bleed between print and cut that is reliable. (The controller allows borders to be set from 0 to .1 inches, but we don’t know the minimum that will be practical so as to not leave white space.)
-The minimum size of an image that can be successfully print and cut. (Dial goes down to .3 but don’t know how well that will print/cut at that size yet)
-Whether or not the Imagine will be compatible with third party cutting software. (officially no, but then neither are current Cricuts officially)
-Whether or not it will be compatible with third party reinking solutions (I am pretty sure it will be, but we have no way to know until someone tries it)
-How, exactly, it will work with a Gypsy. For instance, will the new Gypsy firmware give all the functions of the onboard controller. How will welded images be colored, etc.
-The maximum DPI for the printer.
-If the special vinyl printed with the Imagine will be water-proof (suitable for water bottles, cake carriers, coasters, etc.), weather-resistant (suitable for vehicles and outdoor use), fade-resistant (suitable for wall decor) and/or archival (suitable for scrapbook embellishements).
-Whether thickness is going to be an issue for various media. For instance, can craft foam be cut. (PC says only stiffness matters, but I would like to see this demonstrated).
-If Gypsy owners who do not have Imagines will have the option to decline Imagine content (which will be large files compared to original carts).