Several years ago, my wife and I visited my brother in New Mexico. His neighbor had the coolest thing I had seen in quite a while. It was a vector printer, alternatively called a vector cutter. He used it to cut out vinyl masks. He would then put the mask on a piece of glass or wood and sand blast it.
The device was intriguing. After checking on the price of such a device, I decided that perhaps they weren't for me. For years I kept checking back on the price, itching to buy one. Then something odd happened while I was slumming around Michael's or Hobby Lobby. I found the Cricut.
The Cricut is a vector cutter aimed at people who probably don't care much for computers. People who make scrap books, cards, etc. It seemed like a good birthday gift for Aimee, so I got her one. It is amazing. In fact, the only complaint I have about it is that the ladies featured in the "getting started" DVD are scary. Real scary.
Normally paper cutting would be done with a die. Dies are expensive, and they only let you cut one size. The Cricut lets you scale any pattern in its library. Unlike most vector cutters, the Cricut lets you use a normal piece of paper instead of a roll. Just stick the paper onto a sticky cutting board, feed the machine, position the cutter, and press "Go".
The machine is daunting at first, but after a few minutes its use becomes second nature. The designs that you can cut are stored on cartridges that must be bought separately. They are expensive, but as I noted before, they replace very expensive dies. It is surprising what a great value an $80 cartridge really is.
Vector cutters can do a lot. They can cut paper, vinyl, pictures, etc. These materials can then be used on a myriad of projects. For example, you could make screen cutting masks using only construction paper and fiberglass window screen. You could use vinyl and create stickers or masks for sand blasting.
The best thing about this product is that it's portable. No computer to fuss with, no boxes of dies. Just one machine and some small cartridges. It's right at home on the craft table. It isn't often that we find a product that was thought out so carefully. I'd buy another one without a second thought...and I might even let Aimee use it.