The CraftROBO is one of the more prevalent cutters in the consumer market. For some time now users have asked on and off about support for it, and there is at least one opensource project addressing support for cutting with them.
However, Graphtec America has now been in contact with us, and is very interested in supporting efforts to better integrate with their hardware.
Graphtec has been discussing various aspects of Inkscape supporting the CraftROBO in both email and in conference calls. We are still in some initial stages of exploring the approaches to us, but they have offered some support, the availability of an SDK and some hardware for developers to work with.
From our OpenSource viewpoint, the legal use of the SDK is probably an important factor. We need to hear back if any NDA's or such will be required for use of the SDK and/or if it will end up compatible with the GPL. On the recent conference call Joshua and I helped make the point that the more open the SDK access was, the better the solution will be. Graphtec will follow up internally to see what the details will be and what might need additional information.
The Inkscape developers would like to wait for the licensing issues to be clearly addressed before actually getting copies the SDK and exploring its direct use. (I just want to be clear that this was from the Inkscape side of things, and that Graphtec expressed no hesitance in having the SDK accessible whenever we become ready for it).
At the moment Graphtec's business goals including remaining somewhat application-agnostic. That is, for various reasons they are not looking to ship Inkscape with their hardware themselves. However they expressed support for shipping any needed drivers on their side of things.
Overall the communication with Graphtec was very positive, and we see great potential for many win-win aspects.
There is a good potential for use of the CraftROBO in education, and good Inkscape support might be a key to spur widespread use in K-12 schools.
(educators, fill in more here)
Having a level of Inkscape support of the CraftROBO that could be demoed at educational conferences can be a big win for both Inkscape and Graphtec. One major conference is taking place at the end of June.
(Hardware details go here)
Our initiall impression is that we can break down support for the CraftROBO into three main areas:
Some form of low-level driver might be a good component to focus on. If licensing permits, this would be the place to use the SDK from Graphtec. If there are legal entanglements with the SDK, this would be the place to isolate it and keep the rest of the support "clean" in regards to GPL, etc.
The driver level might actually require application specific code/architecture. We would like to be able to support Windows, Linxu and Mac OS X. Given that need for support, the driver level is the best place to constrain platform specific code to.
This also may be an area to coordinate with other projects and/or technologies such as CUPS.
At the slightly higher level we will probably want to do at least one Inkscape Extension to deal with the CraftROBO. It would talk to the possibly platform-specific driver, but be platform independent itself.
We also want to maximize support for the features of the hardware, including registration and precision loading and control.
It might be appropriate to implement this as a generic "cutter" extension. They key, however, is that we want to support 100% of the features of the CraftROBO hardware itself.
At the highest level we will need to do various application-level tunings and adjustments to facilitate the creation of appropriate content for the CraftROBO. This might include checks for types and shapes that are not appropriate for cutting, coordinating printing and cutting in one SVG, and various plugins and/or effects to help.
A summary of key people to contact.
- Joshua (verbalshadow) has agreed to act as our contact point for this. So try to cc him on any discussions that occur, etc.
- JonCruz is working on the Inkscape-side technical issues, and may end up doing more of the coding [jon at jon cruz dot org].
- Glen Bull is interested in the potential educational uses of the CraftROBO, and helped bring the various parties together for discussion.