Printing From the Palm of Your Hand
While the tech world has gone mobile, there's one key tool that hasn't changed in years: the printer. Most printers are still big, bulky and boring. They do a job, and they stay put. Right where you left them -- at home or in the office.
If a new crowdsourced Kickstarter project gets the funding it needs, mobile workers will be able to print most anywhere -- even coffee shops. The tool? A robot printer.
ZUta Labs has reimagined the printer into an apple-sized device that can drive over a sheet of paper and print along the way.
How the Robotic Printer Works
To expose the inkjet, a sliding hatch opens on the bottom of the printer. A set of four wheels lets it turn and drive in any direction, using steady, micro steps so it won't "spin out" and send a sheet of paper flying off a table. Its overall shape has three rounded edges with one right-angled edge, which is the edge that users will align to the top left of a sheet of paper.
The little printer connects to your smartphone or PC via Bluetooth, and it is compatible with Android, iOS, Linux, OS X and Windows operating systems. The first generation will print only in grayscale, and it will be able to crank out 1.2 pages per minute. The prototype will deliver 96x192 dpi, but the shipping version will have a higher resolution, according to ZUta Labs.
The printer will use a standard-sized HP printer cartridge for easy-to-find replacements.
It all seems so crazy simple.
Early bird backers snapped up a "Mars Black" printer for US$180, but that limited-run incentive is all gone. Currently, the next best option is one black printer for $200. Backers can get a "Titanium White" version for $220, and Kickstarter fans can pledge $300 to snag a black edition with a green glowing Kickstarter "K" at the center of the top.
Of course, there's an option for truly serious mobile printing fans: $10,000 will get your name printed into the first version's motherboard.
Risks and Challenges
ZUtA Labs has acknowledged the usual risks in design, manufacturing and shipping, but it seems to have a healthy stable of startup advisors to keep it rolling forward.
The crew originally started the project at the Jerusalem College of Technology in the Friedberg Entrepreneurship Program, which offered use of the college's facilities and -- better yet -- required a sustainable business plan before the team received initial funding support.
As for the crowd, so far more than 2,100 backers have pledged more than $355,000 toward a $400,000 goal. If the funding reaches its target by May 10, ZUtA Labs is slated to produce a final prototype in August with manufacturing scheduled to begin in September. And delivery to backers? January 2015.
What about color? Not yet, but ZUtA Labs hopes to create a color-printing version at some point in the future.