In today’s portable, digital society, information is constantly available at our fingertips via laptop, tablet or smartphone. The portable workspace has become as ubiquitous as the traditional office. Yet, with all the technology we tote, there is one piece of equipment that remains awkward to carry: the printer.
A group of students at the Jerusalem College of Technology found themselves working on the go: in coffee shops, on trains and at the library. However, when they needed to print their work, they were at a loss. Portable printers were simply not that portable.
So in March of last year, the idea for ZUtA Labs’ portable printer was born. Founders Matan Caspi and Tuvia Elbaum, who studied business and technology in the Jerusalem College of Technology, applied for the college’s Friedberg Entrepreneurship Challenge, and were accepted that April. This gave them access to financial and intellectual resources from the college, including the guidance of professors and usage of campus facilities. They “first built a proof of concept, then a minimal-functional prototype and are now working on designing the actual complete prototype,” according to their Kickstarter campaign page.
The group, which includes Elbaum and Caspi, designer Yonni Stein, robotic engineers Leon Rosengarten and Gilad Schnurmacher and marketer Jack Gottesman, turned to the public crowdfunding site following the success of their initial pitch. Their goal had been to raise $400,000 to begin producing the small, sturdy specialty parts needed to make the printer pocketable, but when they surpassed that goal well before the end of the campaign, they readjusted their sights at $800,000.
The company’s website explains their vision: “Print machines now-a-days are essentially a printhead running on a moving piece of paper. Why can’t we just put the printhead on a set of small wheels and let it run across a piece of paper?”
The team then set out to make a compact yet precise robot that could control the print process. The biggest challenge: “…making sure the printer moves accurately along the paper and also has a good grip on it,” Zuta Labs told TechCrunch.
To do so, the printer is designed with a teardrop-shaped casing, which helps users position it correctly on the page. The document for print can be sent from any operating system or device via a special app. When the machine reaches the end of a page, it signals the user on screen to reposition it at the top of the next page. The combination of the printer’s weight and Omni wheels, as well as its slow movement (roughly 40 seconds per page) help ensure clear and precise printing. It can print on any size paper. The initial product will print in grayscale only.
Another five days remain in ZUtA Labs’ Kickstarter campaign, with such incentives as free T-shirts and special-edition printers available to donors at different levels. The machine is being produced in Mars black and Titanium white. It will have a glossy polycarbonate casing. It features a USB port for charging, hidden under a hatch which also functions as the machine’s on/off switch and ink cartridge cover. The printer should run up to one hour on a single full charge and print 1,000 pages per ink cartridge. If all goes according to plan, the first printers will be shipped to backers in January, 2015.