Israeli company ZUtA Labs has just launched a campaign on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter for financing to take its mini mobile robotic printer forward towards the manufacturing stage.

Zuta Labs wants to turn the printer into a mobile tool

These days, thanks to ICTs and the Internet we are able to work just about anywhere, but some jobs still require an office and some equipment. For instance, although a whole range of tasks and interactions in the business world have become increasingly dematerialized through the use of email, software apps and other online tools, people often still need to print out documents for work purposes. Yet the printer has remained a cumbersome and basically non-mobile piece of equipment, which is highly inconvenient for people on the go. Now Israeli company ZUtA Labs has come up with a way to turn this very necessary accessory into a mobile tool for modern business or personal users by creating a mini mobile robotic printer, and has launched a funding campaign on Kickstarter, asking for $400,000 to help transform the prototype into a marketable product. The ZUtA Labs founders noticed that printers have always worked on the basis of a printhead running left and right on a moving piece of paper. As they wanted to create a much smaller object, they looked at the process in reverse, getting rid of most of the traditional printer, and putting the printhead on a set of small wheels so that it can run across the paper.

A pocket printer

The ZUtA printer, which measures 10 cm by 11.5 cm and weighs around 300g, is basically a robot, which moves over a piece of paper and is linked to Windows, OSX, iOS, Android and Windows Phone applications. Once you have placed the mini mobile robotic printer on a blank piece of paper, it will go to work printing words on the page as it moves back and forth on an omni-wheel system. The cartridge can print around 1,000 pages, currently in black and white only, at a rate of 1.2 pages per minute, compared with an average of 10 pages per minute for a traditional inkjet office printer. The battery lasts an hour before it needs recharging using a USB connection. The prototype presented on Kickstarter is however larger and slower than the version the project team are hoping to build for the mass market. The $400,000 requested in the pitch should enable ZUtA Labs to procure smaller components and a higher-spec engine. The printer has been designed with one pointed end, which will enable you to indicate where the printer should be positioned on the page. The paper surface must be completely flat, without any bumps or ridges, so that the printer can be correctly aligned. It can be configured to print on all sizes of paper, and will even print on other types of material, thus making it much more flexible than standard printers. ZUtA is offering an ‘early bird’ price of $180 for the standard black version, $200 for its Titanium White version.

Microsoft supporting

The ZUtA Labs prototype is basically a robot first and a printer second, thus representing two currently ‘disruptive’ areas.Indeed, printers are currently newsmakers on their new 3D printing function. Here Zuta Labs retains the main paper printing function, but makes a major innovation in making this tool a mobile object, allowed thanks to its approach in terms of robotics. This accessory is aimed at both individuals and professionals on the move. The accessory, which will be useful for both work and personal purposes for people on the go, is also quite aesthetically pleasing. The funds that ZUtA Labs is currently looking to raise will enable the company to refine the product and move it towards the mass production stage. ZUtA Labs founder Tuvia Elbaum revealed that he has received a number of proposals to collaborate with designers, manufacturers and potential investors, but said he was not planning to make any partnership decisions before the close of the Kickstarter campaign. Microsoft’s interest in the project prompted the software giant to invite Elbaum and his colleagues to present the pocket printer at the Think Next conference, which took place on 7 April in Tel Aviv. The first deliveries of the printer are scheduled for January 2015 and the company is planning to release a color printing version further down the road.

By Manon Garnier