A portable robotic printer that works by traveling across the surface of a piece of paper is well on its way to reaching its US$400,000 Kickstarter target. Designed by Israel's Zuta Labs, the device is intended to provide users with a means of printing on the go.
The Mini Mobile Robotic Printer was conceived by Zuta's founder Tuvia Elbaum, an entrepreneur from Jerusalem. Elbaum tells Gizmag that he came up with the idea from constantly working on the go with smartphones, tablets and laptops, and wanting a way of printing without having to wait to get home or to the office.
"When I went online to look for a portable printer, I only found printers that are either too big to really carry around or too small to print on a standard A4 page," says Elbaum. "I noticed that all the printers had to have the paper feed through the device, so I thought why not put the cartridge on a robot and let it run around by itself, and that will allow the printer to be really small and yet print on any size paper?".
Elbaum and his team looked at a number of different possibilities for the printer, including using a model built from a radio-controlled car. "We've had many prototypes and thoughts," he says. "From using rails, that come out of the robot and help with stabilizing the paper, to having the robot hover over the paper. Some ideas didn't come out that well, but it helped us focus towards our design today and each revision was based on the lessons learned from the ones that came before it. Thank God for 3D printers!"
Elbaum explains that the two principles he and his team have kept in mind whilst developing the printer are to keep the product itself as small as possible, and to make it as simple as possible to use. It employs an inkjet for the printing (currently only in black and white) and Bluetooth for connecting with other devices. It also uses a high-resolution optical sensor that Elbaum says is commonly used in high-end mice. The device has a rechargeable battery with an on\off switch and can print on any size piece of paper.
The printer uses an omni-wheel system that allows it to accurately move around the page that it is printing on. It prints at a speed of 1.2 pages per minute and the current prototype can reach up to 96 x 192 dpi, although the final product is expected to provide a higher resolution. Size-wise, it measures 10 x 11.5 cm (3.9 x 4.5 in) and weighs around 300 g (10.6 oz). The device will run for one hour on a full charge, which takes about three hours.
Zuta Labs raised over 40 percent of its Kickstarter target within 24 hours and now has over $330,000, with 25 days left. The money raised via the campaign is earmarked for ordering the custom-made parts that Zuta has designed, to build the final prototype and for then going into production. In the unlikely event of not reaching its Kickstarter goal, Elbaum says the Zuta should be well-placed to still continue, having received offers from investors, accelerators and "some of the big tech companies." Looking into the future, he wants to add the ability to print in color and on many more types of surfaces.
Pledges can still be made, with $200 currently being enough to secure a white version of the printer assuming all goes to plan, although there are limited numbers of that early bird deal. The first printers are expected to be shipped in January 2015.
You can see the printer in action in the video below.
Source: Zuta Labs