Theirs isn't the first mobile printer on the market. But it's one of the more intriguing ones.
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As students and entrepreneurs, sometimes Tuvia Elbaum and Matan Caspi needed to print documents when away from their desks. Seeing nothing particularly alluring on the market, they decided to invent one themselves. Now their startup, ZUtA Labs, has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to build a mass-marketable version of their pocket printer. They've already raised $480,000, well above their target.
The ZUtA Labs pocket printer is just 10 centimeters high, 11.5 centimeters in diameter and weighs 300 grams. It has a radically different approach to printing.
Their invention is essentially a robot with an ink cartridge inside that moves on four bidirectional wheels over a sheet of paper of any size. This gives it an advantage over competing versions in which the paper size is restricted (A4 or portrait size).
At this stage of development, ZUtA Labs' mobile printer only prints in black-and-white and should hit the market in early 2015.
In preliminary sales via the Kickstarter campaign, the starting price for the printer will be $180. Later, the price is expected to be $240.
"Nowadays, people don't print as often as before – we're moving toward a paperless world. But there are still times when you need to print – like when students need to print something out before class, or an entrepreneur working in a café needs to print out a page or two," says Elbaum.
The basis for their breakthrough invention was the observation that the smallest printers on the market had their width dictated by the smallest page size, A4.
One challenge for the developers was orientation: to find a way to ensure that the printed lines would line up straight on the paper and not diagonally. The printer was eventually designed to start working from the corner of the page.
ZUtA was founded a year ago by Elbaum, who is also a founder and vice president of marketing for the Umoove startup, and Caspi. Both took part in an entrepreneurship program at the Jerusalem College of Technology. Reuven Ulmansky of Wadi Ventures served as mentor.
They were joined by two more engineers, from the Hadassah Institute and the Jerusalem College of Technology, and by a graphic designer from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. Up to now, the project has been funded by the entrepreneurs themselves.