It's really real! A tiny robot printer ready to order

The portable robot-printer can print on any paper size. Credit: ZUtA Labs

When I first saw it it was two years ago. An invention of two Israeli students that launched a Kickstarter campaign to develop a robot-printer that could print on any size of paper by moving on it.  Their campaign was successful, they harvested over 500,000$ from over 3,000 backers.

Now it is a product, ready for pre-order with delivery expected in Q1 2017.

The idea came to the student at the Jerusalem College of Technology as they attended the Friedberg Entrepreneurship program. They noticed that a printer is a moving head (cartridge) and the big box is actually for hosting and moving the paper under the printer over the y axis. The movement over the x axis is performed by the cartridge running over a rail. Because of the dimension of the "box" you can only print on certain maximum size of paper.

Why not get rid of the box and create an autonomously moving cartridge?

That's what they did. A tiny robot (a sort of cube of 10cm) with omnidirectional wheels embedding the cartridge, a motor and a WiFi communication system to interact with a smartphone.

You lay the sheet on a table and position the ZUtA at one corner and then on the opposite one. This provide the sheet dimension to the app on the smartphone and let it calculate the printing path. Then you hit "print" on the smartphone and the app will transmit the information to be printed. 
So far it can print in grayscale only (no colour) and it is not cheap, selling at around 300$, with two cartridges included. A cartridge is good for about 1,000 printed pages and the battery is sufficient to print about 90 pages (it lasts one hour and it takes about 40 seconds to print a page).

Clearly a desktop printer is faster, cheaper and can print in colours. But it is too bulky to take along with you and you cannot go beyond (usually) the A4 format.

It remains to be seen if ZUtA will become a success. For sure it was an idea that managed to turn into a real product and this is a success in itself!

Author - Roberto Saracco

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