Since the Gutenberg printing press revolutionized the written word in Europe, centuries of innovation have brought furniture-sized machines down to printer models which can sit on one’s desks. The mechanism of feeding in paper to be inked remains, but one Jerusalem-based startup, ZUtA Labs, aims to revolutionize printing itself – bypassing the paper feed process and designing a printer the size of a paperweight.
Among the amenities offered by most universities, accessible printing comes in handy much of the time, despite the growing prevalence of online paper submissions. At the main library of Northwestern, as well as the Tech building, students can print from a few office-sized printers. However, it is inconvenient to run to a print station for just a few pages of notes. Students also have the option of purchasing their own personal-sized printers for in-dorm use, but space limitations make this option less than ideal.
The solution may lie in portable printing, but right now the smallest conventional printers in the market remain far from portable, rarely falling below five pounds.
Tuvia Elbaum, an entrepreneur and former student at the Jerusalem College of Technology, noted that his busy lifestyle often demanded printouts on the go. To address this problem, Elbaum created the ZUtA printer, which resembles a black square with some rounded edges, wheels on the bottom, and straight edges for users to align it parallel to the paper. Once aligned, it can receive print orders from users’ computers or smartphones, and roll itself across paper, executing orders line by line. The printer does not need further user input aside from flipping to new pages and realigning. ZUtA Labs, now based in San Francisco for U.S. product distribution and headed by Elbaum as CEO, asserts that the ink cartridge within the little printer provides for 100 pages of standard letter size paper printing.
Anyone who has dealt with rushing to a printing center for just a single critical page can see the benefits inherent to portable printing. However, bringing this attractive concept into the market has been a more time consuming process than previously imagined.
ZUtA’s first concept video and Kickstarter campaign debuted in April 2014, generating substantial media buzz and Kickstarter funding, but it would take over two years, until the summer 2016, for ZUtA labs to release another demonstration video of its product, with hopes that consumer models would ship by December. Nevertheless, business publications such as Forbes have favorably covered this product with every new spike in attention to this product.
Interested consumers must pay over 300 dollars, including shipping and ink, to bring this delightful idea into their own hands. Such a price tag may put this product out of easy reach for many college students, considering a small dorm-based printer costs less than a third of that price. As innovation and technology permeate the market and pique consumer interest, competing products and prices may arise.
Prices aside, students reacted positively to the concept.
“Walking all the way to the library is awful, and it ends up that everyone on the floor just uses a single person’s personal printer, which soon runs out of ink,” states Weinberg junior Sarah Lim.
It is evident that many students have “regular, but infrequent needs to print,” but few wish to make the trek to the centrally located printing center at the library, to print at a cost. When presented with the price, student opinions tended to diverge.
“While $300 is a lot, its convenience still helps it sufficiently stand out compared to conventional printers,” says Lim.
Will Ouyang, a McCormick freshman, voiced a different opinion.
“With a price at $300, selling it would be hard because at its current model, functionality is limited and it just seems a novelty product,” states Ouyang.
You can find more information about the ZUtA printer, as well as updates on its development process, at the company website www.zutalabs.com.
(Image courtesy of Mashable)