Jerusalem start-up wins top tech prize for robo printer

Jerusalem start-up wins top tech prize for robo printer

ZUtA Labs, maker of mini printing devices, takes best innovation award at Vegas electronics show; beats out industry giants

Tuvia Elbaum (right) shows off ZUtA Labs' printing technology to Dr. Harry Shum, executive vice president of technology and research, Microsoft. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Tuvia Elbaum (right) shows off ZUtA Labs' printing technology to Dr. Harry Shum, executive vice president of technology and research, Microsoft. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Tens of thousands of new products and technologies were on display at the International Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas, but only 28 of them were chosen by veteran CES and electronics industry judges as being worthy of the show’s “Best of Innovation” award.

Among those 28 innovations was a portable printer made by Israeli start-up ZUtA Labs.

The palm-sized device runs across a page and prints out text exactly as a printhead would do in an inkjet printer. But, instead of loading paper into a feed, a user “loads” the ZuTA Labs printer onto a page, and the printer takes care of the rest.

The printer is based on an omni-wheel system that allows it to accurately turn and move in any direction. When it finishes printing across a line (with the robot printing only to the width of the paper size specified in a program’s Page Setup dialog box), it can move down the required space and start printing the next line.

It takes about 40 seconds to print a standard A4 page of 210×297 mm (8.267×11.692 inches) — comparable to an inkjet printer.

The device weighs only about 300 grams, and is 10 centimeters high and 11.5 centimeters in diameter, and is designed to be taken anywhere. It has a rechargeable battery with an on/off switch, and connects via USB directly to smartphones and to PCs, allowing the user to print on a piece of paper of any size.

And the winner is…

CES is one of the world’s largest electronics show, and this year was the biggest with more than 3,500 exhibitors presenting their technologies and products to upwards of 150,000 people from 140 countries.

The ZUtA printer was chosen for an Innovation Award in the Computer Peripherals category. But out of the other dozen or so winners in that category, the company was chosen for a Best of Innovation Award, given to only one of the candidates in the 28 categories that competed for the Innovation Awards.

ZUtA Labs’ accomplishment is even more impressive when the competition for the award is taken into consideration. The CES Innovation Awards are highly coveted among manufacturers and marketers. Far more than an award certificate, a CES award has the potential to bring more cash into a company’s coffers, because — according to CES rules — award winners get to display the “Winner” logo on their packaging, and get exposure through CES’s significant media reach, which extends to the Web, radio and TV.

As a result, companies small and large — especially large — vie for the award, presenting their best and most innovative ideas in order to get the judges’ attention. And, indeed, the other winners of the Best of Innovation Awards reads like a who’s who of the electronics business: Axxess, QualComm, Whirlpool, Pioneer, Zalman and others.

Samsung, for example, had over a dozen products winning awards in one of the 28 categories, and other large companies, like LG, GE, Pioneer, Texas Instruments and many more were recognized for their technology in one of the categories.

Add to that list ZUtA, a small Jerusalem start-up that has been raising money to develop its printer via a Kickstarter campaign. The significance of the company’s accomplishment is not lost on ZUtA co-founder Tuvia Elbaum, who said that it was “a great honor for a small start-up from Jerusalem to win an award against such stiff competition, and be counted among the giants who won the title in the various categories. We are confident that this win will help us to continue leading the second print revolution.”

That there weren’t more Israeli start-ups winning awards (another Israeli company, Soluto — recently bought out by American firm Asurion — won an Innovation Award in the category of “Software and Mobile Apps”) could be due to the fact that getting to CES is an expensive proposition. The costs — which include include renting a CES booth, paying for plane tickets and accommodation, hiring PR, etc. — could make a major dent in the budget of a start-up.

In fact, ZUtA might not have been able to get to CES at all if not for the fact that the company traveled as part of a delegation sponsored by the Israel Export Institute, which picked up some of the expenses involved in displaying at CES.

As such, ZUtA’s success is that of the Israel Export Institute, too. Ofer Zaks, head of the Institute, said that he knew all along ZUtA — or one of the other Israeli start-ups at CES — would make the big time.

“The companies at CES are known for their innovation, uniqueness, and creativity, so I am not surprised at all that ZUtA won a top award,” he said.

“Beyond the honor this award brings to the Israeli electronics industry, it also helps out the other Israeli companies at CES by drawing attention to Israeli innovation, and to Israel as an advanced, technologically advanced, country.”

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