15 Amazing Concept Printers

Have a peek at some futuristic printers that challenge conventional ideas--including, in some cases, basic assumptions about depending on ink, toner, and paper.

15 Amazing Concept Printers

Compared to cell phones that get jazzier by the month, printers are ugly ducklings. It's understandable. Improving the bulky, noisy, temperamental printer is no simple undertaking.

But some designers are hard at work on the next generation of printers, including models that can prepare food for you, paint your nails, or snap onto the back of your laptop.

Have a peek at how printers may change if these futuristic units attract a following.

Environmental Pencil Printer

The environmentally friendly Pencil Printer concept from designers Hoyoung Lee, Seunghwa Jeong, and Jin-young Yoon uses black pencil lead (graphite) instead of toner, which means that users can easily correct mistakes with a rubber eraser, and can recycle paper quickly.

See it in action.

Image courtesy of Yank Design

iMo Foto Frame Printer

Combining the best of both worlds, the iMo Foto Frame Printer from Mimo Monitors is an 8-inch-diagonal digital photo frame and a stand-alone printer with USB and memory card slots. The iMo Foto Frame Printer has a display resolution of 800 by 600 pixels, prints 6-by-4-inch glossy photos, and will set you back $200.

Images courtesy of Mimo Monitors.

RITI Coffee Printer

The Coffee Printer concept from RITI turns your old coffee grounds into a source of ecologically benign printer ink. Just put the leftover grounds in the cartridge and turn coffee stains into something more useful than unexpected abstract art shirts.

Image courtesy of Core77 Design Competition.

Trak Portable Printer

Reimagining mobile printing, the Trak concept from designer Hung Chih Wang places the printing process on the back of your laptop's display. It comes with a detachable printer head and receives its power via USB.

Image courtesy of Yanko Design .

Epson Augmented Reality Printer

Priced at around $600, Epson's Colorio printers (the site is written in Japanese) you can print a color postcard with your face superimposed on it. But the real magic starts when you hold it up to a Webcam, and the card comes to life as various characters pop out of it on-screen. So far, this technology has been implemented in Japan--but just imagine Santa coming to life in your Christmas cards.

See it in action (also in Japanese).

Image courtesy of Epson (also in Japanese).

The 3D Building Printer

Since it isn't confined to a box, the amazing 3D printer from engineer Enrico Dini could theoretically print a house or any other structure. The printer uses magnesium dust to translate CAD drawings into 3D layerings . Still years away from mass production, this device suggests that the idea of printing your own products at home may not be so far-fetched after all.

Image courtesy of Blueprint Magazine.

3D Pottery Printer

This ceramic 3D printer project from Unfold prints--or rather, extrudes--wet clay from its nozzle in sophisticated shapes that are ready for firing. The raw materials involved are simple: powder clay mixed with water. The shaping is done via a syringe. The Belgian designers of this machine successfully used it to create a double-walled vessel and various ceramic shapes.

Image courtesy of Unfold.

Barbie Nail Printer

Instead of painting your own fingernails, you can turn the technical operation over to the Barbie Doll'd Up Nails digital nail printer from Mattel. This very special printer (which vaguely resembles a first-generation iMac laid on its back) lets you create and customize all sorts of designs from home. It takes a few seconds to print one nail and you can upload any custom design you like from a computer. You can grab one now for $290.

See it in action.

Image courtesy of Mattel.

Inkless, Paperless Printer

For $5600 you can also print without using toner, ink, or paper. The Sanwa Newtec PrePeat RP-3100II works with paper made out of PET plastic--which is reusable up to 1000 times--plus a thermal printing head. A single sheet of the plastic costs $3.35; if you really want one of these devices, inquire at Sanwa Newtec's site. Its corporate slogan: "Create new pleasure to the company."

See it in action.

Image courtesy of Gizmodo.

Cornucopia Food Printer

You might not be the best cook, but soon you will be able to print your own food. The Cornucopia Food Printer concept from MIT's Marcelo Coelho and Amit Zoran is essentially a 3D food printer that works by storing and mixing ingredients. You supply your favorite ingredients, which the printer then pipes into a mixer, heats, and serves. This machine is undoubtedly a game changer if your favorite food is Jell-O.

Image courtesy of MIT.

Toast Printer

It's less a printer than a printerlike toaster (site is written in German), but this concept from Othmar Mühlebach uses bread in place of paper and produces toast instead of a document. Now, wouldn't it be cool if it had butter and jam cartridges? And if it were self-cleaning?

Image courtesy of Othmar Mühlebach.

Hanging Printer

The Hanging Printer concept from designers Jin Hee Kim, Hyung Il Kim, and Woo Seok Park aims to save space on your desk with an ingeniously small footprint, as only the print head and paper feed sit on the desk's surface. The Hanging Printer comes with an embedded LCD that indicates printing status.

Image courtesy of Yanko Design.

Wireless Wall-Mounted Printer

The wall-mounted wireless printer concept from Ransmeier & Floyd defies expectations about a printer's appropriate size and shape. This battery-powered printer can be mounted on a wall or used with a kickstand on a desktop, and it displays printouts as if they were pictures in a frame. Removing printed pages from the special pocket looks to be something of a chore, however.

Image courtesy of They Should Do That.

Embossing Braille Printer

The Embossing Braille Printer concept from designer Danni Luo is intended to help visually impaired people distinguish objects of similar shape with life-saving implications, such as medication bottles. To print a label, you speak into the wider end of the printer, and the corresponding embossed label will come out of the side.

Image courtesy of Core77.

Samsung Circular Printer

The Circular Printer concept from Samsung is extremely small and doesn't look like any other printer we've seen. Instead moving linearly, this printer uses rotational motion to print one page at a time. Unfortunately, Samsung has never taken the Circular Printer to production.

Image courtesy of Samsung Electronics.

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