SprayPrinter inventor Mihkel Joala explains that the idea was inspired by modern car engines and the Nintendo Wii console. "Engines nowadays use extremely fast valves to spray fuel to combustion chamber," says Joala. "I realized I can use them to shoot paint with pinpoint accuracy."
The handheld printer uses a fast acting electromagnetic valve that can open and close up to 200 times a second. This means that it can effectively print up to 200 pixels per second.
The system can use a blank wall or just about any surface as a canvas. The user selects a design via the SprayPrinter app on their smartphone, such as a photo they've taken or a picture they like, after which the design is loaded onto the printer via Bluetooth and broken down into pixels.
In order to create the artwork, the user must set up their smartphone on a platform or tripod with the camera facing the wall or surface onto which they will paint. The size and position of the eventual design can be adjusted by moving the phone closer to or further away from the wall and from side to side.
The SprayPrinter app then tracks the movement of the printer by way of an LED light on the device, telling it when to spray and when to stop. An accelerometer and gyroscope are used to refine the accuracy of the system. Only one can of spray paint can be slotted into the printer at any one time, but the cans can be changed so that different colors can be layered upon the design.
In addition to being used to create artworks, the mobile app also provides access to an online community where it's possible for users to view and share designs. It's also possible for artists to sell their designs through the community.
An Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for the SprayPrinter is ongoing. At the time of writing, pledges start at US$149. Assuming all goes to plan with the campaign and roll-out. the devices are expected to begin shipping in July.
SprayPrinter will be featured tonight on Discovery Canada's Daily Planet.