If you’ve ever felt that a blank wall, a car, or even a T-shirt would be much better with some graffiti, here’s the good news: an Estonian startup SprayPrinter gives you a tool to actually print on them from a digital image. All you need to do is attach a spray can to the handheld printer, and… start spraying!
It all began when the inventor of SprayPrinter, Mihkel Joala, was asked by his daughter to paint a unicorn on her wall. There was only one problem: he had no idea how to draw. Instead of manually painting the unicorn, he came up with a device that would help him. The first prototype was actually a Nintendo Wii controller combined with a car engine valve. “Engines nowadays use extremely fast valves to spray fuel into the combustion chamber. I realized I can use them to shoot paint with pinpoint accuracy,” he said.
Joala had former experience in mechanical engineering – he was previously the CEO of Prototaip OÜ, a small company focusing on CNC milling, turning and other metalwork. His prototyping background has proven to be invaluable on all development stages of SprayPrinter. Richard Murutar, an internationally recognized entrepreneur with amazing pitching skills and a slight tendency to spraypaint American presidents, joined him to become the CEO of the company. They founded SprayPrinter in 2011 together with Henry Patzig, a design engineer with production organization skills, and Alo Murutar, an economist who has managed a publishing house for the previous 22 years.
How does it work? You start with a digital image that you want to spraypaint on your wall. You can either prepare one yourself (SprayPrinter has a cool app for converting regular photos into sprayprintable files) or head to the SprayPrinter community that connects you with amazing artists (at the moment there are 89 of them). Once you’re ready to begin, you have to place your phone on a stable platform or tripod and turn on the SprayPrinter app. Then, you choose your first spray can, attach it to the handheld printer, and start painting.
The device releases the paint pixel by pixel, according to the design. The phone’s camera tracks the LED light on the printer – this way, the device knows where to paint and remembers areas it has already covered. The fast acting electromagnetic valve can paint 200 pixels per second, letting you move your hand freely while painting the exact design you wanted.
One of the recently added features is the possibility to use multiple sprayprinters with one design – you can invite your friends over to paint together. The team has also tested attaching SprayPrinter to a wall-climbing robot to cover large-scale areas.
SprayPrinter is not only a product, it is also a community. Their website serves as a platform connecting one-time users, artists who create outstanding masterpieces, and SprayPrinter professionals who make their living out of spraypainting.
This startup has already closed two successful crowdfunding campaigns – one on Indiegogo and one on Kickstarter. The latter was listed among the top 2% of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of all time. Recently, they took the first prize at the pitching battle at TechChill in Riga, winning a trip to Silicon Valley.