zinkCrowdsourcing is paying off in a variety of ways as companies get their fans to do their work for them.

Zink Imaging is the latest to do so. It’s solicited fans to design future versions of its printers that have no ink cartridges but instead melt ink embedded in paper. One of the challenges Zink faces is that companies have to figure out how to embed its printing technology in gadgets, such as digital cameras.

To solve the problem, the company launched its Zero Boundaries contest earlier this year, challenging product designers to create new designs. The winners will get cash and prizes totaling $25,000. The public can vote on the best designs through July 13, and the People’s Choice winner will get $500.

The Bedford, Mass., company revealed the finalists today. Those finalists produced a bunch of creative designs. Some of the interesting ones include the cleverly named Zink Pad, which looks like a notebook but is really a printer. Another is the Go Anywhere printer that you can take with you anywhere. It looks like just a long piece of plastic.

Yes, this kind of contest is not new. But the quality of what’s been designed here is surprising. All of the designs look like they were professionally done. You would never guess there are amateurs in there. One of these days, it’s going to make sense to design a lot more products through the power of crowdsourcing.

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