zink-mixZink Imaging named the winners of its printer-design contest, which drew both professional and amateur designers to help create the next generation of its inkless printers.

The Zero Boundaries competition was a good example of crowdsourcing, where you motivate a lot of people to create something on your behalf. While such contests are common, Zink managed to get a lot of high-quality work from a bunch of industrial designers for a low price.

It is giving out $25,000 in awards, with the winners including design firms and students from the U.S., China, Romania, Brazil and the Netherlands. But the payoff for Zink comes with sparking designers’ imaginations for how to incorporate Zink’s inkless imaging (which embeds dry ink in paper and then melts it to produce colors) into new kinds of gadgets such as a digital camera. Since Zink’s products don’t need inkjet cartridges, they can be designed into a wide array of devices. The designs reflected the need to enhance freedom and mobility, a couple of the pervasive themes in all of consumer electronics.

mini-smallThe first-place winner in the youth category was Zink Mix (top), an iPhone docking station with an embedded Zink printer that together with a Zink iPhone app lets youths print their web or phone-based content. Patrick Schuur of the design firm Maketropolis in the Netherlands created the design.

The first-place winner in the category of breaking traditional bonds between printer and paper was Mini Giant (left), which is a robotic printer that self-propels itself over a sheet of Zink paper of any size to create a print. It can even do a large format poster. The designer was Paula Adina Sumalan, a recently graduated design student from Romania.

And the People’s Choice winner was smartBC (bel0w), a business card printer designed by Brazilian designer Arthur Ditlef.smart-bc