Feb. 10, 2015 | By Kira

If you’re a mechanical engineer or designer, the rapid-prototyping enabled by desktop 3D printing has already changed the speed at which you can create new iterations of your product, however electronic hardware developers often spend weeks or months waiting for custom circuit boards to be manufactured and shipped, and if there are any errors, they have to start again from scratch.

“We’re all part of the ‘Now Generation’,” says Alroy Almeida, co-founder of Voltera, a Canadian startup company that in one day has raised over $158,000 to develop a desktop circuit board printer. It’s an accurate statement: whether it’s fast food, instant coffee, or lightning-fast Internet connections, we expect results right away and hate having to wait.

Thanks to Voltera, electronics developers will be able to greatly reduce the time it takes to build or order new circuit boards, and much like 3D print designers, go from concept to creation in minutes.

The sleek-looking and desktop-sized Voltera V-One easily prints two-layer circuit boards by laying down a highly conductive, silver nanoparticle ink to create the traces as well as insulating ink, which acts as a mask between layers. In addition to printing circuit boards, the V-One is also a solder paste dispenser and can reflow.

For users, the process is deceptively simple: there is only one button, the ink cartridges snap on and of magnetically, and Voltera’s advanced software automatically detects trace intersections and lays down a mask where two traces overlap. As the company’s description states: “Gerber files go in; FR4 boards come out. The magic happens in the middle.”

That’s not to say that the process of actually developing the V-One was easy. Co-founders Alroy Almeida, Katarina Ilic, James Pickard and Jesus Zozaya, former engineering students at the University of Waterloo in Canada, tapped into their backgrounds in nanotechnology and mechatronics engineering and have spent the past two years in chemical experimentation, ensuring they hit their benchmarks for conductivity, solderability, and reliability.

As engineering students, Almeida, Ilic, Pickard and Zozaya more than familiar with the long wait times and high costs of outsourcing their circuit board designs to fabrication houses. The Voltera V-One is their personalized solution, eliminating the need to pay for stencils, extra shipping or expedition feeds. The technology still requires refinement, and is not exactly comparable to fabricated boards—the printed silver ink used by Voltera isn’t the same as the plated copper, however as the company explains “similar to how you can’t compare a 3D printed part to a molded part…both have value for their application”—it is nevertheless a huge step forward for electronics developers.

In addition to prototypes, the V-One can be used for small-batch runs, and in time, the company hopes to be used by bigger companies for prototyping as well as creating actual products.

For now, the printer will come with a cartridge of conductive ink, insulating ink, solder paste, solder wire, blank boards in a few sizes, a sample pack of template boards, as well as cables and tools to get started. If you’re interested, be sure to contribute to their Kickstarter campaign, which has already raised over $158,000 from 214 backers, $88,000 more than their original goal. The first two batches of $1,199 early-bird printers have already been sold, as well as the $1,799 ‘first in line’ lot, however for $1,499, you can reserve your very own second-batch Voltera V-One, which is planned to ship in January 2016.


Posted in 3D Printers


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Rudy A wrote at 4/19/2015 5:33:33 PM:

It would be nice if this could be taken to one level further and it would drill the holes in the board as well. Heck, the information is already in the upload file.

CNK wrote at 2/12/2015 11:15:54 PM:

Reading the comments, it seems clear that the printed boards can't currently be reflow soldered, even though it has the paste dispensor. They expect to be able to develop the conductive "ink" further so that it can be reflowed in the future, but they don't say how long after the machines are sold that will be. They also don't mention whether printed boards can survive the hotter temperatures of traditional through hole soldering. They don't seem to mention a feedrate, but say 1.5h for an "average" turnaround time. In throry, some people can get a board chemically etched much quicker than that, and the number of traces is less relevant. Personally I'm still trying to get my etching time below hours, but I'm rubbish and with a proper etching tank (which would usually be much cheaper) a number of boards can be done in one shot, in less than half an hour. Anyway, I still think it's a step in a very good direction, but they could do better making the limitations of this design clearer. That seems always to be the case for crowdfunding things though, unfortunately.

GG wrote at 2/11/2015 4:27:04 PM:

why the all gone backer are not equal to the total backer ? Am I miss something ?

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