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Custom Circuit Board Printing Enables Rapid Prototyping
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By Kiran Umapathy | PSFK

The average consumer may not spend much time thinking about them, but circuit boards are in everything from our toasters to smartphones. As it turns out, getting these boards perfected are a major bottleneck for hardware developers and often a frustrating process.

Even in circuit board capital of the world Shenzhen, getting a circuit board created for prototyping can take two days, sou can imagine the arduous process of placing an international order, paying setup fees and shipping costs only to realize you made a slight error and having to start all over.

As part of the HAXLR8R hardware accelerator program, Canada-based Voltera Inc. has developed a solution to make rapid prototyping not only possible, but a cost-effective solution. Voltera’s V-One circuit printer enables circuit boards to be prototyped in as little as 15 minutes, considerably reducing the hardware development lifecycle. Like many new creations, the idea was born out of a pressing need. Co-founder Alroy Almeida explains:

As professional engineers, my co-founders and I couldn’t wait two weeks for circuit boards to be manufactured and shipped. As hobbyists, we couldn’t afford the high set up fees charged by fabrication centers. We were inspired by how 3D printers were starting to revolutionize the mechanical prototyping space, and set out to create a similar tool for electronics prototyping.

The process can be broken down into a few steps. Users design their circuit boards and open it up in the Voltera software. A blank board is placed on the print area and the design is printed in a silver conductive ink. The printer dispenses solder paste (metallic glue) and users affix components to the board. Finally, the printer bakes the board to create mechanical and electrical connections between the components and circuit. The Voltera V-One is also capable of handling circuits with multiple layers.

A basic LED circuitVoltera will be accepting pre-orders early next year and is spending the next few weeks preparing for the launch and getting the product into the hands of more hardware designers. The printer is expected to sell for an estimated $1499 US, with necessary supplies (inks, paste, and circuit boards) available for a small additional cost.

Seeing the printer in person, I was pleasantly surprised at the design aesthetics. It looked like the type of hardware one would proudly show on a workshop table or toss into a bag and bring with them to demo for friends.

“We’ve built a product that cuts the steps required to get a board, that cuts the cost of iteration, and most importantly, that cuts the time to that magic moment when your creation comes to life,” Almeida summarizes. “We want to match the move fast and break things mentality and smash down the barriers to building hardware.”

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