$4,220
pledged of $80,000pledged of $80,000 goal
8
backers
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Sun, March 18 2018 2:09 PM UTC +00:00
BetaElectronicsBy BetaElectronics
First created
BetaElectronicsBy BetaElectronics
First created
$4,220
pledged of $80,000pledged of $80,000 goal
8
backers
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Sun, March 18 2018 2:09 PM UTC +00:00

About

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No matter if you are a hardware engineer or an electronics hobbyist, making printed circuit boards is a TIME CONSUMING AND COSTLY routine. You typically need to submit designs to a PCB foundry, spend tens to hundreds of dollars and wait for a week or two to have your circuits made. Often, the first version does not work and iterations are generally needed to perfect the design. This means that you need to spend a lot more time and money! Sounds frustrating, right? That is exactly what motivated us to develop LITHO!

Litho helps engineers and hobbyists test their ideas faster and cheaper than ever!  A circuit board up to 4" x 4" can be made within 20 minutes and costs just $2-3 dollars, when and where you want it. Additionally, small circuit features can be printed with high resolution. Smallest feature and pitch separation can be as little as just 8 and 24 mils, respectively!

In addition to printed circuit boards, various patterns can be transferred onto different substrates, such as metals, plastics, granite, and ceramics etc., for arts and jewel making. 

Printing circuits and transferring patterns with Litho is as easy as 1-2-3! One just needs to click a few buttons, and the process is fully automatic.  

A detailed video clip is shown below from the beginning to the end of a circuit pattern transfer process using Litho. The inset shows screenshots of the user interface at different steps. It should be noted that the video is playing at the original (x1) speed without acceleration.

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A major component of Litho printer is a novel, wide- spectrum sensitive ink, which allows quick and precise transfer of circuit patterns. When a circuit is projected onto an ink- coated FR-4 board with copper cladding, the ink hardens through photo- polymerization reactions. While the un-cured (i.e. unexposed) ink can be rinsed away using tap water, the hardened ink behaves as an etching mask. Such a mask protects the circuit while copper in the unprotected area is removed when the printed board is subjected to a PCB etchant. Consequently, a PCB can be obtained by easily scratching the thin mask layer using a relatively fine sandpaper. An optional step of tinning can be used to protect the copper and allow easy soldering. 

Making a two- layer PCB? No problem! One just needs to sequentially print out the top and bottom layer, stack them up, drill holes and solder interconnecting pins at the desired locations.

With Litho, numerous fully functional PCBs have been fabricated to control LEDs, motors, fans and collect data from sensors. 

More complex circuits have also been successfully made. For example, we have used Litho to fabricate the electrical vehicle service equipment (EVSE) and successfully charged a Chevy Volt electric vehicle. Additionally, the circuit board controlling the whole Litho printer system can be made with the machine itself! If it works for us, it should work for you as well!

Similarly, the process can be used to transfer patterns for arts and crafts. For example, the same copper- cladded FR-4 plates for PCBs can be used as substrates to form arts with amazing contrasts and details. Additionally, pigments with different colors can be added into clear printing ink to print pictures and drawings on various different substrates, such as plastic phone cases, metal plates and granites, etc. Furthermore, those printed patterns may also act as etching masks. Consequently, not only can you print, but also etch patterns in various substrates so that you can create fantastic crafts and jewels, and show off your artistic talents in front of your family, co- workers and friends! 

LITHO helps one to greatly simplify and automate the processes for circuit pattern transfer. So, there is no need to burden your steam iron, jam your poor inkjet printer, or get stuck in the depressing dark room as what other DIY folks may instruct you to do. You just need to simplify press a few buttons, relax and wait for a few seconds. Voila! your circuit pattern is done and ready for etching!

Compared to conventional fabrication methods using a PCB foundry, Litho can lead to substantial time and cost savings, particularly for circuit prototyping. The table below compares the fabrication time and cost among Litho, domestic and international PCB service providers. Quotes to fabricate the same Litho control board were obtained from 3 different vendors and the averaged numbers are shown in the table below.

It should be noted that PCB prototyping tools are commercially available. One such example is Voltera from a Canadian company. The table below lists a fair, back-to-back comparison between Litho and Voltera.

Over the past few years, the creators of Litho had substantial project experience in developing novel photopolymer and resin- based 3D printing processes. The idea of using a similar technique to quickly transfer a circuit pattern onto a copper- cladded FR-4 board and use the resultant cured resin as etching mask for PCB fabrication was originated in 2016. Early that year, a very primitive, proof-of-concept laboratory prototype was built. It was fully functional, but required too many manual operations. For example, the resin was manually applied onto the substrate using eyedroppers and the shutter for resin exposure was also manually switched on and off. Manual operations make it inconvenient and also cause repeatability issue. Therefore, we implemented a control circuit to enable fully automatic operation. We also wrote software which can interpret Gerber design files to automatically generate the corresponding circuit patterns. Consequently, the printer can be used by both the professionals and hobbyists no matter if one has access to professional circuit design software. An alpha- version printer prototype was implemented in late 2016. In order to ensure high quality and consistent printing, we have done a great amount of experiments in 2017 to optimize the printing ink and processing parameters. Additionally, making arts and crafts using the printer was explored. Furthermore, we designed the printer enclosure and fabricated it using a 3D printer and assembled the whole enclosure piece by piece. Consequently, a beta version prototype was implemented. A few refinements on the equipment enclosure and user interface led us to the product- grade hardware in late 2017. We have also identified a sheet- metal enclosure fabricator, which can produce high quality printer enclosures with relatively low cost. Consequently, Litho printer can be enjoyed not only by us, but also by many innovative people like you!

Beverage Backers: We will update you with our progress and the overall project status. More importantly, we will share with you our kickstarter experience and our opinion on how to successfully raise funding through the platform. These may be helpful if you also want to kickstart your project to put your genius idea into work in the future.

PCB and Artwork Backers: You send us your design, and we will print the circuit/artwork for you as long as they fall within the specifications. The circuit will be one layer. If a two- layer board is needed, you may want to submit two designs separately. It is backers' responsibilities to make sure that the submitted designs are not proprietary or copyrighted materials.

 Litho Printer Backers: Backers for either the premium (L1) or regular (L2) version will get the following:

1) Printer hardware x 1

2) 350- ml printing ink x1

3) 4"x4" copper (1-oz) laminated FR-4 board  x10

Risks and challenges

We’ve got an amazing product, a highly productive team, and an effective plan to make it happen, so that many innovative people like you can also enjoy such a great product. But like many Kickstarter projects, we also need to overcome some challenges to deliver you our product with best value and best time. Such challenges are further described below:

Supply Chain and Manufacturing
Sourcing high- quality printer components at reasonable costs will directly impact our delivery schedule. Before launching the kickstarter campaign, we have already conducted very thorough research on the potential sources to supply printer components, including high quality DLP projector, reliable DC motors and peristaltic pump, power supplies, circuit boards, and even the connectors to connect various components with the control circuit. Additionally, we have found out that making the equipment enclosure with a small volume (e.g. tens of pieces) tend to be very expensive if the job is done here within U.S. Whether we can successfully shrink the cost of fabricating the enclosure will greatly affect our capability to deliver our promise. We have identified sheet- metal manufacturers in Dongguan, China ( the manufacturing capital of the world) and worked with some of them during the prototyping process. We will work with them rigorously to ensure that the sheet- metal enclosures can be produced with good quality and low cost.
As you may have already noticed, one of the Litho creators, Dr. Douglas Adolphson, has been working for a world- leading company for more than 30 years. He will be overseeing the whole project and make sure that we can achieve various project milestones on time.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    BEVERAGE BACKER

    Think we're doing a fantastic job or that this is a great technology? Buy us a coffee/tea/hot chocolate and we'll keep you updated with the developmental status of the project!

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    CUSTOM PRINTED CIRCUIT BOARD

    Seeing is believing? No problem! Submit your 1- layer circuit design Gerber file and we will make the circuit for you.

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    CUSTOM ARTWORK ON A PHONE CASE

    Want to show off your artistic talent? Send us your designs and drawings. No talent? No problem! Send a picture of yourself, a family member, a close friend, your pet or the catch of your lifetime, you name it! we will print it on your selected phone case. We will provide different color phone cases for the backers to select.

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    Pledge $1,049 or more About $1,049

    EARLY BIRD (LITHO- L2)

    LITHO- L2 requires an external computer to control. The functionality and ease of operation, however, are virtually the same as the premium version. Get them before they are all gone!

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    Pledge $1,299 or more About $1,299

    EARLY BIRD (LITHO-L1)

    Early birds get the worms! Get the premium version at the best shipping date and best value!

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    Pledge $1,349 or more About $1,349

    LITHO- L2

    Get one of the first LITHO printers and start printing with pride!

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    Pledge $1,599 or more About $1,599

    LITHO- L1

    Enjoy the premium version with the special kickstarter price! It will be going up afterwards!

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Funding period

- (30 days)