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Print your circuit boards, dispense solder paste, and reflow! The Voltera V-One lets you go from concept to creation in minutes. Read more

763
backers
$428,835
pledged of $70,000 goal
 
 

This project will be funded on .

Print your circuit boards, dispense solder paste, and reflow! The Voltera V-One lets you go from concept to creation in minutes.

Voltera
Project by

Voltera

First created  |  5 backed

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About this project

Building hardware sucks!  Whenever we wanted to create a circuit board for an electronics project, we were forced to mess around with dangerous chemicals or send it to a fab house and wait for weeks for the board to arrive.

The Voltera V-One can create a prototype board right from your work bench. Gerber files go in; FR4 boards come out.  The magic happens in the middle... the printer lays down a conductive ink to create the traces and an insulating ink as a mask between layers. 

These boards aren't meant to replace mass manufactured PCBs - this is a prototyping tool that helps you get  there faster. How many times have you tossed out a board because you used the wrong footprint or because you forgot a pull-up resistor? If you're anything like us... more times than you'd like to admit. Now you can quickly test an idea without wasting money or two weeks of your time!   

But what if you have ten or twenty traditionally fabbed boards that need to be populated?  Did we mention that the printer is also a solder paste dispenser and can reflow as well?  Handy!

The printer only has one button and the ink cartridges snap on and off magnetically.  Our software will guide you through every step and will handle all the file conversions.  Pretty simple!  

Conductive ink dispensing
Conductive ink dispensing

When we say simple... we mean for you.  Hitting the spec we set out for ourselves was incredibly difficult but we're hoping our hard work means your life becomes easier!

Creating a two layer board is a breeze… While designing, keep the vias and layers like you normally would.  After the first layer is printed and cured, swap in the insulating ink cartridge.  

Swappable print heads
Swappable print heads

The software automatically detects trace intersections and lays down a mask where two traces overlap.  

L: Design in EAGLE, M: Print preview in the Voltera software (insulating masks in green), R: Printed board
L: Design in EAGLE, M: Print preview in the Voltera software (insulating masks in green), R: Printed board

If you’re still etching or milling your own boards, gone are the days of aligning double sided boards and fly-wiring through tiny holes just to get your circuit to work!

L: insulating mask being laid down, R: second layer bridging over first layer
L: insulating mask being laid down, R: second layer bridging over first layer

Once your board is ready for components to be added, set your iron to 240 C and solder away!  (Reflow onto Voltera printed boards is currently under development)

Are dev boards the first step in your development cycle?  Do you find yourself with a mess of satellite boards wired up to the micro? Each printer comes with template boards that are cut to shape and pre-drilled to get you up and running ASAP. 

Uno and Mega templates
Uno and Mega templates

We will be starting with Arduino Uno and Mega shield boards but will be adding more as we go.  Backers get a say in what comes next!  Spark Core?  Raspberry Pi?  Beagle Bone?

Past the protoyping stage and need to do a small batch run?  We can help there too!  Get the boards fabbed and swap the print head to transform the printer into a solder paste dispenser.  

Solder paste dispensing
Solder paste dispensing

 Once the paste is down, add the components and click reflow!  Voila!

Reflow solder
Reflow solder

We averaged the turnaround times from a few different fab shops.  Here's what we found:

Comparing costs of a printed board to a fabbed board is a bit more difficult because:

  • domestic fab shops tend to be more expensive
  • printed silver ink isn't the same as plated copper.  Similar to how you can't compare a 3D printed part to a molded part; however, both have value for their application
  • with the printer, you won't have to expedite your order 
  • with the printer, you won't need to pay shipping costs
  • with the printer, you won't need to pay or wait for stencils
's video poster
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Each 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, and all the cables and tools you need to get started.
We don't have prices for replacement consumables at the moment because we're working hard to get bulk volume savings that we can pass on to you.  Consumables will be available on our website.
Handy FR4 ruler with tons of info that we all forget over and over
Handy FR4 ruler with tons of info that we all forget over and over
Note:  Colors in the image may not exactly match the shirt.  Sizing information will be collected after the campaign.
Note: Colors in the image may not exactly match the shirt. Sizing information will be collected after the campaign.

James came up with this brilliant idea back in Aug 2012 but we didn't start working full-time until May 2013. Over the following months we worked heavily on the chemistry and fluid deposition systems around inkjet technology.

In early 2014 we finally decided that inkjet printing would not meet our spec for conductivity, resolution, and solderability. Using everything we learned in the prior months, we took the technology in a new direction with more viscous inks.

We learned so much more from the triplets (left) and got to test many iterations of our ink cartridge system.  The renders (middle and right) show the progression of the aesthetics into something we are now incredibly proud of! 

The time was right to pack up and move to Shenzhen, China to build the final prototype and start building out our supply chain.  The entire country moves at a start-up's speed so we were able to get so much done while there!

Once the details started to fall into place, we got a chance to live our dream of going to the Consumer Electronics Show!  We got to meet hundreds of amazing hardware designers and even had the chance to pitch to 50 Cent!

We’d like to send a big big big thank you to our AMAZING support system:

  • Velocity staff, alumni, and companies
  • HAX staff, alumni, and companies
  • UW Engineering, UW SDC, Communitech, and the Kitchener-Waterloo community
  • Matt Ewertowski the greatest intern ever
  • Antony Bui for the video and photography
  • Cortex Design 
  • MaryAnn, Steve, Catherine, and Sarah  
  • Dominic, Don, John
  • Ilia Baranov for his help with the ruler
  • Our friends, families, and everyone that helped review the KS page 
Most importantly, we’d like to thank all our backers for making our dream come true.  We love you!

Press contact:  press@voltera.io

Risks and challenges

We’ve got a great product, a phenomenal team, and a wicked plan to make it happen, but like many Kickstarter projects we also have a few challenges to overcome before the printer gets into your hands...

Supply Chain and Manufacturing
Choosing the right vendors and manufacturers is particularly difficult for many Kickstarter projects due to lack of experience. Since this is so critical to delivering on our promise, we have moved to Shenzhen, China (the hardware capital of the world) which means we have selected factories that we have visited ourselves to inspect the machinery, working conditions, and quality of previous products they’ve built. We also intend to spend a large amount of time at the factories while completing our first production run.

We have meticulously sourced quality parts from suppliers we trust and already have working relationships with. We’re working very closely with awesome mentors with tons of experience designing products and bringing them to market. This means the printer has already been designed for manufacturing and assembly.

Assembly and Quality Control
The reason we are shipping units in a small initial batch and a second larger one is so that we can ensure the highest quality printers for our backers. Assembling and shipping the first batch by hand in China means we can ensure all the parts meet our spec and so we can make changes to manufacturing processes before components get shipped to North America. We are confident that this is the best way to get the products to you as soon as possible.

Since QA is such a major focus for us, we’ll be testing components and subassemblies multiple times during the assembly process. Although this adds a little bit of time, it also ensures a robust product that can withstand you putting it through its paces for many years.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

FAQ

  • You will be able print onto FR4 – the fibreglass board that most rigid electronics are made out of. The FR stands for flame retardant so you don’t need to worry about heat issues like you would have to on paper or other low temperature substrates.

    We’ve also successfully printed circuits on glass! We want to do further testing to make sure they meet our quality standards before supporting them.

    We’re still putting thought into the sizes of substrates you can purchase from our website. There will be at least a small and a large and we are going to try to match them to common board sizes. You can also cut larger boards to whatever geometries you need!

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  • These are both great alternatives for creating low volumes of PCBs and we’re not trying to displace them. What we think we do well is
    1) allow quick prototyping without dealing with harsh chemicals, special chemical disposal, and having to babysit the etchant
    2) allow prototyping of boards right away.. have a new idea? Test it right away! This is the first time ever that you can get affordable same day fabrication. Often, even waiting a few days can result in wasted time, and wasted money.

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  • The software currently runs on Windows but we’re hoping to have Linux and OSX support by the time we ship.

    In a perfect world, people would follow industry standards, but unfortunately CAD tools do not export Gerbers in the exact same way. By the time we ship we should have worked out the intricacies of EAGLE, KiCAD, Upverter, and Altium.

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  • This depends on the size and complexity of the circuit. Laying down the traces only takes 5-20 minutes. Each layer needs to be thermally cured after it has been deposited and that takes about 30 minutes.

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  • Once we start shipping units, our online store will go live and you will be able to pick up replacement conductive ink, insulating ink, solder paste, substrates, and other small tools that you may need for electronics work.

    The ink is not available off-the-shelf so you would not be able to refill cartridges yourself. We are also going to be investing in the right machinery to fill cartridges so that we always have ink in stock.

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  • The best solder wire to use is Sn62 (Sn62-Pb36-Ag2) or SAC305 (Sn96.5-Ag3-Cu0.5). Both of these alloys are easily found online and you will also be able to purchase them from our website.

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  • Fear not! Shipping for the Electronics Ruler and Maker T-shirt is included!

    Unfortunately, we can’t promise the same for the printer for a few reasons
    -some countries are broken up into zones with wildly varying shipping costs
    -customs and duty costs vary by country
    -although we have reduced the footprint of the printer as much possible, it is still a substantial package

    We will contact you prior to sending your unit out with a customized shipping quote based on your location. Once we receive your payment, the unit will be out the door! We’re going to try our best to make this as painless as possible! =)

    Our best shipping cost approximations are:
    Canada: $20 USD
    USA: $35 USD
    Europe: $80 USD
    South America: $70 USD
    Australia: $80 USD
    Antarctica: 10 penguins

    We hope this makes for a smooth fulfillment process!

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  • First of all, you’re awesome! Thank you for showing so much support! The easiest way to get multiple rewards is to back a reward with the total pledge amount and send us a private message with the items you want.

    For example:
    Pledge : $1,499 + $35 = $1,534
    Private Message: I just backed for a Voltera V-One and a T-Shirt!

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  • The shelf life of the ink is 6 months but can be extended by putting it in the fridge.

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  • The Voltera V-One doesn’t have a drill so holes cannot be automated at the moment. That being said, manually drilling the holes is just as easy as it would be if you etched the board yourself.

    We accomplish printing two layer circuits by sandwiching an insulating ink between layers of conductive inks. Our software automatically converts vias you have in the design into bridges so that one trace can jump over another.

    In the future, we hope to scale this technology to support higher layer counts. Additive manufacturing has many amazing opportunities!

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  • A pick and place system is a very common feature request. Unfortunately, components will have to be added by hand for now. This is something that we would love to include and might be featured as an add-on later down the road.

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  • We have had some success reflowing onto Voltera (ink-based) circuit boards. However, it is still not in a state that we feel comfortable supporting our backers with. That being said, we are actively working in the chemistry lab to get the reflow capabilities onto Voltera (ink-based) circuit boards up to par so that we can confidently support this feature in the near future.
    Although ink-based circuit boards cannot be reflowed at this time, circuit boards made using traditional methods (etched/milling) can be reflowed!

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  • Each refill of conductive ink has enough to print up to 100m of conductive trace at a width of 0.2mm (~8 mil). In other words, 200cm^2 of solid fill.

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