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Desktop PCB printer eases prototype development

Posted: 11 Feb 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:desktop PCB printer? Kickstarter? double-sided board?

In only 35 minutes, Voltera reached its original goal when it launched its Kickstarter campaign for its desktop PCB printer.

Do you remember my column Want a Voltera Desktop PCB Printer? from December 2014? If so, as you may recall, Voltera is a Canadian company that plans on offering desktop-size PCB printers for fast prototype development.

Following my original posting, there was some debate via the comments as to whether the description of "two layer" circuit boards meant two conductive layers printed on one side of the board separated by an insulating medium, or whether it actually referred to a double-sided board.

As it turns out, and as you can see from this video of the little beauty in action, it was the former scenario!two conductive layers printed on the same side of the board separated by an insulator.

Desktop PCB printer

The reason this is of particular interest here is that!earlier today!the folks at Voltera launched this Kickstarter campaign. I heard from Alroy Almeida at Voltera that they hit their original goal in just 35 minutes and, at the time of this writing, they are 2X oversubscribed!and that's on the first day; wow!

Can you imagine the combination of this desktop PCB printer and the desktop pick-&-place (P&P) machine I blogged about earlier today (see Desktop Pick-&-Place Machine DIY Kit). With these two machines!along with a 3D desktop printer!I could rule the world!

Now, this printer is primarily targeted at surface-mount designs. In addition to being able to print two conductive layers separated by an insulating medium, the machine can dispense solder paste into the requisite locations and it also provides reflow functionality. My chum and fellow EE Times blogger, Duane Benson, could really use one of these. As soon as I've posted this blog I'm going to point him at it.

For myself, I'm still stuck in time using through-hole technologies. The thing is that, with this machine's ability to print two signal layers on one side of the board, I wouldn't actually need plated-through vias because I could just make do with holes to stick the component leads through.

Of course, I could drill these holes by hand, but I'd rather use a machine to do this. As you'll see from the Kickstarter video, the various print cartridges (conductor, insulator, solder paste) are easily swappable. I really wish they would offer a "drill cartridge" option. I've been email-chatting to Alroy about this. He says that FR4 dust particles don't play well with print heads, but that it's something that they are often asked and that they have some ideas...

So, I'm hoping some form of hole-making option comes along. If the dust from drilling causes a problem, I'd be quite happy with a laser-based solution to simply zap the holes through (LOL). If I hear anything further about this I'll let you know. In the meantime, what do you think? Could you use a machine like this on your desktop?

- Max Maxfield
??EE Times





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