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Canadian start-up develops PCB printer

Posted: 17 Feb 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:PCB? printer? solder reflow? Raspberry Pi?

Voltera, a Canadian start-up, developed a small desktop PCB printer dubbed as Voltera-One. Apart from printing conductive circuit tracks and insulating masking layers, the device can also perform solder reflow once the solder paste has been applied.

All this using the same printer with swappable cartridges (for conductive traces, solder etc...)

"Four days, 400% funded," the company posted on its Facebook page, now having reached $313,069 in crowdfunding, well over its $70,000 goal. The desktop unit will work from multi-layer Gerber files to print your first prototypes, getting rid of messy etching steps or time-consuming.

Beyond prototyping, you can also use the printer to dispense solder paste to small series of outsourced boards before pick-and-place. Each printer will come with a cartridge of conductive ink, insulating ink, solder paste, solder wire, blank boards in a few sizes and a sample pack of template boards. For now, the start-up is offering Uno and Mega PCB templates but will consider other ones such as Spark Core, Raspberry Pi or Beagle Bone, depending on backers' feedback.

Software is bundled with the kit that guides users through every step while handling all the file conversions. For example, the software automatically detects trace intersections and lays down a mask where two traces overlap.


Second layer bridging over a first layer (blue insulating pad in between). (Source: Voltera)

The closest PCB printing alternative that comes to mind would be BotFactory's Squink printer, although the later has a slightly smaller printing area and won't handle multi-layer designs (it only prints conductive ink or conductive glue). Squink is certainly seen as delivering less rugged circuits (the components are glued instead of being soldered), but on the other hand it allows circuit design on just about any non-porous surface (since it's a cold printing process with no solder reflow involved).

- Julien Happich
??EE Times Europe

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