Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are the electronic paths on an insulated surface that help power appliances such as smartphones, biomedical devices, and other electronic technologies. To research and develop new electronics, it is vital for engineers, inventors, and students working in this area to be able to prototype PCBs cheaply and quickly. But this process tends to be time consuming and expensive. The Voltera V-One, the 2015 James Dyson Award winner, has solved this problem by using the same rapid prototyping principles that underpin 3D printing to turn design files into prototype boards in minutes.
Four engineering students from the University of Waterloo, Canada, designed the laptop-sized PCB printer, which is similar in many ways to the compact, additive manufacturing design of desktop 3D printers. The Voltera V-One lays down conductive and insulating inks to create a functional, 2-layer circuit board. It’s also a solder paste dispenser, allowing components to be added to the board and reflowed by a 550w heater.
Jesús Zozaya, co-founder, says: “We’re at a critical point with Voltera. Our parts are now being manufactured and we are about to begin a new wave of testing in our lab. The £30,000 we’ve been awarded as winners of the James Dyson Award will help us to ramp up production and enhance testing.” James Dyson says: “The Voltera V-One team is made up of four impressive young graduates. Their solution makes prototyping electronics easier and more accessible – particularly to students and small businesses. But it also has the potential to inspire many more budding engineers. Something I am very passionate about indeed.”