MME grads - founded Voltera has won one of the top 10 Innovation awards by Popular Science

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Circuit Board Printer

One print head deposits a custom-formulated, highly conductive silver nanoparticle paste. Another extrudes insulating ink to form layers of circuitry without risking electrical shorts. Solder paste from a third print head can attach components, such as resistors or microcontrollers, to the board.

2015 Invention Award Winner Category: Electronics
Inventors: Katarina Ilic, Alroy Almeida, Jesus Zozaya, James Pickard
Company: Voltera
Invention: V-One
Development Cost To Date: $200,000
Maturity: 5/5

While studying mechatronics at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Alroy Almeida, Jesus Zozaya, and James Pickard became frustrated by the inefficiency of designing circuit boards. “We’d spend a couple hundred dollars to get prototypes made at a factory and wait a few weeks, and they would come in and be wrong,” Almeida says. After they revamped the design, the agonizing process would begin again, sometimes through multiple prototypes.

Meanwhile, they watched as 3D printers rapidly prototyped other kinds of products. An inkjet printer that deposited circuits would speed up electronics design--but conductive material was too thick to squeeze through existing print heads. So when the friends graduated in 2013, they teamed up with nanoscientist Katarina Ilic to build their own device. Two years of R&D later, the team is preparing to ship the V-One to Kickstarter backers.

V-One’s swappable print heads lay down conductive circuits on fiberglass boards. By using its solder function to attach components, users can even produce small batches of their devices. Almeida hopes the printer will usher in a new generation of engineers. “This can help people understand that electronics don’t need to be difficult.”

Note: If you're interested in pre-ordering a V-One printer, Voltera has generously offered a discount to readers of Popular Science. To redeem it, go to www.voltera.io and enter the code POPSCI15. The discount is valid until May 15.

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