Hardware development on the fast lane

January 05, 2017 // By Katarina Ilic
If only hardware development was as fast paced as software development, imagine how many more electronic devices would be impacting our lives and driving the global economy.

Each cycle of designing and testing requires prototype circuit boards, however, the delays traditionally begin compounding because the only source of these boards in low volumes are the same large factories that have been optimized for high volume production. 

Every designer has at one point been faced with the high minimum order quantities, set up costs, labor costs, shipping costs, and most infuriatingly, the lead times that can span several weeks – and that is for every iteration! 

A unique additive approach

Recently, additive processes for fabricating circuit boards have drawn much attention in the field of rapid prototyping. Since material is added and not removed, there is minimal waste. Additionally, the equipment can be small enough to fit on a benchtop, eliminating the need for a full factory for prototyping and the travel time to the customer. 

Fig. 1: Voltera V-One PCB prototyping tool.

As pioneers in this industry, Voltera recognized the advantages that this additive approach can provide during early hardware development and created the award winning Voltera V-One ( see figure 1).  The V-One is a multifunctional desktop tool that allows hardware developers to prototype PCBs in as little as an hour.

A user can use the V-One to:

  • Create circuitry on the standard FR-4 substrate and other materials by dispensing a fully-solderable conductive ink
  • Dispense solder paste onto boards created by the V-One as well as traditionally fabricated boards
  • Reflow solder components directly on the heated built-in platform

How it works

All of this is done through software that is as intuitive and visually appealing as an app on a mobile phone.  The interface guides you through every step from uploading your Gerber files (from Altium, CadSoft EAGLE, PADs, OrCAD, KiCad, etc.) to dispensing paste and reflowing the board once the circuit has been printed and thermally cured.