A printer that can create printed circuit boards (PCBs) in a matter of minutes, after the manner of commercial 3D printers, has won this year’s James Dyson Award.
The Voltera V-One, designed by four graduates of the University of Waterloo, Canada, aims to solve a major problem in the design of PCBs – namely, the prototyping process, which often requires circuit board designs to be sent to a factory for printing, with any modifications requiring the process to be carried out all over again.
The laptop-sized V-One does away with this complication by using a process similar to the additive manufacturing methods of 3D printers to build functional two-layer circuit boards in a matter of a few minutes, directly from the user’s design files, according to the company.
The device also acts as a solder paste dispenser, allowing components to be added to the board. Once the components are in place, the board is warmed by a 550w heater, melting the paste and forming the new electro-mechanical connections.
Voltera was founded by Alroy Almeida, Katarina Ilic, James Pickard and Jesús Zozaya (pictured), graduates in mechatronics and nanotechnology, and is now based in the Velocity Foundry in Kitchener, Canada and at HAXLR8R, a start-up accelerator focused on hardware companies in Shenzhen, China.
The designers will be given $45,000 (£30,000) to further develop their idea, which is currently in testing, according to award organisers.
“Our parts are now being manufactured and we are about to begin a new wave of testing in our lab,” said Zozaya in a statement. “The $45,000 we’ve been awarded as winners of the James Dyson Award will help us to ramp up production and enhance testing.”
“Their solution makes prototyping electronics easier and more accessible – particularly to students and small businesses,” stated industrial designer James Dyson. “It also has the potential to inspire many more budding engineers.”
A runner-up award went to student Wei-Lun Huang of Chung Hua University, Taiwan, for the Green Fairy, a system of biodegradable cell beads containing microorganisms that consume nutrients in polluted water that cause harmful algal blooms.
Cathal Redmond of the University of Limerick was recognised for Express Dive, which reduces the number and size of parts needed to breathe underwater. Huang and Redmond are both to receive $7,500, award organisers said.
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