Technology
Voltera’s Circuit Printer Launches on Kickstarter, Smashes Goal in Minutes

voltera v1

The Voltera V-One circuit printer, one of our favorite finds at CES this year, just launched its crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter — and hit $100,000 in 35 minutes.

The Voltera system provides multiple capabilities: It will print the traces for your prototype circuit board (at 8mil space and trace), dispense solder paste to allow you to place SMD components on professionally manufactured boards, and provide heat for reflowing those electronics onto boards. And it prints multiple layers with a transparent ink.

voltera-printing

The extruders on the system pop on and off with magnetic clasps, allowing for easy transitions between materials.

voltera-swapping

The hardware helps advance at-home circuit making, a largely homebrew activity that normally requires using etching chemicals or small CNC mills to create boards, and hacked toaster ovens to do reflow soldering.

Aside from being one of our favorite CES finds, Voltera won the TechCrunch “Hardware Battlefield” competition at the event, taking home a cool $50,000. They are Haxl8r product development alums, as well.

The Kickstarter page has the printer priced at $1499, and shipping January 2016.

15 thoughts on “Voltera’s Circuit Printer Launches on Kickstarter, Smashes Goal in Minutes

  1. Hate to think like this, but I’m wondering how many of those 20 early-bird backers who got $300 off the price are friends and acquaintances of the project’s creators? I can’t stand Kickstarter projects that offer such substantial discounts to a very small number of early backers.

    1. I just can’t agree with your thinking. How would you ever know if they decided to simply hand their brother-in-law one for free. They don’t publicly display nepotism just to get-your-goat James, they pick a number 20 or so to get the ball rolling and to get some buzz. If they want to misuse funds they won’t be posting it on Kickstarter they’ll just pocket them.

      You just sound like someone who can’t stand that anyone got a better deal than you.

      1. Sorry, but wrong. I know of two Kickstarter projects who alerted me and a handful of others to let us know when they were going live and telling us to jump in quick to grab the early birds. I wasn’t interested in backing (I was contacted because they figured I could use a particular blog I write for to generate some buzz for them) and told both project leaders that what they were doing was unethical.

        I had no intention of backing this project, early bird or not. What I see are just 20 units being sold for an amazing cost savings. For a $1500 item, the early bird backers are saving 20%. Twenty people are NOT going to generate a sufficient amount of buzz — give that discount to 200 or 500, then you’re talking. (And I’ve seen a lot of products do this with early bird special — 3Doodler comes to mind, but I know there are more.)

        I see a lot of Kickstarter projects that offer early bird prices for $5, $15, and maybe $25 discounts… but $300 screams to me that some friends (lets call them makerspace acquaintances if that term is too specific) have just gotten a subsidized unit. A grand total of $6000 has been saved by just twenty people. Why not offer 120 early bird specials at $50 discounts? That could easily have been 6x more effective word of mouth advertising.

        Anyone who frequents Kickstarter should always be on the lookout for this kind of thing. It exists and projects do it. I’m not upset that someone got a better deal than me… I’m upset that twenty people got a MUCH better deal than that 21st person (and the 1000th) who may have gotten word of this project just a few minutes too late and must now pay an additional $300 because they didn’t get an email or tweet alerting them to a project going live.

        1. I’m failing to see what difference this makes in practice. If they make it 500 units then they are losing a good bit of money. If they just do away with it all together then the 21st backer doesn’t get anything anyway. Just about any successful Kickstarter campaign requires a good amount of active effort to get people interested and ready to buy, before the campaign is even up. If the product is decent and the team did a good job spreading the word, the first slots are usually gone pretty quick.

          Nearly every Kickstarter does this, and I’m really not getting your reasoning. Had you followed Voltera before the KS launched, you would indeed have gotten an e-mail about it. This is pretty standard practice…

          In any case if they really want to give their friends a good deal they could just…agree to sell a few for less than they usually charge, Kickstarter or no. Doing everything you can to ensure a KS is successful rather than staying hush-hush about it until it launched doesn’t sound more ethical to me – just poor planning.

    2. James, I understand your point. But everyone who launches a kickstarter, even a team with an idea as great as this one, really stands on a precipice before hitting “Launch Project” driven by two competing visions, between fear and hope: (1: fear) will anyone buy them at all, will they even make their funding goal? and (2: hope/fear) if they do make their funding goal (or blow by it in this case), will they have enough money to bring it through to manufacturing?

      In a project as intense and advanced as this, the founding team will need to spend most of the next year working to get the product into a perfected product that people will love, manufactured with precision and quality, if they are to grow a successful company out of it… and this team has been working on this technology for >1 year already (disclosure, I know the team because I’m part of Haxlr8r).

      A 20% discount to early backers is pretty much “de rigueur” on kickstarter. It seems like a lot because it’s $300 in this case… but 20% is a pretty standard discount to try to get the fence sitters off the fence in the #1 fear case, and give a bit of momentum to the kickstarter.

      In this case, their fears were perhaps unfounded… it’s an amazing product and they are well on their way to building a thriving company. But don’t assume they were so assured of that in the scary moments before they hit “GO”.

  2. That 0.8 mm minimum pin pitch really, really hurts – you lose out on every SSOP packaged part out there.

    Still a lot you can do, obviously, but that minimum pitch excludes a lot of parts.

      1. Will you be offering just the “print head” instead of the whole printer. Many potential customers have 3D printers that can be retrofitted to “print” circuits.

      2. Yep, I’ve seen your breakout board solution. Could you elaborate on why the pitch is so coarse though? Is it the stepper resolution? Paste viscosity? I backed you guys one printer and T/SSOP without breakout boards would be very nice to have indeed.

          1. I’m glad to hear there are no fundamental problems with resolution of a print itself, but rather the trace compound properties. Do you expect to be able to upgrade the v1 printers/cartridges as the ink improves?

            Thanks for your work!

    1. I agree. This, or any similar product, will be part of everyone’s shop in the near future. But waiting 12 months to get the Voltera? I guess there will be others just around the corner coming up with similar and/or better solutions.

      I could simply retrofit my 3D printer with a different toolhead and laser-engrave (remove the copper) my pcbs. Something that is done a lot with laser cutters.

  3. It sounds like really great way to rough out a PC board but when it comes to plated through holes (or Via’s for the double sided capability), you need to add more steps and equipment to complete the operation.
    Has the conductive ink, solder paste consumable costs been announced?

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Mike Senese is the Executive Editor of Make: magazine. He is also a TV host, starring in various engineering and science shows for Discovery Channel, including Punkin Chunkin, How Stuff Works, and Catch It Keep It.

An avid maker, Mike spends his spare time tinkering with electronics, doing amateur woodworking, and attempting to cook the perfect pizza.

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