Printing Electronics: Voltera NOVA vs. Voltera V-One
by Christian on Sep 14, 2023
Printed circuit boards (PCBs) lie at the heart of manufacture of printing electronics, whether for research or commercial business. Thanks to innovative equipment manufacturers like Voltera, additive manufacturing and 3D printing are rapidly making headways into this segment.
Benchtop-sized “Direct Ink Write” machines, such as Voltera NOVA and Voltera V-One, enable manufacturers, product designers, and researchers to create complex PCBs and printed electronics in-house rapidly and affordably.
But which machine is the right one for your application?
Read on and find out all about the strengths and ideal use cases of Voltera NOVA and V-One.
Voltera is a technology company based in Waterloo, Canada. Founded in 2013, the firm has quickly become one of the leading players in the field of additive manufacturing PCBs and printed electronics.
From the beginning, Voltera has had a simple yet daunting goal — lowering the barrier of entry to electronics research and manufacturing by providing an easy and affordable method to manufacture PCBs. With this aim, the company launched V-One in 2015.
The V-One was one of the first desktop direct ink write (DIW) PCB printers, capable of producing rigid PCB’s much faster and more efficiently than before. Such prestigious organisations as NASA, Princeton University, and more across 80 countries now use the V-One. It’s currently being used as the basis of circuitry curriculum in South Korean schools.
Voltera soon realised users were experimenting with the V-One in innovative ways, such as attempting to print circuits on flexible materials. The revelation inspired Voltera to take its technology to the next level with the NOVA in 2022.
This latest machine builds on the technology of the V-One, introducing significant new developments that enable novel new use cases. Let’s take a look at both machines in greater detail.
Voltera NOVA & V-One at a Glance
|Voltera NOVA||Voltera V-One|
|Ink Dispensing Technology||Direct ink write (DIW)||Direct ink write (DIW)|
|Machine Dimensions||675 x 605 x 345 mm||390 × 257 × 207 mm|
|Print Area||220 x 300 mm||128 x 116 mm|
|Tool Module Slots||2||1|
|Compatible Tool Modules||Dispenser, probe||Dispenser, probe, drill|
|Mounting System||Vacuum plate, dynamic clamp||Mounting bars, sacrificial layer|
|Minimum Trace Width||0.1 mm||0.2 mm|
|XYZ Resolution||2.5 x 7 x 1.25 microns||10 x 10 x 1 microns|
|Substrate Compatibility||Rigid, high flex, stretchable, 3D.||Rigid, low flex|
|Max Substrate Thickness||30 mm||3 mm|
|Calibration||Integrated /w 8MP Camera||Manual|
|Dispensable Materials||Conductive Ink, Solder paste, Solder Flux, Mounting Glue, Custom Materials||Conductive Ink, Solder paste, Solder Flux|
|Max Syringe Capacity||2.5 ml||2 ml|
|User Interface||Web-based||Desktop-based (Win7, 8, 10; OSX)|
|Supported File Formats||Gerber||Gerber|
Voltera NOVA — A Flexible Research Powerhouse
Voltera NOVA is the first DIW printer of its kind for electronic products. It’s a very flexible machine — quite literally.
NOVA offers more freedom in the choice of printing substrate than other comparable machines, enabling users to print on flexible (such as PET), and stretchable (like TPU) materials and on substrates with non-flat surfaces.
Within the 220 x 300 mm print area substrates can be affixed directly to the unit’s porous titanium vacuum plate that applies even suction to hold material flat and secure its surface. It also comes with a set of elevated clamping units for mounting for substrates that the vacuum bed may not be suitable for, such as custom mounting jigs, more complex 3D substrates or porous materials.
It also has a surface mapping feature that allows it to recognise changes in the height of the substrate surface, meaning it can adjust the height of the nozzle as it prints, allowing it to print a consistent material trace on curved or angled surfaces.
The elimination of subtractive tooling enables fast and effortless printing for rapid prototyping and research purposes. The additive nature reduces material waste, conserving valuable resources and lowering costs. All in all, NOVA can increase iteration time by 90% and reduce material costs by 96% compared to traditional silkscreen PCB printing.
Speaking of materials, NOVA can dispense copper, silver, and carbon conductive inks, low temperature solder paste, solder flux, component mounting glue and any other material that meets the viscosity requirements, meaning screen printing inks and custom materials can also be used. The wide selection of materials allows for a smooth transition from prototyping to production.
For development of custom material settings, the interface has a guided calibration workflow to allow the user to set up new material profiles easily. Voltera is also working on developing an AI system that uses the camera and a feature recognition algorithm to auto-calibrate material settings for the user.
The unit can produce line widths as fine as 100μm (0.1 mm). Together with this and a +/-15μm positional accuracy, NOVA can create extremely finely detailed printed electronics.
Finally, the NOVA functions through an intuitive browser-based web interface that connects to the machine over Wi-Fi or Ethernet. With support for the common Gerber file format, users can design patterns in the most common CAD programs and transfer them to the printer remotely.
Consistent with Voltera’s aim to make electronics production more accessible, NOVA has been designed as an informative and intuitive system with guided workflows for each process that guide the user through each step and ensure they get the best results.
Ideal applications for Voltera NOVA include:
- Prototyping flexible electronics for medical and industrial uses
- Supporting R&D in printed electronics
- Functional materials research
- Engineering education
Voltera V-One — Compact PCB Prototyping Machine
Voltera V-One may have been the company’s first product, but it was and remains a game-changer in PCB production. This compact yet powerful machine succeeds in its goal of making PCB prototyping more affordable and accessible to all users.
The V-One is a 4-in-1 PCB printer for rigid circuit board substrates. Users can use the three swappable tool modules — a drill, probe, and dispenser — to print traces, dispense solder paste, reflow, and drill holes in the substrate.
Like the NOVA, V-One supports the Gerber file format, allowing users to design PCB patterns in virtually any CAD tool. After transferring the file to the V-One, the machine then dispenses conductive ink to create traces as fine as 2 mm in width. The drill module can also create through-holes for components or attachments.
After the ink has cured, the machine lays down solder paste for fixing components to the PCB with the built-in heater. The V-One can complete this entire process for up to two-sided PCBs up to 128 x 116 mm in size in less than an hour.
Thanks to this simple and intuitive workflow, the V-One can significantly increase iteration speed, resulting in a shorter development period and faster time to market. By performing PCB prototyping in-house, users can avoid costly outsourcing, not to mention the costs of traditional screen-printing processes. The V-One can even enable low-volume production in certain situations.
Thanks to its simple workflow and straightforward desktop user interface, the V-One is suitable for all skill levels. The machine has plenty to offer to students and electronics engineers alike.
Ideal applications for Voltera V-One include:
Which PCB Machine is Right for You?
You now know where Voltera NOVA and V-One shine. Although both are built on the same technology base — the NOVA was born from experimenting on the V-One, after all — they are different creatures for different purposes.
Due to its total material freedom and ability to work with flexible and stretchable substrates, Voltera NOVA is a prime choice for high-end research and development operations and organisations looking to push the limits of additively manufactured electronics by printing circuitry on practically anything.
As noted by Gerd Grau, director of the Electronics Additive Manufacturing Lab at York University, NOVA is your tool of choice for taking electronics into the future. Its strengths lie in creating products and solutions that are impossible to make with previous technologies.
But not everyone seeks to push the envelope. Voltera V-One is an excellent machine for organisations prototyping and producing more traditional PCBs. With its simple usability and high performance, it’s ideally positioned to shorten lead times and realise cost savings on materials and outsourcing.
The Voltera product family is a complete package for producing additive electronics. Together, the NOVAand V-One offer a solution for every use case, from the conventional to the most innovative.
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