For all the promise of 3-D printing, most machines can only shape plastic, meaning that if you want to build even a simple electronic at home, you’re going to be plugging in the bulky, premade circuits of Arduino boards. And if you’re a real industrial designer with proper resources, you’re going to be contacting a factory in China to build a custom circuit board to your specifications. Very little can be done quickly in-house.
But for $2,200, the Voltera V-One wants to give you the capability to prototype your own PCBs for custom projects. The V-One launched on Kickstarter earlier this year, and following several status updates that convey the young company is actually capable of shipping the thing, it’s just won the 2015 James Dyson Award for its potential impact on design and engineering.
The V-One isn’t so different from the inkjet printers we’ve used for decades. After designing your PCB with your software of choice, it prints it as a two-layer board, dropping a layer of conductive ink and then topping it with a layer of insulating ink. It can also lay down solder for you to connect more advanced components like microprocessors or Bluetooth chips. (Because PCBs, at the end of the day, function more as the nervous system of electronics than the actual brains.)
The V-One is on-track to ship in 2016, and you can still pre-order through the site.