Tag Archives: 3D-Printed Circuit Boards

Argentum is like a 3D printer for PCBs

Cartesian Co.’s rapid prototyping machine is putting the “print” back in printed circuit boards.

Despite how far 3D printing has come over the past couple of years, a number of startups have been looking for new ways to take it one step further. Rather than just spit out odds and ends in plastic, what if you could quickly extrude something a bit smarter, like circuit boards, on demand? That’s the idea behind Cartesian Co.’s rapid prototyping machine dubbed Argentum.


While it admittedly may not be the first startup to come up the idea of putting the “print” back in printed circuit boards, it is among the very few that have squeezed the price down to Maker-friendly levels. If the New York-based company sounds familiar, that’s because there’s a good chance you may have come across their incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2013 — called EX¹ at the time — which garnered over $137,000. Since then, Cartesian Co. has shipped nearly 200 units and has worked diligently on improving the reliability of its inks and substrates

Simply put, Cartesian Co. is hoping that Argentum will transform electronics and prototyping in the same way that conventional 3D printing revolutionized traditional manufacturing. The gadget works by layering down silver nano-particles through an inkjet process onto almost any substrate you could imagine.


First, a user must generate the artwork for their electronics design. From there, the image is exported and processed by the Argentum’s custom control software, which generates code that the printer can directly interpret. The printer can then receive the command file via a USB interface, through the stock SD card port or even through a web interface if the user has the RasPiFi add-on. This enables a Maker to go from a circuit board design to reflowing solderable PCBs in a matter of minutes, without all the overhead costs of low production runs — something that is tremendously valuable for hobbyists, engineers and startups on a limited budget with time constraints.

“This lets you create electronics, just as you’ve envisioned — wearable electronics, paper circuits, printed computers or whatever you imagine. A 3D printer creates the objects of your imagination; the Argentum lets you create the electronics of your imagination,” company co-founder Ariel Briner explains.

Argentum - Carrier

So, how does the innovative machine work? Essentially, two inkjet cartridges (similar to the ones in a standard printer) print images on a substrate, but instead of ink they lay down two different chemicals. When these two chemicals mix, a reaction occurs, producing silver nano-particles, leaving a silver image. Aside from only conventional circuit board materials, the Argentum can employ a variety of other substrates that might not be commonly associated with electronic circuitry. These include paper, wood, ceramic, Kapton, fiberglass, and looking ahead, fabric.

Take this “Simon Says” game, for example, that the team printed on fiberglass. It has an ATtiny4313 running Arduino and capacitive touchpads for user input.

“One capability of the Argentum that we’re really excited about is the ability to print straight onto fabric. Anyone who has used conductive thread will tell you how frustrating it is when the thread breaks but you can’t find the break! With the Argentum, you can print circuits straight onto the material of your choice,” Briner adds.

The electronics, including an ATmega2560 at its core, are housed inside a sleek, black acrylic enclosure that would be an aesthetically-pleasing mainstay in any Makerspace. The Argentum boasts a build area of 6.7” x 4” with an overall footprint of 16.9” x 14.1” x 5.2” — meaning, it will fit perfectly on a workbench or desktop. On top of that, the Cartesian Co. crew offers complete flexibility with its software from importing an image with default settings and clicking print, to exerting control over every printing variable.


The device prints at a native resolution of 300DPI, which can be enhanced to 600DPI using its software. What’s more, Argentum can print, assemble and test a circuit board in less than two hours, while eliminating the hassle and dangers typically associated with hazardous chemicals.

“This means you will be able print footprints as fine as TSSOP (0.65mm pitch) on our treated G10 substrate and SOIC (0.8mm pitch) on all our other materials including polyimide, linen paper, stone paper and more,” the team writes.

Circuits printed on G10, polyimide and paper can be hand soldered as well. This will, of course, require a bit more skill and needs to be done relatively fast to avoid damaging the silver traces.

Intrigued? Head over to Cartesian Co.’s official site to learn more, and pre-order your own unit for $1,599. Delivery of the next batch is slated for September 2015.


Print your own circuit boards in under an hour with Voltera

The V-One will allow Makers to go from concept to creation in just minutes.

The emergence of 3D printing continues to revolutionize the way in which companies and Makers go about the prototyping process. And, as you’re well aware, constructing your own circuit boards can certainly be a daunting task. Now, what if converging these two elements could significantly cut down the time between concept and creation? That’s the idea of Voltera’s new V-One circuit printer, which we first saw on the CES 2015 show floor and has since hit Kickstarter. The Waterloo-based startup is hoping to eliminate many of the frustrations typically associated with traditional fabrication, all while accelerating development.


According to the team, the Voltera V-One is the first conductive ink printer that goes further than simply printing single layer circuits on paper. The device is said to be capable of producing electrically-separated dual-layer circuits onto FR4. What’s more, the V-One can create an insulating mask that goes over the first layer of conductive ink before a second layer is printed, thereby enabling traces to cross over each other. It also offers a solder paste option to let Maker reflow surface-mount components onto existing boards.

How it works is relatively simple. Using a print head full of conductive ink, the Voltera can recreate a variety of circuit traces from a schematic that are required to connect chips and other hardware components together. The printer itself only has one button, in addition to magnetic ink cartridges that are designed to snap on/off, allowing for easy transitions between materials. Meanwhile, its software will guide a user through each step and handle all of the file conversions.

As easy as the process may be, it is important to point out that these boards aren’t meant to replace mass manufactured PCBs altogether. Instead, it is merely a prototyping tool that aspires to help bring ideas to life in a much quicker, more efficient manner.


“How many times have you tossed out a board because you used the wrong footprint or because you forgot a pull-up resistor? If you’re anything like us… more times than you’d like to admit. Now you can quickly test an idea without wasting money or two weeks of your time,” the team writes.

Each printer will come with template boards — which at the moment are shield boards for the Arduino Uno (ATmega328) and Mega (ATmega2560) — that are cut to shape and pre-drilled to get you up and running in expedited fashion. The machine is compatible with a number of operating systems, including Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as CAD tools like EAGLE, Altium, Upverter and KiCad.


The team shares that a relatively standard layout, such as that of an Atmel based Arduino, can print in just about 15-20 minutes. Then, add 30 minutes for the ink to dry, and you have yourself a finished prototype circuit board in under an hour — all with just the press of a button.

  • Printer size: 390mm x 257mm x 207mm
  • Print Area: 138mm x 102mm
  • Printer weight: 7kg (15.4lbs)
  • Maximum board thickness: 3mm
  • Substrate material: FR4
  • Heated bed temperature: 250°C
  • Connectivity: USB

And while the V-One may not be the first circuit board printer to hit Kickstarter, it does appear to be one of the more impressive and advanced devices we’ve seen thus far. If you recall, both Voxel8 and Squink are also seeking to make 3D-printed electronics a reality. Want a circuit board prototyping machine of your own? Head over to its Kickstarter page now, where Voltera been garnered over $500,000.