A group of UW’s mechatronic graduates have launched a circuit board prototyping machine, which raised $100,000 in just 35 minutes after its launch on Kickstarter — more than their final goal of $70,000. As of Feb. 18, the Voltera printer had raised more than $342,582, with 21 days still remaining for donations. </p>
Voltera Inc. was founded by a group of UW grads: Alroy Almeida, Jesus Zozaya, James Pickard, and Katarina Ilic. The startup works out of Velocity Garage in downtown Kitchener.
Zozaya said Voltera’s circuit board prototyping tool “enables hardware professionals and hobbyists to cut down their development time from weeks to minutes, drastically reducing their time to market,” because fabricating a circuit board typically needs to be done by a fabricator, most often located outside of the Americas, whereas Voltera can print a circuit board within minutes.
In an interview with The Record, Zozaya said, “If you are a hardware company and you want to develop circuit boards or develop your own electronics, the bottleneck right now is in the board itself.”
According to Zozaya, Voltera decided to try Kickstarter for funding because it has become a great resource for hardware companies.
“Crowdfunding has become a fantastic way for hardware companies to launch their product,” Zozaya said. “It validates demand for your product, it gets your name out there, and it connects you with your early adopters. If that wasn’t enough, you also get funding in the form of sales — the best type of funding.”
Almeida, Zozaya, and Pickard graduated from the University of Waterloo’s mechatronics program last April, when they decided to work on Voltera full-time. Zozaya credits Velocity and the university with some of its success.
“The journey [with Voltera] started when we won the Velocity Fund Finals back in March 2013. That was the first big win and made us realize we weren’t working on a project anymore, now it was a product,” Zozaya said. “We started development at the Velocity Garage, rubbing elbows with big startup names like BufferBox, Reebee, and MappedIn. These Waterloo companies became our friends and mentors, helping guide our decisions. Without all the resources provided by the university, our dreams would have died out long ago.”
The Voltera printer won the 2015 Tech Crunch Hardware Battlefield competition at the Consumer Electronics Show. The printer features are not only “printing” the circuit boards but it also solders and reflows which makes it an all-in-one circuit board printer.
The idea for the printer resulted after the creators were working for other companies during their co-op placements.
“At previous jobs, we didn’t have the time or budget to wait two weeks for circuit boards to be manufactured and shipped to us. As hobbyists, we couldn’t afford the high set up fees charged by fabrication centers. We got the idea for a circuit board printer around the same time that 3-D printers were starting to revolutionize the mechanical prototyping space, and wanted to create something similar for electronics prototyping,” Almeida said to TechCrunch.