Innovation at Your Benchtop: The Future of Rapid Prototyping

author avatar

26 Feb, 2024

Innovation at Your Benchtop: The Future of Rapid Prototyping

Voltera’s V-One benchtop printer is revolutionizing how electronics are developed with in-house, one-hour PCB prototyping.

Prototyping has always been an essential part of any product development, enabling engineers and inventors to test and validate their concepts and designs before moving into production. The same is true in the field of electronics, where new technologies and capabilities have been born out of tireless iteration and prototype cycles. Today, a new era of electronics prototyping is being ushered in thanks to the rise of rapid prototyping solutions like Voltera’s V-One platform. As we’ll see in more detail, this versatile piece of hardware is not only unlocking faster turnaround times for prototypes, but is also making electronics development far more accessible than it has ever been.

A new era for prototyping electronics

Most electrical engineers will be familiar with the once ubiquitous breadboard, a plastic perforated board used as a base to construct electronic circuit prototypes. While these offer an affordable way to test out some DIY electronic concepts, they have always been limited in terms of the voltages and currents they can handle and have not always been the most reliable. Breadboards are also limited to creating temporary electronics, since there is no soldering involved, which means they are good for proof-of-concept but not functional prototyping.

Evaluation boards, for their part, are pre-built printed circuit boards (PCBs) that offer users different configuration options and can interface with other systems.[1] Evaluation boards have been a popular option for testing out a specific application on a functioning PCB. While both breadboards and evaluation boards are still used to develop circuits, they come with limitations. As we saw, breadboards have limited capacity for voltages and currents and, since they are not soldered, are not always reliable. Evaluation boards, for their part, are limited in terms of their function and complexity. And both, we should add, involve a significant amount of manual work.

For more complex electronics prototyping, another option has been outsourcing prototyping to PCB manufacturers. In this case, a CAD design is sent to a PCB producer, where it is assembled using their industrial equipment and shipped to the customer. While the quality of these prototypes is typically high, so is the cost of the service (especially for small orders) and the turnaround time for parts, particularly when multiple design iterations are required. Ultimately, ordering electronic prototypes is not viable for small businesses or research groups with limited resources and strict development schedules. 

Fortunately, rapid prototyping technologies such as printing are offering an alternative to these more traditional routes. These technologies enable engineers and designers to create complex, functional electronic prototypes on demand and in house, which saves time and offers greater agility.[2] Moreover, benchtop systems like Voltera’s V-One are affordable to a wider range of users, making electronics development—and thus innovation—more accessible. 

The V-One system

Voltera’s V-One was specifically designed to address the challenges with traditional electronics prototyping and offer a straightforward and largely automated way to manufacture functional PCBs quickly and in house. The V-One is a benchtop printer that combines multiple functions into a single solution. Specifically, the machine can do everything from drilling through-holes, to printing traces, to depositing solder paste, and reflowing. 

From a user’s perspective, the V-One is intuitive and easy to use, whether you’re learning electronics or an experienced developer. Start by uploading a Gerber file to the printer, and the system will automatically generate a toolpath. Secure your substrate to the print area using the provided clamps. Next, attach the probe to create a topography of the board with 20 micron precision. If you require througholes of vias in your board, you can attach the drill head, then lay down the provided sacrificial layer to protect V-One’s heated bed from the drill. Once drilling is complete, you can remove the sacrificial layer and attach the ink dispenser printhead, which deposits material ink conductive ink and solder paste. 

When the traces are printed, users can cure the pattern directly on the print bed. It is also possible to print double-sided PCBs by simply flipping the cured board and repeating the process. When curing is complete, manually place rivets and then secure the PCB back onto the board along with the solder paste dispensing print head. Other electronic components can then be added to the board before using the reflow function to solder the PCB.[3] 

All in all, the V-One can produce PCB prototypes in under an hour and with minimal input from the user. This gives users the freedom to not only print PCBs quickly but also to test new designs, identify errors, and refine designs without adding significant time to the prototyping process. In the end this not only enhances efficiency but results in superior products. The V-One system is available for $5,199.98 USD.

The impact of Voltera’s benchtop solution

The V-One is proving to be an indispensable prototyping tool for PCBs, and has been adopted by product developers and educators in over 80 countries, including Princeton University, Dyson, and NASA. The rapidity of the system is the biggest benefit, but there are also other ways that the V-One is improving the PCB prototyping process. For example, the V-One simplifies the workflow and eliminates steps like stenciling, which require the production and storage of design-specific stencils. Additionally, thanks to the system’s built-in heater, users no longer need a separate oven for soldering. 

Intellectual property protection is also more manageable with the V-One, as it enables developers to keep their designs and concepts fully in house without having to worry about the risks of outsourcing. In-house prototyping also helps to overcome supply chain challenges that can arise when developers are dependent on external parties for production. Overall, the printing platform allows users to rapidly iterate electronic designs, test them, adjust them when needed, and reprint for validation. What would have taken weeks or months can effectively be done within days or even hours.

These benefits are experienced on the daily at Circuit Launch, a coworking community for electronics hardware entrepreneurs based out of Oakland, California. The facility houses a wide range of equipment that for individual entrepreneurs and startups would be too steep an investment, including a fully equipped woodshop, 3D printers, laser cutters, diagnostic tools, and the V-One. With access to the V-One and the other equipment, Circuit Launch members have developed a range of innovative technologies, including autonomous delivery robots, a bioprinter for tissue engineering, an AI-powered solar monitoring system and more.  

“Along with some of the other tools, [the V-One] brings the development time down so low,” says Dan O’Mara, COO of Circuit Launch. “Being able to take a designed circuit board and within about an hour, we can have it fully assembled. That’s incredible. The Voltera V-One has been pushing our entrepreneurs to create new things in a faster, more economical way than almost any of our other machines.”[4]

A new era for electronics prototyping

Rapid prototyping solutions like the V-One are setting a new standard for electronics development based on efficiency and agility. With it, product developers and engineers can test new concepts and explore innovative designs from the comfort of their benchtop and without spending hours manually positioning wires and soldering. In the long-term, as adoption of the V-One and other electronics printing systems increases, we are likely to see the benefits of affordable benchtop solutions manifest as unprecedented innovation and new cutting-edge electronic capabilities and products. 


[1] Oborny, Nicholas. The Evolution of Electronic Prototyping [Internet]. Texas Instruments. April 15, 2015. Available from: 

[2] Vasquez S, Petrelli M, Angeli MC, Costa J, Avancini E, Cantarella G, Münzenrieder N, Lugli P, Petti L. Cost-effective, mask-less, and high-throughput prototyping of flexible hybrid electronic devices using dispense printing and conductive silver ink. In2021 5th IEEE Electron Devices Technology & Manufacturing Conference (EDTM) 2021 Apr 8 (pp. 1-3). IEEE. Available from: 

[3] Voltera. Voltera V-One: PCB Printer Walkthrough [Video]. Youtube. August 10, 2018. Available from: 

[4] Voltera. Voltera at Circuit Launch: Building Hardware Faster [Video]. Youtube. January 8, 2019. Available from: