The Argentum printer is a new type of rapid prototyping machine designed for the sole purpose of generating printed circuit boards at the click of a button. The Argentum project aims to do to electronics what filament 3D printers have done to manufacturing. The entire project will be made open source at the time of shipping the first batch of printers (between July and September 2014, see here for shipping details). An FAQ for this project is being compiled here.
The Argentum works by layering down Silver nano-particles through an inkjet process onto almost any substrate you could imagine. This allows you to go from a circuit board design to reflow solderable PCB in a matter of minutes and without all the overhead costs of low production runs.
The Argentum can currently be pre-ordered at the Cartesian Co. Web Store with a second batch shipping date of September 2014. The project was originally funded through the crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter under it's original name, the EX1 printer. The name was changed to the Argentum in early 2014 to avoid confusion with other products, allowing the project to remain open source.
NOTE: Many of these specifications are subject to slight changes due to minor upgrades/alterations in the construction prior to first batch shipping.
An extensive FAQ on the Argentum is provided here.
- Build Area: 175 x 80mm (6.9 x 3.2in)
- Print Resolution: 600DPI
- Machine Footprint: 400 x 300 x 170mm (15.7 x 11.8 x 6.7in)
- Chemical Consumables: Silver Nitrate Solution with TBA additives, Ascorbic Acid Solution with TBA additives, see Conductive Inks for more details.
How Does it Work?
After the user has generated artwork for an electronics design (this can occur in any program the user prefers), an image of the design must be exported at the native resolution of the printer (600DPI). This can then be processed by ArC (the Argentum's custom control software) which generates code that the printer can directly interpret. The Argentum printer can then receive the command file via a USB interface (accessed with ArC), through the stock SD card port or even through a web interface if the user has the RasPiFi add-on. After the user clicks print, the Argentum uses a twin set of inkjet cartridges and precise actuation in two axes to lay down two unique chemicals in the artwork defined by the original image. These two chemicals react to form conductive tracks of Silver precipitate. This results in a PCB (Printed Circuit Board) that is resistant to corrosion and flexure and can be easily soldered to, all in a matter of minutes.