Come and say hi!

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Michael Reed, Jan 6, 2014.

  1. Michael Reed

    Michael Reed Staff Member

    Welcome to the Cartesian Co Forum, feel free to come and introduce yourself to the team here. We would especially love to hear any suggestions for things you guys would like to see us post on our blog. We've got plenty of projects in the pipeline to tell you about but it's good to know what you all enjoy.

  2. Hi, nice to see the forum is open. I've watched this project
    for a while, thinking it is a great tool for prototyping.

    Best wishes for the Argentum, hope there will be a living
    community here.

  3. hello
    Take the best wishes from Russia)))))
    That's what I need right now, you guys are great!!
    Prosperity to you!
    You wanted to make a pre-order, but the kit includes just 2 cartridges ....... I need more (at least another 2 cartridges). Still have a question, how much is enough cartridge????

    I am sorry for my english
  4. Michael Reed

    Michael Reed Staff Member

    Hey Picavit,
    Great to hear from someone so far across the world! We haven't got pre-ordering for cartridges available just yet purely because we don't know how efficient we can make our refilling system. We're currently prototyping some automatic rinsing and chemical filling machinery (I was literally working upon the cartridge refilling system minutes ago). If we can make this reliable, we can make cartridges a lot cheaper. As soon as we can predict how much it costs us to manufacture a cartridge set, the product will be available for pre-order.

    In terms of how many cartridges is enough... the best answer I can give is that it depends on what you want to make. Because you only put down as much ink as you need, the amount that you use for a print is variable to:
    • What resistances you require (digital communications needs more ink, blinky LED widget requires less ink)
    • What substrate you print onto (paper is porous so requires more ink for equivalent conductivity, FR4 is not porous - needs less ink for the same circuit)
    • How 'solderable' you need the circuit (generally a bit more Silver makes it a little easier to solder to).
    The amount of 'ink' that will be in each cartridge hasn't been 100% decided upon either because we want to pack as much ink in as possible BUT we don't want you to lose a big investment if you accidentally lose or damage your cartridge. With our test cartridges, we've printed dozens and dozens of test circuits onto many different substrates.

    We'll be sure to post up to the blog as soon as pre-orders are available with technical specs (we'll also put up a post here in the Forum).

    I hope my English was easy to understand.
  5. MJU


    Hello, I'm "MJU"..

    I live in Belgium and hope to become an owner of an Argentum in the future.
    What I've read about the printer sounds like music to my ears.
    I studied electronics in medieval times.
    Then I didn't do anything with this knowledge for 15 years and now for a long time I've been playing around with electronics again.

    I really want to follow the Argentum, but I want to be sure that it can print double sided "PCB's" without problems.
    I would like to learn about the price of the cartridges, the shipping costs for these items.
    How many PCB's (how many square cm's you can print with them).
    If the printer can be upgraded (firmware)?
    User experiences.
    And so on..

    I could order a printer right now, but sometimes early adopters got stuck with a device that has some problems and that I want to avoid.

    What I don't understand is why you choose paper as substrate :)
    I've been looking to find FR4 (fiberglass insulation laminate).
    If I ever buy a printer I want to make sure I can get a substrate like FR4 soon.

    Thanks for all the work you guys did already.
    I hope the Argentum has a great future! (and hope be be assured before buying one)
  6. Michael Reed

    Michael Reed Staff Member

    Hey MJU,

    I totally understand, I think a lot of people remember plenty of the problems with the first Makerbot series (us included, we have a couple in our workshop that we mostly just use for scrap parts). We're doing everything we can to make sure the system is reliable as possible from the first model. Additionally, it will all be made open source from delivery so if you would like to make any modifications or add-ons yourself, it's as easy as possible.

    I'll also try to address some of your direct questions:
    • The only thing that's stopping us from make double sided boards is ensuring alignment between the two layers. You can do this very easily if you have a perfectly square substrate and you accurately place it into a corner of the build surface. One of the projects we're working on (in fact me personally) to make this a lot easier/quicker/more reliable is the print-o-scope alignment system. If you want to have vias between sides, the only method we have for that at the moment is to solder a small piece of wire either side through the substrate (if you're interested as well, you can purchase copper rivets to make this look much more professional such as these). Long story short - we're very confident double sided boards will be easy and repeatable with the Argentum.
    • For the price of cartridges, see my previous post above. Shipping the cartridges will depend mostly on how much we fill them up (as discussed above) but for reference a 100% full cartridge weighs 100g and has dimensions 22x70x110mm
    • The current prototype for the Argentum has a platform with 175x80mm printable area (some more tech specs are here). We are currently grappling with the idea of offering an upgrade to the Argentum with an extended print area (please tell us if you would want this!).
    • Firmware will be continually supported by us, will be open source for others to branch their own versions collaboratively or individually and is currently able to be uploaded via the USB cable through the Arduino IDE.
    • We did a lot of examples with paper because it was a cool novelty, it's really cheap, it's easy to cut out the circuit outline and everyone is going to have something available on hand at a moments notice - no need to make sure you're continually stocked up on FR4. That being said, printing on FR4 works very well and we've done a bunch of successful tests with it. Here is a wiki page with a brief explanation of each substrate (obviously this page is still in progress and will be updated over time).
    Tell us what you'd like to see and we'd love to see what we can do. We are *really* busy so I can't make any promises but if there's something you want to see, I bet there are plenty others too so it would be good for us to demonstrate.

    Thanks for the interest! I hope we get to see more of you as the community builds.
    Andrew Plumb likes this.
  7. MJU


    I'm really anxious about the printer. I 100% support you in developing it.
    Thank you for your quick reply.

    If you want my constructive input, my wish list (you asked for it!!! :) )
    -Automatic alignment for double sided PCB's. (the way you suggest for making the via's were already on my mind, but then the front an backside have to be aligned properly)
    -Not too much preparations for printing "real usable PCB's" (you guys mailed me that there is a little sanding necessary before printing in FR4?).
    -A cost lower (or not too much higher) than the PCB manufacturing company's that are all all around.
    -Maybe a slightly larger build area? A very much used format is the (single Eurocard PCB : that is 100mm x 160mm. (the bigger the build area the better :) )
    -A "normal" inktcartridge so people can print text and other things on the PCB.

    I really would like to send you a design for a PCB and see what you can make of it in what time.

    I already made space on my desktop for my future Argentum. :)
  8. Michael Reed

    Michael Reed Staff Member

    I'll try to keep up the constant monitoring as long as I can until I'm buried in laser-cut acrylic and Silver Nitrate :D

    • Keep an eye on the print-o-scope add on, what you are describing is literally exactly what it is meant for. It's a USB borescope mounted to the print head that lets you very precisely locate control points through the printer's interface. This means as long as you have two features aligned on each side of the board (ie. drill two small holes randomly through your FR4 or design the feature into a 3D printed or laser-cut object) then you can use the interface to automatically place, scale and rotate your input image to conform.
    • At the moment FR4 needs a light sanding to increase adhesion of the Silver particulates (they bond far better to a rough or porous surface). We're working on trying to circumvent this but other solutions will involve a coating of some sort or just a slightly different material that works off the shelf. Maybe way down in the future there could be a third cartridge that prints in high temperature adhesive but that's just a dream for now.
    • If you're comparing to a one off order from a manufacturer - the Argentum will probably always be cheaper. If you're comparing to a batch order of 100 boards, the Argentum will not be able to compete with Copper v Silver. Silver is currently necessary for the chemical process. Again maybe waaaay in the future but copper deposition is currently only achievable with very expensive and dangerous machinery.
    • Slightly larger build area will totally be doable if the upsize kit I mentioned before goes through (we're also currently working on reducing the print head foot print, increasing build space with the same size frame).
    • The normal ink cartridge is definitely going to happen and will be available with our other cartridges - it won't be expensive at all either as there is not nearly as much processing or expensive materials required by us.
    As for taking a crack at your PCB design, you're welcome to send it over to me but at the moment we're tearing down our prototypes for load and wear testing on individual components so I won't be able to print in a hurry. Shoot it over in a message.

    I'm also going to start a new thread on technical questions just so we don't clog this one with pages of this stuff to make things confusing haha. But feel free to keep asking there!
  9. Greetings from Accra Ghana.

    I have been following the EX1 now Argentum for some time and am glad shipping will be later in September.

    I run my PCB on a CNC using gcode these are the affordable chines all aluminum construction + ball screw drive.

    Humm.. 175x80mm printable PCB area? will the use of print-o-scope provide a way of extending the 80mm width?

    I mean a way of stitching two 175x80mm PCB drawings into 175x160mm?

    What is going to happen to my investment should a larger print area Argentum comes around?

    Am sure the print head is a piezo electric as found in Epson printers. These heads can fire wine or ethanol provided
    the solvent will not pull the head apart or clog it.

    PCB tracks in silver, what a precious PCB that will be!:)

    Well done Cartesian!


  10. Michael Reed

    Michael Reed Staff Member

    Hey Hanspeter!

    Yes, that is one intention of the print-o-scope and if all goes well this should be possible (good pick) - the one thing that we will have to add to the system for this to work is an open edge in the build area. This presents a bit of a logistical issue but it should be achievable.

    If we do decide to design a larger model Argentum (we actually have already built an extended model of the prototypes featured in the KickStarter and we have been using this to print a lot of our test circuits) it will most likely be set as an add-on to the standard Argentum model. That means that you just purchase the add-on when you make the order for your printer and you will receive the parts needed for the larger model.

    The Argentum print-head currently uses thermal inkjet cartridges because we found it easy to source these cartridges, they are more resilient to clogging and they can pump out a very wide range of flow rates. It is also simpler to refill these cartridges without damaging them which means it will be cheaper for us to produce the conductive cartridges.

    You'd be surprised as to the cost of the chemicals! Because it's additive (as opposed to subtractive such as CNC milling or chemical etching) it often works out cheaper than buying raw copper clad board. I was a bit surprised too but we did the math comparing a bunch of suppliers we used for copper clad board and it always checked out.

    On a side note, I'm hoping to push technical questions to the other thread in General Discussion so I'd love for you to ask more but it would be great if you replied in that thread :D

    Hope I helped with some of your concerns and if there is a feature you really want (ie. larger build area add-on) make sure you make a post in suggest a feature so I can convince the whole team we need it!
  11. MJU


    Hey guys, any news you want to share with us?
    How is the development going?

    Any news from the batch of printers that was made ready to ship?
    News about the addons?

    I'ts so quit over here?
  12. Michael Reed

    Michael Reed Staff Member

    Hey MJU,

    Sorry, we've been really bogged down with all the development that has been happening and we've let our community presence slip a little.

    It's all good news thus far though! I'm currently finishing up a big redesign of the printer mechanics to improve stability and ease of assembly as well as a bunch of neat little features. Some cool things that I'm working on are a red laser dot to indicate print positioning, cable chains for some of the axes, adjustable belt tensioners, easily removable mounting for add-ons such as the print-o-scope as well as a few really awesome things I won't reveal until I've worked them through a bit more.

    On the other fronts, Ariel is currently finishing up the latest revision of the shield electronics and one of our other engineers, Sam, is finishing up a beautiful redesign of the control software. This new software will feature a whole slew of new functions and customizability to make it easier to print and easier to modify for any redesigns you want to implement.

    We're working on a KickStarter update for all the backers with some more info soon but we've all been faces in computer screens and hunched over the laser cutter for the past few weeks.

    If there's anything in particular you're keen to hear more details about, don't be afraid to ask.
  13. Michael Reed

    Michael Reed Staff Member

    Oh and one other thing I forgot MJU - the mechanics redesign I have been working through has also focused on maximizing printable area. I can't make any concrete promises but at the moment I'm confident the final Argentum system will be capable of *at least* printing standard Euro-card sized boards (100x160mm). The version I'm tinkering with is currently capable of this and more but I need to perform some more tests on each section to 100% verify the design.

    Sorry about missing that out in my last reply.
  14. you should market this to hackerspaces. it would be great to have in the HSBNE: hackerspace brisbane
  15. MJU


    Great to hear that Mike!
    Maybe you could bragg somewhat more on your homepage or in other topics on this forum?
    I'm sure people like to hear that :)

    Thanks for designing that feature especially for me!
    I'm waiting until the printer is released to the world, but I'm anxious.
  16. Michael Reed

    Michael Reed Staff Member

    Haha yeah, don't worry - there'll be plenty of showboating and bragging if everything in this redesign turns out well. Just don't want to shoot myself in the foot in case something doesn't quite work out but it's only a matter of time.

    I'll be sure to shoot you through a photo once it's all up and printing too.
  17. Michael Reed

    Michael Reed Staff Member

    Also Jack, first thanks for the support! We will certainly be looking to market the printer towards hackerspaces and schools locally as well as abroad. We've actually discussed the project with the Brisbane hackerspace previously and we're set to donate a printer or two to local schools in Brisbane.

    If you're really keen for one at your local hackerspace, we would love it if you asked around some of your other members or organizers to generate some interest. Maybe we could even have someone come over to do a demo a bit closer to the shipping date so you can see a machine and some prints up close.

    If you need to get in contact, feel free to message me here or at
  18. Hi Michael,

    Regards from Guayaquil-Ecuador, I found your project searching for the best way to build my own PCBs and when I found it I just wanted to buy it now!! I am just trying to start my own electronics company in Ecuador and this will really make a difference, not only for me, this will change the electronics world, I am very happy that creativity never stops and always find its way through young minds like your team (and hopefully me, lol). I do have some questions just to re-enforce my decision of buying the printer: 1) Can it print traces to fit all kinds of ICs packagings? If not what are the limitations? 2) If you print on fabrics, what happens if you wash the fabric, will the traces disappear (obviously water and electronics are not friends, but just wondering). 3) What can destroy a printed trace besides mechanical action on it, what about humidity in the air? 4) Is it possible to buy stocks of your company, if so I am interested.

    Thanks for your contribuition to humanity and I hope that you will enjoy life and the millions of dollars to come, lol.
    Julio Emen
  19. MJU


    Hello Julio,

    Just like you I'm looking forward to where this project is going.
    I have the money in my sock to contribute to the "life of millions" that you predict for them..

    Maybe I can help you a small bit with your question n°1
    On their Wiki there is this page about footprints that they already accomplished :

    The wiki has several items you might be interested in:
  20. Michael Reed

    Michael Reed Staff Member

    MJU: Thanks for taking the reigns MJU, I've been assembling, testing, disassembling, changing then reassembling printers for about 13 hours now - it's nice to have someone looking out for me here haha.

    Julio: thanks so much for your enthusiasm! Feel free to ask as much as you need, that's why this thread is here :) In regards to your other questions:

    1) Just as a quick reference, the finest component footprint we've printed so far on FR4 is TSSOP and the finest on canvas paper so far is SOIC. It's difficult to lock down the *exact* achievable resolution due to bleeding and some other stuff (that we're working to eliminate) but the system works on 600DPI as the maximum achievable resolution.

    2) Unfortunately printing onto fabrics does not leave them sturdy enough to be washable. We are developing some coatings and additives to the ink to promote adhesion in other substrates but I think that a washable cloth circuit is still a long way away (also largely in part to the fact that you can not solder to fabric circuits but can only use conductive epoxies). Having the water soak into and out of the fabric would actually not cause any problems (see the next question) but the vigorousness of washing would most likely de-laminate the tracks.

    3) The circuits are actually quite resilient to humidity (I know because the humidity here in Brisbane fluctuates to crazy highs and lows), also we do sometimes rinse our circuits gently in water after printing to rid them of contaminants which doesn't cause any problems. They can also withstand high currents (we have tested a trace on paper above 4A multiple times without any reduction in quality) and high temperatures (tested with soldering jigs above 250C). We haven't tested some things such as very high power, very high frequency transmission which can sometimes cause problems in copper but as of this point, the only failure method we've experienced is de-lamination through mechanical action. That being said the boards are a bit more delicate than a professionally made copper PCB and you have to be a bit careful during assembly. On the plus side, if you do happen to damage one accidentally... you know where to get another haha.

    Feel free to ask us to test something specific if you'd like, our newest intern Victoria is conducting and cataloguing a whole range of such experiments - these will go onto the wiki sometime in the near future.

    4) At the moment we are not publicly trading so we are unable to sell stock but thanks for the interest! We'll keep you in touch if that situation ever changes but we have no near future plans for going public.

    We will be releasing an update with some revised specifications for the Argentum printer as well (don't worry it's only getting better haha) so keep an eye on our blog if you're interested.

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