Although NOVA ships with a 'standard' conductive ink, we assume that every NOVA user will at some point need to figure out how to dispense a new material, or at least to dispense with a different nozzle. For that, there's the Calibrate workflow. This guide will take you through the calibration workflow to work out the print settings for a new ink.
Open up the software
With NOVA, the software lives onboard, so there is no need to install any software or drivers on your computer to interact with it. You’ll use a browser to access and control your unit. If you have already gone through the setup process and connected your NOVA unit to your network you will be able to access it directly through unit-name.myvoltera.io or you can head to myvoltera.io and select it from the list.
Once you’ve connected to your NOVA unit you’ll see a few options available to you in the software. Let’s review them quickly:
Dispense: Print your designed circuit using your desired printing material and substrate. Materials: A central library to manage materials and substrate profiles. Calibrate: This workflow guides you through the steps to get optimal print settings for a new material from scratch.
Selecting a workflow
To get started, you will need to add and calibrate a new printing material. Select Calibrate to start this process.
The first step in calibration is choosing the 'paste' (your ink or other material) that you want to print. If you don't already have a material setting for this, you are prompted to create a new material, using some default baseline settings.
In this step, NOVA will probe the surface of the Calibration Plate, which is where the printing will happen. With NOVA, there's no need to waste any substrate testing your print settings.
In the target quality step, you tell NOVA what you're expecting with your material, along with some important parameters. Each entry here will affect the print settings for your new material, so if you want to use a new nozzle diameter, you should run the procedure again.
Specifically, you must tell NOVA:
- The diameter of the nozzle you're using
- Your target Trace Width
- Your desired Print Height
Optionally, you can click More... to set the Dispenser temperature. Typically, this defaults to 35C.
As you enter the values, NOVA does some error-checking in the background, to help suggest if you may be off track. It displays this in two ways: First, by showing how the ink would need to print, given your inputs (which can lead to some wacky patterns), and a warning or error statement.
The Estimate Pressure step estimates the baseline dispense pressure for the material. For this step, NOVA will hover the Dispenser over the drip tray, and slowly increment the pressure in the cartridge until you see some ink collecting on the tip. At that point, you can click STOP to lock in the estimate.
You may notice that the dispenser needs to heat up before you’re able to proceed with this step.
At this Step, NOVA is ready to Calibrate the paste. The calibration process guides the user through 3 stages, which you repeat until you're happy.
Using the current settings, NOVA prints the calibration pattern, and snaps a picture with the built-in camera.
Based on the image, NOVA asks you what you would like to improve. In the default screen, there are two options:
Width (Pressure): Is your trace width thin or too wide? Leakage: Is there ink leaking out of the nozzle?
Clicking Advanced will also allow you to specify whether the starts or ends of your traces need some filling in.
By clicking the 'Improve' button, you lock in your changes, and NOVA will update the print settings automatically. You can then repeat these 3 steps until you're happy with the print.
When you're happy with the settings, clicking USE will tell NOVA to lock things in. You can then wipe off your calibration plate, and these settings will get saved and stored in the Materials Library for future use.
With your material calibrated and will now be available for selection in the dispsense workflow.