A team of Ontario university students won an international design award for their circuit board printer, marking the first-ever Canadian win.

Four engineering students from the University of Waterloo were named winners of the James Dyson Award on Tuesday for their prototype of a custom circuit board printer.

The Dyson Award asks post-secondary students studying engineering, product design and industrial design to invent something that solves a problem. The award was launched by the James Dyson Foundation in 2007.

The winning design, named Voltera V-One, is meant to streamline the process of creating working electronics.

"To research and develop new electronics, it is vital for engineers, inventors and students working in this area to be able to prototype (printed circuit boards) quickly and cheaply," Dyson Communications Executive Jessica Danziger-Lin said in a statement Tuesday.

A circuit board printer is a device that produces 3-D green circuits used in electronic devices. The thin, rigid plastic boards contain the electric wiring used by a device.

The process of creating printed circuit boards (PCBs) is time-consuming and expensive, Danziger-Lin wrote. Often, PCB designs are sent to factories overseas for printing. If minor changes are made, companies have to send designs overseas again.

"In a world revolutionized by 3D printing, the time-lag in prototyping PCBs seems archaic," she wrote.

The Voltera V-One is a laptop-sized printer that can turn files into PCBs in minutes, sparing companies the expense of overseas shipping.

"When we first started the company, we spoke to many experts who told us we were too ambitious and that it was impossible to create a tool that could effectively prototype circuits," team member Alroy Almeida said in the statement.

"We took that as a challenge!"

Almeida worked with Katrina Ilic, James Pickard and Jesus Zozaya to create the Voltera V-One.

Team members said they plan to use the $54,000 prize to ramp up production of their device. The university's Faculty of Engineering will receive $9,000 as a result of the victory.

"The Voltera V-One team is made up of four impressive young graduates. Their solution makes prototyping electronics easier and more accessible – particularly to students and small businesses. But it also has the potential to inspire many more budding engineers," James Dyson said.

The Waterloo team beat out a record 710 entries from 20 countries. The runners up were from Taiwan's Chung Hua University and Ireland's University of Limerick.

Last year, a Waterloo nanotechnology engineering student group was the first runner-up in the competition. The group created a marker that indicates when sunscreen needs to be reapplied, the university said in a statement.