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Author: Subject: back to pcb again
02GF74

posted on 7/1/19 at 07:34 PM Reply With Quote
back to pcb again

I'm looking to make some pcbs (printed circuit boards).
4 options:
1. last printer to print onto transparency and use iron to transfer ink (easiest and cheapest but least reliable)
2. UV mask (reasonably cheap but again not entrily reliable without some practice)
3. CNC router - (120 but would need to convert pcb mask to router format - must be possible?)
4. 3D printer (from 150, can transfer pcb artwork but will the molten material stick and be of fine enough reolution)

I suppose I should get my finger out and try 1. but at present favouring options 3 and then 4; 3D printer could be used for other purposes.

and no. I'm not sending artwork away to 3rd party as I want immedioate turnaround and low cost nor do I want to use vero board or hand drawn the pcb.

Let me know if you have done any of the above.





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Slimy38

posted on 7/1/19 at 08:23 PM Reply With Quote
I remember doing a UV mask one, it was a right pain in the butt and we had some track 'errors' that needed repairing. We also had to do a bit of trial and error with the UV brightness and exposure time, the working exposed board was so far off the recommended specs it was silly. Our first board ended up completely blank!

I can't imagine a CNC router working, it would be easy to turn a pcb mask into a router pattern but you'd be removing more material than you're leaving and the likelihood of lifting a thin track would be high. (A quick Google suggests this process does work but for PCB's where the tracks are quite large, IE you're leaving more material than you're removing)

Personally I'd like to try option 1 just to see if it's any good, but I've only ever done t-shirt designs with iron-on ink!!

I'm all for getting a 3d printer just for the hell of it, if I had the tiniest justification for one I'd go for it!! I'm not sure how they're used for PCB fabrication though? Is it another UV mask, or an acid mask? Or do you actually print the conductive tracks themselves?

[Edited on 7/1/19 by Slimy38]

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Heckler

posted on 7/1/19 at 08:50 PM Reply With Quote
I use a laser printer, to print the circuit design on to effectivly a transfer paper. That is then put onto the copper clad board with a laminator, as it heat soaks the transfer and copper board while applying even pressure to the board so the circuit bonds to the copper.

The board and circuit design is then soaked in water, where the adhesive between the circuit design and the tranfer paper disolves, leaving just the design is left on the copper.

I then use a bubble etch tank to well, etch the copper - once it had been etched, I use wire wool to remove the design from the copper - leaving a printed circuit.

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Oddified

posted on 7/1/19 at 09:25 PM Reply With Quote
I use the laser printer/transparency, uv box, bubble etch route. System works very well but the printer settings matter (has to be properly dark black), and then the uv box time is important otherwise the pcb will be fit only for the bin. Once you've done a few and worked out the settings/times it's quite easy to make single or double sided pcbs.

Ian

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David Jenkins

posted on 7/1/19 at 09:46 PM Reply With Quote
Are you looking to make a single PCB, or many? If the answer is 'many' then it's worth looking for a commercial maker who will do small orders. The quality will be so much better. You can often save money by designing your own board using something like Eagle PCB design software.

I should add that it's ages since I did this sort of thing so maybe it isn't as easy or as cheap as it used to be - but I do remember the huge frustration when trying to make my own boards.





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02GF74

posted on 7/1/19 at 09:55 PM Reply With Quote
As always thanks for the quick replies.

The cnc example I've seen cuts around the tracks but would require a conversion program.

3d pri nter would just lay down a thin layer corresponding to the track pattern but from what I read, it may not stick too well to the copper.

So it looks like I need to get busy with the laser printer.





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Heckler

posted on 7/1/19 at 10:01 PM Reply With Quote
Laser printer and transfer paper works well... i did that method for 10 years making fairly complex pcbs..

This is what i use...

https://pcbfx.com/main_site/pages/start_here/overview.html

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coyoteboy

posted on 7/1/19 at 10:53 PM Reply With Quote
Don't really understand your reasoning - to do a PCB properly you need a lot of kit and setup time. You can get someone like oshpark to do a beautful job and ship it to you in a couple of days for buttons, including 4 layer gold plated and silkscreen.

A CNC ideal for PCBs won't work for much heavy work and will stop you using things like 0.5m pitch packages easily.
UV printed works, but is not overly reliable for home use.

The lack of soldermask on DIY boards makes them a bit amateur and prone to shorts and mess. I used to be of your opinion, but I've since given up that view!





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tegwin

posted on 7/1/19 at 10:53 PM Reply With Quote
I used to manufacture PCBs at home using transparency film and photo reactive PCB. Takes a couple of test pieces to get all your settings right but once you've cracked it its very repeatable and I got some fantastic results on fiddly designs. Even managed a few 2 sided boards which was fun.

I actually have a proper UV light box with a timer and a home-made re-flow oven with an industrial PID temperature controller id sell if you want the gear to do it properly. Think I have an electro pneumatic solder paste dispenser too.


In the end I got fed up of doing it myself and simply started charging clients more and then used various PCB production facilities which are able to add solder mask/silk screen etc. Still make the occasional board when its a one off.

[Edited on 7/1/19 by tegwin]





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rf900rush

posted on 8/1/19 at 12:09 AM Reply With Quote
I have Milled PCB's on a DIY CNC milling machine including surface mount.
Simple singe sided works ok. Double side was not worth the hassle.

I have used Linegrinder and CopperCam to convert Gerber to G-Code.
Does give my brain a workout getting the code right.

Have Etched in the past but found it a bit hit and miss.

Most PCB's, I now have made are professionally made either China or PCB train (Newbury electronics)

Last time I used the cost about 60 delivered for a single 100mmx100mm PCB. (PCB express service)

A bit expensive for 1 off hobby boards, but 10off + China boards do not cost much more for 10off's.

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peter030371

posted on 8/1/19 at 09:21 AM Reply With Quote
I have been designing and making PCBs for nearly 30 years.

I still have a PCB router from Mega Electronics but the controller has long since packed up, a replacement controller needs new software and its just not worth the cost to me anymore.

Using that router and the ABC copper plating line also from Mega I used to make one off double sided PCB's (often overnight) for fast turnaround jobs and could route down to 8mil tracks and gaps. Without solder resist though the boards are never as good as a 'proper' board and tend to suffer early failure in one way or another.

I now use Elite Circuits for rapid turnaround as they are close to me at work but they are not cheap (>500 for a rapid one off but they can do 4 layer).

Some jobs we use Eurocircuits which seem OK if I want a better price (or PCB Train). I have also used allpcb before fro personal use and they seemed OK but for business use I don't want to take the risk of rubbish (or nothing) arriving!

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MikeRJ

posted on 10/1/19 at 04:29 PM Reply With Quote
quote:
Originally posted by coyoteboy
Don't really understand your reasoning - to do a PCB properly you need a lot of kit and setup time. You can get someone like oshpark to do a beautful job and ship it to you in a couple of days for buttons, including 4 layer gold plated and silkscreen.



Agreed, the main reason hobbiests made their own PCBs is the cost of having them made commercially was horrendous. That is no longer the case, and you get a far superior PCB with solder masks, silkscreens, plated through holes etc..

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