Quick Printed Circuit Boards
Here’s the workflow so far:
1. Enter schematic in free EagleCad (www.cadsoft.de).
2. Convert the rats-nest PCB to a reasonable layout using a minimal line-width (TBD) and infinitely small drill holes for through-holes and vias. There are other suggestions for the layout as I’m discovering and I’ll post them later.
3. Output an IMAGE from EagleCad as a .bmp for top (and bottom) layers and pads and vias. It helps to use an image processing tool to convert to only black and white. Many free on the web such as GIMP, IrfanView, etc.
4. Do a trace in Silhouete Studio (comes with the Cameo cutter) of the .bmp using ~50% threshold, Scale = 1, and no HighPass or LowPass filtering. Check the trace to be sure there are no shorts between traces. There may be a future fix by converting RS274X EagleCad output files to .svg. The $50 Pro version of the Silhouette software will accept .svg files wher the normal included Silhouette software won’t.
5. Load the PCB material and cut with the fastest speed = 10 (can’t tell that speed makes a difference) and max depth = 33. I’ve been using the double cut option that works and doesn;’t increase the overall time by much.
6. Mount the flexible shaft tool piece and drill bit and drill the through-holes and vias. (Specifics to come later).
This takes about 2.5 minutes for my simple layout in the poster. It’s advisable to look at the cuts with a loupe or microscope and remove any copper “hairs” or obvious shorts or correct the problem areas. Use an ohmmeter to make sure all traces are good and there are no shorts.
6-16-2012 I have just uploaded a video of the paper cutter “cutting” a small single sided PCB – a PIC uP, few components and a header. Continuity of the result without removing any shards of copper showed 100% and one shorted line that was easily found under an eye loupe and fixed. For a movie of this cut, see below:
Wavy or non-straight lines will limit the minimum trace width. I believe this is a result of a combination of the trace function in the paper cutter software, incomplete cutter compensation or compliance in the cutting head (probably the latter).
6/22/2012 Last night I made this video – cutting’n’drilling.
I broke my “no mods or additions” promise for this technique and had to make a few small modifications –
– A holder for the flexible shaft rotary tool listed above. I bought an aluminum marker holder and used a lathe to make it fit the tool handpiece as shown in the video.
– I added a spring counter balance to the cutting head to help neutralize the additional weight of the handpiece, also shown in the video.
I had to figure a way to keep the cutter head down for a second or more and not move in X or Y while drilling. Solution – draw a 25 revolution square spiral in Silhouete Designer and scale down till you just reach X=Y= 0.000″. The cutter spends time trying to move the head through 25 “small dimension” squares but not moving (much) at all. I manually added these to where I wanted drilled holes. Now I need an automatic way to add these via the normal (Excellon) drill file outputted from EagleCAD with the normal Gerber 274x stuff. Drilling requires backing plate so you don’t drill through the cutter itself. I’ve been using a single thickness cardboard (like what’s on the back of a writing tablet). I adjust the flexible tool handpiece in the homeade holder and/or the position of the drill bit such that the tip of the bit just touches the bottom of the cutter when the cutter head is lowered to its mechanical stop , then I lock everything down. I taped the cardboard to the backside of the PCB board. Note the blue twist lock on the cutter holder will interfere with the capstan rollers so I will have to find a solution for that.
More to come…..
You might assume that you need a lot of expensive stuff to make your own PCBs, but that isn’t the case: you can do it with a vinyl cutter and a few common chemicals and tools. [Emiliano Valencia] has laid out the entire process. While we’ve seen plenty of make your own PCB guides before, this one goes a bit further as it covers using the vinyl cutter to make solder masks, so you can use it for surface mount designs.
The end result of the process that [Emilano] lays out is the tinyDice, a cute little electronic die that can fit on a keyring. The whole process is very well written up, and even experienced PCB makers will probably find a few useful tricks here.
The really interesting part for us was using the vinyl cutter to make three parts of the process: the etching mask, the solder mask that protects the traces and the solder stencil that applies the solder to the pads for surface mounting.
That is possible because the solder mask uses Kapton tape which is tough enough to stand the heat of the reflow process, and is a lot easier to use than the UV resins that are generally used. The etching and solder stencils are made from the vinyl material that is most commonly used in these cutters, but the solder mask is made from thin Kapton tape which is attached to a vinyl backing but then transferred onto the PCB. It does sound a bit fiddly in places, but there are plenty of photos to show how it is done.
Kudos to [Emiliano] for also coming up with a neat way to make the solder stencil out of vinyl by stacking four vinyl cutouts on top of each other. That gives the applied solder enough thickness that it should melt and flow without problems, but also gives nice clean solder pads. Now, if only he could work out how to make a pick & place out of sticky-back plastic and popsicle sticks, we would be sorted…
We’ve covered plenty of other ways to make PCBs, from expensive mills to using the same vinyl cutter to make PCBs on glass. What tips do you have for making PCBs out of common household materials?
Making flexible PCBs with a Vinyl Cutter
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Making flexible PCB is more easy than most of people may think, it is usefull in some kind of application as wereables, or flexible and small mechanism where the pcb has to be embedded.
We can even make them with a modest vinyl cutter as Silhoutte Cameo (aprox 200$)the one we have in Fab Lab Seoul.
The circuits that you can cut on the Roland are limited by the width of the pen knife. As a rule of thumb, anything that you can cut with a lot of time and effort with an x-acto can be cut by the Roland, but if there are things that are too small for that they will probably also be too small for the vinyl cutter.
MATERIAL SET UP
We will need:
3M 1126 conductive adhesive tape
Flexible Support,we used a thin PVC sheet
Cutting mat for vinylcutter
Electronic components for your board
Kapton Tape is not obligatory but highly recommended,as it will protect your Pvc sheet from overheating while your solder the electronic components.
If you don't use it we recommend to set a high temperature on your solder iron a solder all the components fast by heating a short time in each pad.(Be carefull to don't melt the support material or you components as you will waste your board)
MATERIAL LOADINGStick the copper adhesive tape to the pvc surface,use a plastic ruller to glue it correctly and avoid bubbles that will ruin your cut,now stick you pvc to your cutting mat to get more "grip"during the cut as if you were cutting cardboard.(If you use Kapton tape the layer order is Cutting mat-PVC-KAPTON-COPPER TAPE)
Load the material in the vinylcutter, be sure to put the release lever down to help you loading the material and remember to put it up to lock it thight.
For loading the material follow the instructions on the machine screen.We sure that the white rollers grip the material.
SETTING THE FILES
This tutorial uses Inkscape to prepare files for the vinyl cutter.
In our case we are going to use the main machine software Silhoutte Studio for all the steps as we found this method shorter in steps and with similar results.
First thing to check is our board dimensions the be sure the traces are on scale.For that you can use any raster program, our choice was to use fabmodules as it also shows the dimensions and pixel density of our PNG
In this case we where making the FabISP SMDCrystal type. It dimensions as we can see are : 22.98x45.21mm
We open the traces PNG with Silhoutte Studio and check the PNG size. If it doesn't keep the correct dimensions,we have to scale it,to change it use (SCALE/MOVE on the up right menu)
For the vinylcutter you only need one contour so after checking the correct scale we can transform the PNG in to a vector path so the machine can cut it properly.
Click the TRACE button (up right menu)
Select the area to TRACE in this case we want to cut the whole board so select it all, nothing happends if you select more space as we are going to transform the PNG by color contrast white/black of the own PNG.
Move the sliders on the right (HIGH/LOW PASS FILTER) until the board is correctly defined.
You should get something like this.
Right now the paths are on the top of your PNG image, so we click on it to select it and move it.Like this.
NOW IS VERY IMPORTANT TO CHECK THAT ALL THE TRACES ARE CONNECTED CORRECTLY BY VISUAL MAKING THE COMPARISON WITH BETWEEN BOTH.If everything is fine we can erase now the PNG.
Move the board to the top left corner so the PCB will be cutted next to the origin point of your Vinycutter.
You want enough force in your circuit to cut through the copper, but not through the backing. If you use too much force, the traces will also be dragged up with the cutting.
In the Silhoutte Cameo case we have to adjust the vale force via hardware and software.
How to do it?Open the Vinyl front door and pick up the blade by opening the looking mechanism.
To adjust the force you have to rotate the blade setting the number from 1 to 10 (low to maximum force)We find out that the best values in our case where: VINYL MATERIAL with custom settings FORCE 6-8 THICKNESS 27-30 SPEED 1 cm/s Double Cut Line segment overcut: off
There is a test cut on the menu so you can make different material/force trials.
Check the correct connection between the programm and the machine and send the file.
WEEDING THE CIRCUIT
After a few shots you should get something like this.
It is time to separe the cutting mat and the PVC sheet
Cut the PVC around your board,remember to let enought space on the side so you can work with it easier.
With the help how a cutter knife and a good pair of tweezers put slowly out all the excess of copper.Clean completely the board and time to bend!
Soldering is the same as soldering on any other PCB. However, while soldering you might find that some of your traces are looser than need be. Fix these by adding extra pressure to the trace.Solder tips If you find out some "moving traces" make extra pressure on them to glue them correctly Use a higher soldering temperature than usual but spend less time on each pad. BE FAST! Let the material cooldown so you don't melt the PVC base. Use hot glue around the connectors to avoid breaking them while unpluging
Enjoy your flexible board!
Cricut PCB Creation
Recently one of my focuses has been to find a way to make the PCB creation process easier. I like being able to design something based on what I want in a circuit and just making it myself on the random weekend. While the toner transfer method has been my go to in the past it’s just not nearly as consistent as I would like it to be. The specific pressure of the iron and timing both make it a hit or miss approach. I’m not a fan of hit or miss I like to know something is going to work every time I try to do it. This sentiment got me exploring new ideas for PCB creation which is the topic of this page.
I’m not the only one in my house who likes to have multiple projects going on at various times and as such we’ve accumulated some different tools and machines and such. One of those machines my mom uses for scrapbooking and creating vinyl stickers for water bottles and other random things she decides to work on. Some of you may know what I’m talking about already, but for those that don’t the machine is called the Cricut Personal Electronic Cutter. Essentially this machine is a consumer tabletop CNC that cuts craft paper or a vinyl sheeting with a sharp blade according to patterns that you choose from preprogrammed memory cards.
The Cricut Personal Electronic Cutter
Hopefully that picture gives everyone a good idea of what I’m talking about at this point. With that machine sitting in our house I started to think about the possibility of using it to cut out various things including a vinyl resist for creating PCB’s and possibly solder paste stencils a bit further down the road. So my questioning left me with three things to confront: first, could I get the Cricut to cut something I designed rather than something from the preprogrammed cards; second, would the Cricut have a good enough resolution to create usable resist patterns; and third, would the vinyl resist stay on the copper clad board and protect it from the etchant properly? With those three things outlined I began to move forward with the first phase of the problem.
This was the biggest hurtle obviously seeing as without the ability to cut custom shapes my entire project idea was sidelined from the start. The search took me a few days, but ultimately I found a program called Sure Cuts A Lot which, if you can get a copy of version 2, allows the Cricut to cut custom shapes via a USB cable. It was pretty simple to get everything running once I found that program and tracked a copy of it down from some other scrapbooking people. Luckily the Cricut was the right model and had the correct firmware so that all I had to do was install the program on my laptop and plug it in. From there I started to look at the resolution of cuts the Cricut could make to see how useful this new program would be.
Before I could test the cutting ability of the Cricut I had to find some things to cut with it. At this point I thought it would be good to create three things to test: a larger image, an actual circuit board, and a test board to see how small the pads and traces could be. With that in mind I created three .SVG files for the Cricut to cut out, two of which you can see in the images below (For the larger image I used the Monster Energy Drink logo because I thought it might look kind of cool as a sticker or PCB).
A Trace and Pad Test Board
A Pic Programming Board
Finally I had a way to cut custom shapes and a few things to try the capabilities out with. So at this point I loaded up the .SVG files into Sure Cuts A Lot and started cutting. For the Monster Energy Drink logo I got very good results as it was somewhat larger. For my other two cuts however I ran into some problems. The trace and pad test board had the most issues of the two which I kind of expected. I purposely made some very small traces and pads just to see what the Cricut was capable of. Unfortunately most of the traces were just slashed up mess and all of the pads were converted into circular shapes rather than being three distinct shapes as I designed them. The programmer’s problems were kind of easy to expect after seeing the test board, but I cut it anyway. The problems were with some of the smaller pads where I was using an IC as well as a few other areas where pads were just blended into the traces.
Test Board Vinyl Cut
Programmer Vinyl Cut
So overall as you can see in the images above the cuts were usable, but not the greatest ever. As such I sidelined etching the test board and programmer my reasoning being consistency again and to not waste any copper clad board. I’m hoping to start looking more into SMD components so I want to get as accurate a result as possible for these boards and the Cricut just wasn’t supplying that in these tests.
I was still curious however if the vinyl would even protect the copper clad board from an etchant so I went ahead and tested this with the Monster Energy Drink logo for the fun of it. I cleaned the copper with some acetone and a Scotch-Brite pad and then dried it before sticking the vinyl to the surface. The vinyl adhered well to the copper surface and I dropped the board in some Ferric Chloride to see what happened (I did this outside as I was unsure what might happen or if some unknown reaction might take place). Luckily for me the etchant didn’t eat through the vinyl and the board etched properly. I say properly, but as you can see from the image below I got a bit tired of waiting and stopped the etching early since it was just a test and my point was proven.
Copper Monster Energy Drink Logo
So while the experiment didn’t go exactly as planned it was a pretty good proof of concept. Obviously this technique is more useful when etching something of a bit larger scale, but I feel like in the future I may come back to it. I find myself etching logos and different things occasionally for backlit elements and I think this is a perfect method for that. Another plan for this method is glass etching some time in the future seeing as the vinyl should also resist the etching creams used in that type of project. As with many projects things may not have worked out 100% according to plan, but I can still make this work for some kind of interesting other project later down the road I’m sure.
Make sure to leave a note in the comments section if you can think of some other interesting ideas and I’ll try them out and let you know how things go.
Introduction: Fast and Easy PCB Prototyping With Vinyl!
Hello everybody !!!
One of the most aggravating things when creating DIY circuits is the making of the PCB.
Up till now, DIY methods require alot of work and time on each board.
If you have struggled with other methods of DIY PCB prototyping you've likely figured out the hard way that they can be frustrating - provide spotty results - and require alot of steps and work.
Well here's another method to throw into the bag of tricks that might just work out for you!
It's really only 3 steps and turns out perfect everytime!!!!
This method has served me very well over and over for dozens of boards!
It uses a vinyl cutter/plotter to create a mask in vinyl to resist the ferric chloride etchant.
WHAT YOU NEED:
- Prepared vinyl mask (if you don't have a vinyl cutter - sign shops and many hackerspaces do!)
- Etchant solution and glass or plastic tray
- Fingernail Polish remover and acetone safe container
- Blank copperclad PCB
- Standard chemical safety materials - gloves, eye protection, etc
That's about it!
We will skim over how to design and cut the pcb design into vinyl and at this point assume that you have a cutter or know someone with access to one (local hackerspace or even a local sign shop!)
It's the same as making any vinyl cut sticker.
See the additional pictures in this intro for some educational pictures of the preparation of a vinyl sticker in this step.
Next Step! - Placing the mask onto the PCB
Step 1: STEP ONE - PLACING THE MASK ONTO THE PCB
STEP ONE - PLACING THE MASK ONTO THE PCB
This only takes about one minute.
Notice that I'm doing two boards at once!
This is much faster than the iron on method - you don't even have to clean the board or prepare it for the mask!
Place the vinyl mask paper side up and remove the wax paper backing by peeling it up and over.
The clear transfer tape holds the vinyl in place!
Line up the mask and lay it onto the blank PCB.
The clear transfer tape makes alignment as easy as it can be!
Once it's down - use a squeegee, plastic card, or just your fingernail to rub the top of the transfer tape thus pushing the vinyl to the board.
Starting from one corner - peel the transfer tape off and the vinyl mask will stay onto the copperclad PCB.
NEXT - STEP TWO Etching the PCB
Step 2: STEP TWO - ETCHING THE PCB
STEP TWO - ETCHING THE PCB
FOLLOW ALL INSTRUCTIONS AND WARNINGS THAT APPLY TO YOUR PCB ETCHANT!
This step is the same with any method of DIY PCB etching!
CAUTION! Regardless of how you make your mask - this is NASTY stuff if you are sloppy or careless.
FOLLOW ALL INSTRUCTIONS AND WARNING THAT APPLY TO YOUR PCB ETCHANT!
Use gloves (stains and chemicals)
Etch in ventilated area (fumes)
Don't be CARELESS or SLOPPY (this can be serious stuff!)
Do not reuse the tray/bath for anything but etchant!
As far as how-to do this step - there are many instructables that cover it.
The best instructions are the ones that come with your etchant chemical.
You MUST ALWAYS follow instructions from your etchant manufacturer.
The basic steps are here in picture - and use paper towels to soak and wipe off any residual solution from your etched board when etching is done..
When doing the final rinse with water (not shown) - again - observe precautions stated on your etchant manufacturer's directions.
DO NOT RINSE IN AN OUTDOOR AREA WHERE ANIMALS FREQUENT!
OK - that's enough BOLD and ITALICIZED warnings for you...
On to the rewards!
NEXT STEP - FINISHING!
Step 3: STEP THREE - REMOVE THE MASK AND BE PROUD!
STEP THREE - REMOVE THE MASK
You can peel the vinyl off by hand - one piece at a time but that would make this method as painful and time consuming as the other DIY PCB methods.
This method requires no work or scrubbing off toner by hand.
You can do 100 PCB's as easy as doing one!
Imagine ironing and scrubbing 100 PCB's. EEK!
Here's the last trick -
Take some standard acetone based fingernail polish remover and soak the board for a minute or two.
The adhesive on the vinyl softens and the vinyl just slides into a nice bundle of synthetic "seaweed" to be scooped up.
The acetone in the polish remover can melt some plastics (notably ABS types) so make sure that your tub is acetone safe or just use a glass dish.
Do not reuse the container for anything but acetone.
Pull out the board... pat dry and rinse in water!
Yep - THAT'S IT!
I told you it was easy!
Step 4: FINISH !!!
I want to give special thanks to Yves Usson for allowing me to use his PCB design in this instructable.
The PCB shown is for a Quadrature LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) from his amazing modular DIY synth -
The Yusynth at http://www.yusynth.net !
Check it out! It's amazing!
I hope this technique will help you produce perfect pcbs every time, faster, and with less work!
It sure does for me! I can make a dozen PCB's in FAR less time than it takes me to make ONE with the heat transfer/toner method!
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