Printing/etching custom prototype PCBs

Discussion in 'Electronics & Electrics' started by Azrael, Jan 3, 2019.

  1. Azrael

    Azrael Member

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    Been quite a while since i have had any need to etch a PCB, but im currently prototyping a little circuit and wondering what the current easiest method of doing short runs is?

    Used to be the ferric chloride and laser toner method, but with the rise of laser etchers and the like I would think that there are easier and likely faster methods now for producing better small batches.

    What is out there?

    Edit: found this: https://forums.overclockers.com.au/threads/typical-pcb-prototype-manufacture-costs.1218296/
    Seems reasonable and most of the options are still out there.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2019
  2. Technics

    Technics Member

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    I'll only etch when I really, really, really absolutely need it now and can't do it on some type of proto board. Your time doesn't need to worth much to make it a fairly a silly idea.

    I should add it to the linked thread but I've had good experiences with:

    https://www.seeedstudio.io/fusion_pcb.html

    They always have some special going. I think you could get 3 100x100mm double sided PCBs for $1US (plus shipping of course) a little while back. I really struggle to see how any of the low cost prototype manufacturers make any money.
     
  3. merlin13

    merlin13 Member

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    They don't do every order as a single run (unless it's a bloody big board), they tack on small jobs to any larger ones or bundle as many as they can onto the same board run. That and the automated systems nowadays...

    Watched a board crowd over here 'way back when mucking about adding small jobs onto the panels for larger product - striving for maximum panel usage/minimum waste.
     
  4. Technics

    Technics Member

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    Even with that factored in it's still a struggle.

    The hardware guys where I work often have spare panel edges when prototypes runs get done but I've never taken them up on the offer of some freebees because the timing is always off.
     
  5. elcarter1

    elcarter1 Member

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  6. _zak

    _zak Member

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    As above - there are tonnes of them about these days. I've used OSH Park a few times and been happy with the results; others I've heard good things about are Dirty PCBs and Seeed (in Technics' post above). If you want to compare prices, PCBShopper is worth looking at. Turn off your ad blocker too; there's often a few codes you can take advantage of.
     
  7. paulvk

    paulvk Member

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    [​IMG] I used Kinsten https://core-electronics.com.au/pcb-kinsten-presensitized-positive-acting-photo-resist-114x165x1-6mm.html?
    and an inkjet printer on overhead projector film and I can get very good results with using ferric chloride to etch
    Now as its very difficult to make double sided PCBs I have them made by https://www.firstpcb.com/ very fast about AU $50 for 10 double sided boards including fast delivery by courier they have even rung me on the phone to let me know I have some errors that need fixing before making the boards.
    I have made 3 boards on the 100mm x 100mm panel and cut them up when I get them so I got 10 of each board , silk screen both sides , through hole vias and reflow solder on both sides.
    I have surface mount chips both sides , mounting holes , multiple vias on large oval mounting holes for 100Ah battery shunts ,very good results.

    Note I use Kicad Pcb to make the boards and files to send to Firstpcb
    Picture of a one of my PCBs cant get that to display!
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2019
  8. Technics

    Technics Member

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    I used those a few years back. The results with fresh boards and developer were excellent and the only issue I had was the limited shelf lives of the boards or developer once opened (assuming you don't need a whole blank). That's also much cheaper than they were back then though so it would be less of an issue now. I'd probably be inclined to try the dry film if I etch boards again. Mostly because I still have tons of blank copper clad FR4 lying around. The results of YouTube's favourite soldering Scotsman seem good enough.

     
  9. Supplanter

    Supplanter Member

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    Clive is Manx, not Scottish.
     
  10. Technics

    Technics Member

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    Pretty sure he's a manx based Scot technically.
     
  11. aXis

    aXis Member

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    I've been doing lots of one-off circuit boards lately using a PCB Milling Machine. It works great and I can spit out a 4cm x 6cm board in about 20 mins.

    The mill I'm using is a home-made unit based on the Cyclone PCB Factory project - basically a bunch of 3D printed parts and then off the shelf electromechanical components. It handles 1mm features well and would probably be OK with 0.5mm features with some loss in reliability. I could tweak it a bit more but there are some mechanical design limitations.

    Alternatively you can get a standard 2020 milling machine from china for $200 - $300. Eg: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/PCB...ne-PVC-Mill-Engraver-Support/32701257945.html

    Just make sure you use FR2 (paper) boards rather than FR4 (fibreglass).
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2019
  12. RussellK

    RussellK Member

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    I use a 6040 router to do the odd prototype or one-off. As mentioned, there's no quicker way to have board in your hands. I just use FR4 with mine.
     
  13. Exodus_AU

    Exodus_AU Member

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    not to sidetrack this, I am working with a microcontroller from Adafruit but want to make it smaller (im using a flora which has way more than i need, but the gemma or smaller versions dont have enough). Can these companies design the board for me based on the specifications provide?
     
  14. pantner

    pantner Member

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    I just bought the UV Box kit, Etching tank with pump/heater, chemicals and boards from this place

    https://kinsten.co/

    haven't had a chance to make the UV Box yet, hopefully soon.

    I don't think any of those places with design anything for you.
     
  15. theSeekerr

    theSeekerr Member

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    Yes, but the results may not be terribly good. For instance, Seeed offer this service: https://www.seeedstudio.com/pcb-layout-service.html
     
    Exodus_AU likes this.
  16. RussellK

    RussellK Member

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    Hmm. Layout charged a a dollar a pad. I'm guessing there'll be a lot of kooky autorouting.
     

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