PCB agitator from a broken CD-ROM drive


Etching PCBs goes a lot better if you agitate the solution in order to carry away the dissolved copper and get fresh etchant to the area. With that in mind [Rohit Gupta] designed a mechanism in Sketch Up before realizing he was going about it the hard way. He ended up basing his agitator on a broken CD-ROM drive instead of starting from scratch.

He uses the CD sled from the drive, ditching the lens and its support structure. To get direct access to the motor that drives the tray he uses an L293D H-bridge chip. This is controlled by an MSP430G2231 microcontroller. The driver board seen in the upper right includes a voltage regulator, three status LEDs, and one user input switch. Once triggered, the sled will move back and forth, contacting an old mouse microswitch which acts as the limiting switch. We find it entertaining that [Rohit] prototyped the circuit on a breadboard, then used that success to etch the final circuit board (shown in the video below).

If you’ve been following the hacker creed and never getting rid of any junk you’ll have no problem finding a donor drive to make one of your own. But just in case you can’t get a hold of this hardware a similar agitator can be built using a hobby servo.

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Cheap and easy PCB agitator from an old CD-ROM


Instructables user [mzsolt] enjoyed making his own PCBs, but he wanted to speed up the etching process just a bit. While some people put together elaborate bubble tanks and agitators, he wanted to keep his simple and more importantly, cheap.

He looked around the house and discovered an ancient CD-ROM drive that was collecting dust, which he figured would make a great agitator for smaller projects. He picked up a decade counter and a handful of other cheap components, then got busy pulling the drive apart. He connected the motor and the drive’s limit switches to the decade counter, which controls the entire setup.

When powered on, the drive ejects, taking his container full of etchant with it. When the drive hits the outer limit switch, the decade counter reverses the motor until it hits the inner switch, reversing the motor once again.

As you can see in the video below, it works reasonably well. He suggests using a variable power supply to regulate the motor’s speed, but a variable pot would probably work just as well. Obviously the agitator is best suited for smaller projects, but since it was so cheap to put together, you won’t hear us complaining.

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