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Printing Printed Circuit Boards

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We really respect the old timers out there and their amazing ways of crafting PCBs; they used black tape on clear acetate sheets to create single layers of PCBs with a photoetching process. Now creating a PCB is a simple matter of opening up a CAD package, but like the old timers we’re still dealing with nasty chemicals or long shipping times from China.

The EX¹, a new robot on Kickstarter – hopes to change that. They’ve created a PCB fabrication process that’s as simple as printing something with an inkjet printer. Just put in a piece of substrate – anything from Kapton to acrylic to fabric – and in a few minutes you have a single-sided PCB in your hands.

The printer dispenses two chemicals, silver nitrate and ascorbic acid, that react and produce traces and pads for the circuit. Right now, the EX¹ is limited to single-side boards, but experiments on creating multi layer boards are ongoing.

In any event, we’re really impressed with how simple the EX¹ setup actually is. Inkjet is a mature, well understood technology with more than enough resolution for simple homebrew circuits, and the AgNO3 + Vitamin C formula could easily be adapted to an inkjet printer modification.

How-to: Prepare your Eagle designs for manufacture

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Cadsoft Eagle is a multi-platform freeware circuit layout program. Lots of open source hardware is designed in Eagle, and it’s become a hobbyist favorite. We use it for all of our hardware designs.

There are several ways to turn an Eagle design into an actual printed circuit board (PCB). We’ll show you how to save Eagle designs as industry-standard gerber files that are accepted by any PCB manufacturer. You can use the gerbers to order a single prototype, or a full panel.

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