Cyclone PCB Factory: 3d printable circuit board mill

printable-cyclone-pcb-factory

If you can 3D print most of the parts for another 3D printer, why not also for a PCB mill? That’s the question answered by the Cyclone PCB Factory. It will help you kiss those toner transfer or photo resist days goodbye.

Homemade circuit boards tend to be rather small, which really helps keep the cost and scope of this project down. Most of the mounting parts, as well as the gears, are 3D printed. Of course there’s the usual machine tool items which you pretty much have to purchase: the ball screws, precision rod, stepper motors, and a motor to spin the routing tool.

Check out the video below to see where the project is right now. One of the crucial aspects of PCB milling is to have a level build table. The cutter head tends to be ‘V’ shaped so cutting just a bit too deep can blow out the traces you’re trying to isolate. The demo shows that this can automatically calibrate the software to account for any variances in the height of the copper clad.

We remember seeing a snap-together PCB mill. But we’re pretty sure that that one used parts milled from HDPE rather than 3D printed components.

[Read more...]

Cutting islands into copper-clad PCBs with a drill

copper-islands

If you’re looking to build some small radio circuits, or if you are simply seeking a new look for your PCBs, you might want to check out what YouTube user [AndyDaviesByTheSea] has been working on lately. He has been building RF circuits as of late and was searching for a better way to create islands or “lands” on copper-clad PCBs.

He says that these sorts of islands are traditionally cut into the PCB with a scalpel or file – hardly an efficient process. [Andy] did a little experimenting and found a great way to quickly and precisely cut lands with a drill. Borrowing a bit of metal from an old VHS tape, he crafted a circular land cutter with a metal file. When mounted as a drill bit, his cutter produces clean, shallow cuts which create perfect lands on which to solder his components.

The only drawback to this method is that [Andy] found his bits were being dulled by the fiberglass boards pretty quickly. His solution was to carefully grind a broken heavy duty drill bit to do the task, which he says works even better than his original cutter.

A ham radio receiver, Manhattan Style

manhattan_style_circuits_the_red_not_the_white

If you’ve never heard of “Manhattan Style” circuit construction, you’re not alone. Popular in ham radio circles, the process looks nicer than straight dead bug style circuit building, but not as involved as etching your own PCB – consider it a nice middle of the road solution.

This type of construction is often used to build circuits inside enclosures that are made of copper clad, which is a somewhat common practice among ham radio operators. Manhattan Style circuits are built using glued-on metal pads to which components are mounted. One might think that the large pads you see in the image above would limit you to through-hole components, but that’s definitely not the case. A wide array of SMD pads are available in common pin configurations as well, allowing you to use pretty much any type of component you prefer.

While it might not be appropriate for every project you work on, Manhattan Style circuits and copper clad boxes definitely add a nice touch to certain items, like the Wheatstone Bridge Regenerative Receiver you see above.

[via Make]

Copper-clad enclosures

Building a great looking box for your projects can be a challenge. [Ken] boils down his process of building enclosures out of copper clad (PDF) circuit board material into an illustrated guide in case you want to try this for yourself. Why would you want to use PC board? The fiberglass substrate makes for a strong and lightweight material. Also, [Ken] is a ham radio operator and the copper coating acts as an electrical shield for delicate components inside.

As you can see above he uses solder to tack the pieces together. There’s some important considerations that go along with this method. First, he cuts the pieces just a bit oversized and then sands them flat and square before assembly. Next, he uses some 20 gauge wire as a shim between a ninety-degree joint and a right angle jig. This shim compensates for the shrinking that occurs as the solder cools, making sure the joint gets pulled to a right angle. He even solders nuts in place so that screws can be used to attach the case cover to the chassis.

Yesterday we saw toner transfer used to make labels on an ABS case. If you make your enclosure out of copper clad, using toner transfer for panel labels will be a snap!

Direct to PCB inkjet printing

[Rhys Goodwin] has been working on a system to print resist onto copper clad using an inkjet printer. This is a toner transfer alternative as it still uses toner, just not quite as you’d expect. The first step is to modify an inkjet printer, separating the carriage from the feed rollers in order to increase the clearance for the substrate. Instead of printing with etch resistant ink, as we’ve seen before, [Rhys] prints with black ink and then covers the board (ink still wet) in laser toner. Once there’s good adhesion he blows off the excess and bakes the board in a sandwich press, with spacers to keep the iron from touching the surface of the copper clad. This cooks the resist into a hard plastic layer and the board is ready for the acid. Watch him walk you through the process after the break.

[Rhys] uses the same method for silk screen, printing in red and baking the ink onto the substrate without added toner. This produces a nice looking board but it’s still quite a bit of work. It certainly sheds more light on the process than that laser-printer method from back in May. We hope you’ve been inspired by this and come up with the next innovation that makes this process easier.

[Read more...]

Mechanical mustache envy

While this mechanical mustache isn’t made for a Halloween costume, it certainly looks like part of one. Copper clad, brass, cable, and a few other bits come together in a similar style to tension based hands; the piece is then worn much like a Mardi Gras mask. To complete the rustic “old tyme” look [John] was after, the copper was tarnished using the vapor from a vinegar and salt solution. The finished assembly is steam punk delicious, but we’re saddened by the lack of steam punk eye brows to complete the look (or steam punk mutton chops, or steam punk goatee, or…)

[via Boing Boing]

Print toner directly to a PCB

We use the toner transfer method to fabricate printed circuit boards. The most difficult part of this is printing, ironing, and removing the paper from the toner that is used as an etchant resist material. [Mark Lerman] is developing a method to apply toner directly to the copper clad using a laser printer. Each of the photos in his gallery have comments that take us through his process. A laser printer has been modified to negatively charge the copper plate, thereby attracting the positively charged toner to it. Once the toner has been applied, the board is baked in an oven, then run through a laminator. This process can yield 2 mil traces and it looks like the potential for incredibly clean boards is just around the corner. The question is, will this be easier and take less time than using photo resist?

We’ve contacted [Mark] in hopes of getting more details. If you can’t wait for a follow-up, take a look at this thread concerning his work.

[Thanks Komradbob]

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