Making Fancy Dice PCBs at Home

These days, it’s easy to get high-quality custom PCBs made and shipped to your door for under $50. It’s something that was unfathomable only a decade ago, but now it’s commonplace. However, it doesn’t mean that the techniques of home PCB production are now completely obsolete. Maybe you live somewhere a little off the beaten track (Australia, even!) and need to iterate quickly on a project, or perhaps you’d like to tinker with the chemical processes involved. For your learning pleasure, [Emiliano] decided to share some tips on making SMD-ready PCBs with the TinyDice project.

The actual project is to create a small electronic dice, and [Emiliano] touches on the various necessary considerations such as how to decrease power consumption, and how to source good quality, organic random numbers from your local microcontroller. Though its far from an exhaustive discussion on either topic, it shows an understanding of the deeper factors at play here.

However, the real meat of the write-up is the PCB production process. The guide goes through several stages of etching to not only prepare the PCB but also to add solder mask and produce a solder paste stencil as well using an aluminum can. This gives the boards that colored finish we’re all used to and lets the boards be reflowed for easy SMD assembly.

It’s a tidy guide as to how to approach producing your own boards to be used with SMD components, and it’s complete with clear photos and instructions throughout. If you want to take your designs up another notch, why not consider putting your components inside the circuit board?

DIY Through Hole Plating Like a Boss

We’ve seen plenty of professional looking, homemade PCBs over the years. But this is the first time we’ve seen such professional vias and through hole plating. Don’t let the green solder mask fool you. This is a homemade PCB.

[Kurt Skauen] started with your standard artwork, followed by etching. He then applied a solder mask that is UV curable. At this point, it’s nothing we haven’t seen done before. After drilling he then adds vias with wire. Again, we’ve seen that before as well. Where it gets interesting is his use of through hole plating rivets. We’ve heard of these micro-sized rivets in the past, but hadn’t seen their use documented as well as [Kurt] has.

Making such a professional looking board at home is practically an art form. One could argue that with today’s cheap, short run PCB fab houses, why bother with trying to do it yourself? Well, perhaps you need a professional looking board to show a client ASAP. Maybe you just hate waiting for your boards to arrive. Or maybe you do it just because you can. Either way, the results [Kurt] achieved are very impressive.