Making PCBs With A Vinyl Cutter

You might assume that you need a lot of expensive stuff to make your own PCBs, but that isn’t the case: you can do it with a vinyl cutter and a few common chemicals and tools. [Emiliano Valencia] has laid out the entire process. While we’ve seen plenty of make your own PCB guides before, this one goes a bit further as it covers using the vinyl cutter to make solder masks, so you can use it for surface mount designs.

The end result of the process that [Emilano] lays out is the tinyDice, a cute little electronic die that can fit on a keyring. The whole process is very well written up, and even experienced PCB makers will probably find a few useful tricks here.

The really interesting part for us was using the vinyl cutter to make three parts of the process: the etching mask, the solder mask that protects the traces and the solder stencil that applies the solder to the pads for surface mounting. Continue reading “Making PCBs With A Vinyl Cutter”

Vinyl Cutter Migrates From Scrapbooks To Gaskets

We know it all too well: another smoothly-operating night in the garage easily halted by a broken component. In the late hours of the night, no hardware store will open its doors. And while waiting may reward the patient, creativity may reward those who act now. That’s exactly where [Justin] found himself one evening: with a torn gasket. Not to be dismayed, he turned to his fiancee [Amy] and the two of them managed to design and cut a perfectly fitting replacement gasket on [Amy’s] vinyl cutter in a  mere matter of minutes.

In the video after the break, the two step us through their process in detail. By starting with an image of the existing gasket, they capture a reference image. Some light work in photoshop cleans up everything except the resulting gasket they’re looking for. Finally, sizing “by eye” in the vinyl cutter’s software after measuring an existing dimension gives them sufficient precision to remake a duplicate gasket that’s eye-for-eye indistiguishable from the original.

It seems like we often hear about vinyl-cut gaskets in passing or in the comments, but it’s great to see a team post such a fabulous success story putting them to good use. And in case a plain old’ vinyl cutter blade wont do the trick, why not try running it at ultrasonic speeds?

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Vinyl Cut Your Way Into An Edge-Lit Glass Display

The chances are you’ve seen the myriad cheap copyright-infringing edge-lit acrylic displays from Chinese suppliers everywhere on the internet, and indeed, etching acrylic with a modest CNC laser cutter has become easily viable to a lot of us in more recent years. However, if you want to kick things up a notch, [Michael Vieau] shows us how to build a plaque from scratch using not acrylic, but rather etched glass to make the finished product look that much more professional.

There are a few different steps to this build and each one is beautifully detailed for anyone who wants to follow along. First, the electronics driving the WS2812 lights are designed from scratch based on an ATtiny microcontroller on a PCB designed in Fritzing, and the sources necessary for replicating those at home are all available on [Michael’s] GitHub. He even notes how he custom-built a pogo-pin header at the end of the USBASP programmer to be able to easily use the same ICSP pinout in future projects.

But since a lot of you are likely all too familiar with the ins and outs of your basic Arduino projects, you’ll be more interested in the next steps, detailing how he milled the solid wood base and etched the glass that fits onto it. The process is actually surprisingly simple, all you need is to mask out the design you want through the use of a vinyl cutter and then pouring some etching solution over it. [Michael] recommends double-etching the design for a crisper look, and putting everything together is just as simple with his fastener of choice: hot glue.

Much as there was an age when Nixie displays adorned every piece of equipment, it seems like ease of manufacture is veering us towards an age of edge-lit displays. From word clocks to pendants and badges, we’re delighted to see this style of decoration emerge, including in replacing Nixies themselves!

A Case For The Desktop Vinyl Cutter

As far as desktop workbench fab tools go, it’s too easy to let 3D printers keep stealing the spotlight. I mean, who doesn’t appreciate that mechatronic “buzz” as our printer squirts a 3D CAD model into plastic life? While the 3D printer can take up a corner of my workbench, there’s still plenty of room for other desktop rapid-prototyping gadgets.

Today, I’d like to shed some light on vinyl cutters. Sure, we can start with stickers and perhaps even jumpstart an after-hours Etsy-mart, but there’s a host of other benefits besides just vinyl cutting. In fact, vinyl cutters might just be the unsung heroes of research in folding and papercraft.

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Cameo Cutter Makes SMD Stencils

You never know what you might find in an arts and craft store. A relatively recent addition to crafting is automatic cutting machines like the Cricut and Cameo cutters. These are typically used to cut out shapes for scrapbooking, although they will cut or engrave almost anything thin. You can think of them as a printer with a cutting blade in place of the print head. [Mikeselectricstuff] decided to try a Cameo cutter to produce SMD stencils. The result, as you can see in the video below, is quite impressive.

If you’ve ever wanted to do SMD soldering with a reflow oven, stencils are invaluable for putting solder paste on the board where you want it quickly. The board [Mike] has contains a boat-load (over 2,000) of LEDs and dropping solder on each pad with a syringe would be very time consuming (although he did do some touch up with a syringe).

The board he’s using doesn’t have any extreme fine-pitched parts. However, he did some test patterns and decided he could get down to a finer pitch, especially with a little tweaking. However, the stencil he used didn’t need any changes. All he did was export the solder paste layer as a DXF and bring it straight into the Cameo software.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen one of these cutters pressed into stencil service. You can also get some use out of your 3D printer.

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Ad Hoc MIDI To Music Box Project Shows Power Of Hacker Community

Fair warning: when you post a video of you doing an incredibly tedious process like manually punching holes in a paper tape to transfer a MIDI file to a music box, don’t be surprised when a bunch of hackers automates the process in less than a week.

The back story on this should be familiar to even casual Hackaday readers. [Martin] from the Swedish group “Wintergatan” is a prolific maker of unusual musical instruments. You’ll no doubt recall his magnificent marble music machine, a second version of which is currently in the works. But he’s also got a thing for music boxes that are programmed by paper tape, and recently posted a video showing his time-consuming and totally manual process for punching the holes in the tape. Since his source material was already in a MIDI file, a bunch of his fans independently came up with ways to automate the process.

The video below shows what he learned from his fans about automating his programming, but also what he learned about the community we all work and play in. Without specifically asking for help, random strangers brought together by common interests identified the problems, came up with solutions, sorted through the good and the bad ideas, and made the work publically available. Not bad for less than a week’s work.

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Turning Your CNC Into A Vinyl Cutter

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s actually pretty easy to modify your CNC machine to hold a vinyl cutter blade in order to do stencils or even cut out vinyl logos!

[Jouni] designed a holder for a standard Roland vinyl/sticker cutter blade (replacement with 5 blades is about $10 on eBay). It’s made to fit his specific CNC which uses a 65mm spindle, with a 49mm mounting ring — but the file could be easily modified to suit others.

Simply clamp your plastic or vinyl onto a flat piece of wood, and get stenciling! [Jouni’s] included his .STL file on his site in case anyone wants to try it out. While he’s designed it for 3D printing, you could probably CNC mill it as well — which would kinda make more sense…

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