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 Forum index » DIY Hardware and Software
How do you make/design your PCBs?
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Tenine



Joined: Sep 13, 2006
Posts: 44
Location: Coventry

PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 4:35 am    Post subject:  How do you make/design your PCBs? Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Apologies if I'm starting some thread that's been done to death already,
I couldn't find any definite answers with the search.


Do you make them yourself or just design them and then get them printed?

I'm looking to get some of my own stompbox circuits printed.
Only in smallish runs, maybe 10 of one design and 10-30 of one of the 2 or 3 other designs I have (whatever number to fill up the production board).
Each of my circuits are only a little bigger than a small matchbox - maybe 2.5" x 3.5" at most, so I'd be able to fit a load of them on one production board.


Commercially made PCBs -
Can you suggest anywhere in the UK that does small production runs for a decent price?

Any free software recommendations please?
I'm running OS X 10.3.5 on a G4, but I also have access to an AMD Athlon (I think) running Windows XP.


DIY PCBs -
As concerns printing my own, what are the options?
I know I could use copper board and ultraviolet light, but the amount ofstuff I'd need to begin with (the box, the light, the chemicals etc) just makes it too expensive/time consuming for me.

Does anybody have any experience with Press & Peel?
That seems like a good option. It doesn't look as tempremantal as the
ultraviolet/chemicals option (no timing involved to save your tracks from being completely eroded!)



Thanks very much in advance, I'm looking forward to any help I get Smile

Take care,
Alex
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fonik



Joined: Jun 07, 2006
Posts: 3759
Location: Germany
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 6:19 am    Post subject: Re: How do you make/design your PCBs? Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Tenine wrote:
Do you make them yourself or just design them and then get them printed?

for i am only in need for one or maybe two pieces i design them and make them by myself using press'n'peel blue.

Quote:
DIY PCBs -
Does anybody have any experience with Press & Peel?
That seems like a good option. It doesn't look as tempremantal as the
ultraviolet/chemicals option (no timing involved to save your tracks from being completely eroded!)


the transfer method has it's drawbacks. in my experience you have to design a layout with wider tracks. i usually build them with 1mm width, sometimes (if space requires) with 0.5mm. and you have to drill by yourself (i like it, its very ruminant - what about you, coriolis? Wink )
but its a method you can easily achieve.
you may want to take a look how it looks like, here is the birth of my Low Pass Gate:
http://modular.fonik.de/gal_01/page1.html

and there are very instructive photoessays at tonepad.com, as you might already know.

for designing the layout i like expressPCB. it has this schematics editor which is easy to use. it has an extraordinary huge components library and you can easy create your own components.
you are able to link the pcb file to the schematic. that comes very handy when checking the net of the pcb!

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matthias
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fonik



Joined: Jun 07, 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:21 am    Post subject: Re: How do you make/design your PCBs? Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Tenine wrote:
Does anybody have any experience with Press & Peel?
That seems like a good option. It doesn't look as tempremantal as the
ultraviolet/chemicals option (no timing involved to save your tracks from being completely eroded!)


and:
you still have to etch the boards and for a good result temperature is significant.
i am etching at a temperature of about 45 C using sodium persulfate. the etching process takes about 10min.

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matthias
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shawn



Joined: Dec 13, 2005
Posts: 209
Location: savannah

PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I've done a few methods for making PCBs.

One method is to print transparencies of the pcbs with a laser printer. That worked on but I did find it to be a pain in the arse on finding the right temperature for the iron.

Second method I tried was obtaining an old XY plotter and rigging the pens to use permanent ink. This method kicked major ass! But the chemicals turned me off despite having a nice home built etching/bubble tank. Hated dealing with chemicals you just couldn't despose of properly. One problem was converting images into HPGL so the XY plotter would work correctly.

Third method, which I'm currently in the process of completing, is using a cnc router. No more chemicals, plus the best part is I can import an image and go from there. I finally have it up and running, I just need to configure the home and limit switches and I'm ready to rock! Btw, this method is expensive, you have to build everything yourself, BUT on the bright side I will be able to do pcbs, front panels, wood carvings, etc. Of course the ability to engrave my own front panels is giving me a woody.
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fluxmonkey



Joined: Jun 24, 2005
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Location: cleve

PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 8:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

rolling my own, i've used both press-n-peel and photosensitive process. i've done runs of up to 6 boards, which has been fine... if i needed 30, i'd probably want to have 'em professionally done.

i think press&peel is easier for just a couple boards, and for smaller boards... i use a regular laundry iron to do the transfer, and if the board is larger than the iron it's more trouble but still doable. the most important thing is to make sure the board is CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN before you do the transfer. polish w/ fine steel wool, then scrub with a cleanser like Ajax, then rinse in distilled water, then dry/prewarm the board in a warm oven. don't touch the surface, even oils from your skin can foul things up. but, even if the transfer isn't perfect, you can touch it up with a Sharpie marker.

the photosensitive boards i've used don't require a UV light, just 8-10 minutes under a florescent lamp has worked well, and the timing doesn't seem to be ultra-critical. when printing to transparencies, make sure the toner will be next to the pcboard, and make sure to sandwich the board/transparency/coverglass so everythings flat--any gap between the mask and the board, even the thickness of the transparency film, will lead to fuzzy edges and badness.

finally, i invested in a cheapo "etching tank"--basically a plastic vertical container with a fish-tank heater and aereator that bubbles the etchant as it works...

i used to be pretty intimidated about home etching, and the first couple boards were less than perfect... but it's entirely doable, and after you get the hang of it not hard at all...

bbob
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LukeDI



Joined: Sep 23, 2006
Posts: 50
Location: Boston MA, USA

PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I've never used them for PCBs but I think I remember Futurlec offering PCB manufacturing.
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Tenine



Joined: Sep 13, 2006
Posts: 44
Location: Coventry

PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 10:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Futurlec aren't in the UK, but thanks anyway.

I should've figured that a Press 'n' Peel would need etching Rolling Eyes
Still, it looks like the best option for me so far.

I think the numbers I quoted originally were just so I could get my money's worth, getting a whole load of PCBs produced in one go.

Considering that my circuits are discrete and use about a dozen components at most, one option I'm thinking about (Thanks to Shawn for the router idea!) is, taking the time to draw up some layouts which I can then route by hand using some sort of home-made XY stabilising rig (I guess like some sort of architect/graphic design drawing board) which holds, say, a Dremel.
It'd be useful for drilling too, I'm sure.

That way I get the advantge of not having to use chemicals.
I don't mind doing stuff like that by hand as I'm used to cutting wood by hand, drawing freehand etc.
I could make stencils to mark with a pen where I have to route.

Can anyone see any disadvantages to this idea?
(Do bare in mind, all my designs are discrete stompbox circuits with minimal parts, so they're nothing too complex).


Thanks for all the replies so far Smile

I think, depending on the sort of responses I get to my idea, I'll either go with that or Press 'n' Peel.


Oh, before I forget -
Is there anyway to protect the bare copper tracks once you have etched/routed them?


Thanks again,
Alex
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shawn



Joined: Dec 13, 2005
Posts: 209
Location: savannah

PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 10:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

You can tin the boards. They sell a powder that you use to mix in a solution then you put the board in and it will tin the traces. I have some but never bothered using it.
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fonik



Joined: Jun 07, 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 11:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

AFAIK there is no need for protecting the PCBs. can't remember - was it harry bissel or ian fritz who told me they have 20 years old PCBs and they're still just fine...
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fluxmonkey



Joined: Jun 24, 2005
Posts: 696
Location: cleve

PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Tenine wrote:
Considering that my circuits are discrete and use about a dozen components at most, one option I'm thinking about (Thanks to Shawn for the router idea!) is, taking the time to draw up some layouts which I can then route by hand using some sort of home-made XY stabilising rig (I guess like some sort of architect/graphic design drawing board) which holds, say, a Dremel.
It'd be useful for drilling too, I'm sure.

That way I get the advantge of not having to use chemicals.
I don't mind doing stuff like that by hand as I'm used to cutting wood by hand, drawing freehand etc.
I could make stencils to mark with a pen where I have to route.

Can anyone see any disadvantages to this idea?
(Do bare in mind, all my designs are discrete stompbox circuits with minimal parts, so they're nothing too complex),


i tried the routing idea when i first started... via sheer stubornness i got 2 boards done but it was a disaster. difficult, noxious, and dicey results, in my experience. i'll take a little ferric chloride in a pan over fiberglass dust any day! seriously, pcb chemistry is no more dangerous or difficult than wiring a powersupply.

however, another option, would be a "paper" circuit board, a'la peter blasser (http://ciat-lonbarde.net/paper/index.html) or commonsound (http://www.commonsound.com/kits/doku.php--they call it "point to point" wiring). bascially, you do a pcb layout optimzed to have the shortest tracks possible, print out on paper, glue to cardboard, punch holes and then replicate the "tracks" by routing component leads where the tracks should go. use lots of solder to hold everyting in place. i've used this technique as well, and the results are usable, but not as robust as PCBs.

b
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23isgood



Joined: Nov 18, 2006
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2006 4:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Is it possible using Express PCB to print out a pcb design and use this along with Press and Peel Blue to make home made PCB's?
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v-un-v
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2006 4:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I too have had mixed results while making PCB's. IMHO, it's better to get someone else to do the hard work! Laughing

My first experiences of making pcb's were the theremin pcbs, which I made 10 years back or so. It was very experimental, but the results were good. I bought an old flourecent UV tanning device for £2 from Cash Converters, placed it in a cupboard looking upwards with a shelf made from a sheet of glass above it. The timing of the lighting was in 'elephants'!!

I used a positive sandwiched between UV sensitised board and the glass underneath. The positive was made in a photocopier using standard OHP acetate. I think it would have been better to do a decent lith positive, but I didn't have those facilities then.

I recently tried to do a soundlab board using press n peel, but the results were terrible. But I'm going to have another go again, now I learn't what not to do. I agree with shawn, getting the iron's temperature right was a pain in the lower abdomen! Being an ex photographer, I longed for my old flat-bed mounting press- that would have been perfect Crying or Very sad

Everything I made up until the suntan unit was done on veroboard.

There's a lot to say for good old vero Smile

All we need now is some spark to write an autorouting veroboard maker. That would be the business Very Happy

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IST NICHT FÜR GEWERKEN BEI DUMMKOPFEN. DER RUBBERNECKEN SIGHTSEEREN KEEPEN DAS COTTONPICKEN HÄNDER IN DAS POCKETS MUSS.
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v-un-v
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2006 5:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I reckon this is what is called for Very Happy Idea
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IST NICHT FÜR GEWERKEN BEI DUMMKOPFEN. DER RUBBERNECKEN SIGHTSEEREN KEEPEN DAS COTTONPICKEN HÄNDER IN DAS POCKETS MUSS.
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fonik



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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2006 11:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

23isgood wrote:
Is it possible using Express PCB to print out a pcb design and use this along with Press and Peel Blue to make home made PCB's?

yes, it is! you only have to edit the view settings: background white, bottom layer black.
then go to the print command and print bottom layer only...

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fonik



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PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2006 11:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

v-un-v wrote:
I recently tried to do a soundlab board using press n peel, but the results were terrible. But I'm going to have another go again, now I learn't what not to do.


i always got good results setting the temperature of the iron to "wool".
and there has to be definitely no debris neither on the transfer nor the copper blank. clean the copper blank before the transfer process and never ever touch the copper blank or the transfer paper with your fingers...

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2006 3:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

fonik wrote:
there has to be definitely no debris neither on the transfer nor the copper blank. clean the copper blank before the transfer process and never ever touch the copper blank or the transfer paper with your fingers...


I think the main problem was with the laser printer. I could get a dmax black from the copy. Also the printer I took it to was trying to put a whole sheet through his printer. Fortunately, I now have a laser printer (an old Elite type). I will have another go at somepoint Smile

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DAS KOMPUTERMASCHINE IST NICHT FÜR DER GEFINGERPOKEN UND MITTENGRABEN! ODERWISE IST EASY TO SCHNAPPEN DER SPRINGENWERK, BLOWENFUSEN UND POPPENCORKEN MIT SPITZENSPARKSEN.
IST NICHT FÜR GEWERKEN BEI DUMMKOPFEN. DER RUBBERNECKEN SIGHTSEEREN KEEPEN DAS COTTONPICKEN HÄNDER IN DAS POCKETS MUSS.
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fonik



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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2006 4:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

the printer, yes... that's a case for itself. i fortunately have access to several machines.

alex, you might have already seen these photo essays explaining how to make PCBs using press'n'peel blue, it helped me allot:
http://www.tonepad.com/photoessay.asp?photoEssayID=10&sequenceNo=1
http://www.tonepad.com/photoessay.asp?photoEssayID=11&sequenceNo=1

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bill l



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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2006 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I'm planning to make some boards using photo paper and a laser printer, following the directions on this page:

http://www.fullnet.com/~tomg/gooteepc.htm

Has anyone else used this method?
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23isgood



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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2006 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I have been using the glossy photo paper and laser printer method for a while now. Its a huge pain in the ars. I have the pcb design printed out on a color copier at Kinkos (I don't have a laser printer). The key to this tek working is that the toner must be nice and thick on the glossy paper, but the pcb traces can not be too close together or they will melt into each other when you iron it out.

Also I almost always have to touch up the copper before I etch since there is always a trace that does not transfer well. I used this method on my TH VCO's.

When it works it works well but most of the time its a huge struggle. This is why i'm trying press and peel blue next to see if its easier to work with. I think the photo sensitive boards may be the easiest way to go but the most expensive (I have not tried it yet).

Thanks fonik for the info. I will be trying it out soon.

pete
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