PCB etching seems to be a subject that sharply divides our community into those who are experts in it and etch themselves every PCB they use, and those who have significant quantities of ferric chloride stained clothing in their past and for whom the advent of cheap commercial PCB manufacture and CNC milled PCB prototyping have been the best thing since sliced bread.
Your likely success when etching your own boards is most dependent on the quality of your preparation and your equipment. If you began your PCB career with etch-resist transfers and a permanent marker with a Tupperware tub of etchant, then later progressed to laser toner or photographic masking and a bubble etcher, you’ll understand this.
[Jan Henrik] has drawn our attention to his very nicely built PCB etching suite (Translation, German original) at the Warpzone hackerspace (Translation, German original) in Münster, Germany. The foil pattern is printed on transparency and exposed to UV light over a photoresist coated board with a vacuum pump arrangement to ensure as good a contact as possible to the board for the sharpest result. They have two exposers, one for single sided and the other for double-sided boards, both are very well-built from what looks like plywood.
The attention to detail continues with a home-made magnetic stirrer and heated bubble etching tank Their etchant of choice is sodium persulphate, so there are none of those brown ferric chloride stains.
PCB etching is nothing new, indeed we have covered the subject extensively over the years. But we think you’ll agree, if you’re going to etch your own PCBs you should have as good a set-up as you can, and Warpzone’s PCB suite is rather well put together. Those of us in spaces with lesser facilities should be getting ideas from it.
Filed under: Hackerspaces
Reaction tester project from Vagrearg:
The single gate-type NAND version was put onto a PCB and tested. It works like a charm. There were only 74AC00 chips available at the time, but they are just about the same as HC chips. You can get the design files, which are made with KiCad. The layout is kept as symmetrical as possible and the A/B buttons are next to the LEDs. Power is supplied using three AA batteries in a standard battery-holder and the PCB is stuck onto the battery-holder with double-sided sticky tape.
Full details at Vagrearg project page.
Sjaak has posted an update on his uC controlled dummy load project we covered previously:
I finally found some time to check out the UCload project. A couple of weeks ago I quickly soldered the PCB and wrote a quick’n’dirty firmware for it. The basic functionality was working, but it wouldn’t do good for the shiny display.
Today I locked myself in my mancave and shut myself off from the world. Turned the light down, pulled loud music from the speakers and started coding like hell!! Not exactly but I found some time to write some more decent firmware for this load. In a previous revision of the PCB I forget the pull up resistors and swapped the SDA and SCL signals. I corrected that and made some small other changes (still ****ed up the silkscreen) in revision 2. The hardware is quite OK and rock solid (prolly more due to the robust FET then my analogue skills :)). However I managed to use a 1n4148 diode to measure the temperature. Connect it to the heat sink and if that one gets to hot turn on a fan. It accuracy is terrible but capable of detecting over temperature :)
More details at smdprutser.nl project page.
kevinhub88 over at the Black Mesa Labs writes:
Black Mesa Labs has been using a $20 hot plate for a year now for soldering QFN ICs to PCBs. Only issue so far has been the size ( 10″x10″x3″ ) and thermal mass of the thing as it consumes precious microscope work area and unfortunately stays quite hot for 30+ minutes after a quick 4 minute reflow job. BML boards are mostly 1″x1″, so a 800W hot plate with a 6″ diameter heating surface is overkill for most jobs.
Wanting something much smaller for a typical BML PCB – stumbled across this 24V DC heating element on Amazon for only $14. It is rated for 24V at 5-7 ohms ( or 4.8Amps ). A surplus 19.5V DC 5A laptop power brick laying around BML seemed like a perfect match for this element. BML has safety rules avoiding designs above 48V – so the 100Watt 20V DC supply coupled with the 24V element seemed like a great way to make a lot of heat in a small surface area in a short amount of time.
Details at Black Mesa Labs project page.
Hector built a free Bus Pirate v3.8 PCB. The Bus Pirate is an open source hacker multi-tool that talks to electronic stuff.
If you build a free PCB we’ll send you another one! Blog about it, post a picture on Flicker, whatever – we’ll send you a coupon code for the free PCB drawer.
Get your own handy Bus Pirate for $30, including world-wide shipping. Also available from our friendly distributors.
Batches of PCBs from Ivo of Knutsel.org:
The first batch was a new run of the LivingColors Arduino shield.
The second batch was a breakout board for the NiceRF SX1276 LoRa module. Here I experimented a little with contour routing.
The third batch was an adapter board to use no-name CC2500 modules in boards designed for the Quasar QFM-TRX1-24G. The boards are small (about 20 mm x 25 mm) and the minimal size for dirtypcbs PCB’s is 100 mm x 100 mm. Here I experimented with breakout panels, putting 4 PCB’s in one design.
More details at Ivo’s project page.