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Using a laser engraver/cutter to create a PCB


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So, I was thinking today since I got a new laser cutter/engraving device was if I could use it to make a decent single-sided PCB.  This was so much easier than the toner transfer method!  I wanted to share this experience for all the other DIYers that like to make their own PCB and may have a laser engraver at their disposal.

 

First to let everyone know I purchased the xTool S1 20 watt version diode laser.

 

After some testing I was able to get what looks to be a usable PCB and it passes all continuity test too.  Just need to assemble it for a final test.

 

First, I tried to just use a sharpie to color the board and then invert the mirrored image to engrave.  But that did not really work that well, so I decided to paint the copper board and use the laser to engrave off the paint that was not going to be traces.

 

IMG_1953.JPG.f38e3e6a6f3cd0ea70adfe04a1414b1e.JPG

 

Once the paint dried, I put it on bed of my laser engraver, squared it up and got it ready to engrave.  I engraved a couple of different mirrored inverted images of a couple of different boards.  The laser engraved the paint right off as I wanted it to.  See below for the results.  

IMG_1955.thumb.JPG.01ad220981e07b23151de4091b3fba88.JPG

I cut the board in 1/2 and put it in the etching solution and left it for probably an hour.  Took all the copper off where the paint was engraved off.

IMG_1956.JPG.118e6ad2e5f09381a6b8b8d112da6c61.JPG

Using some acetone, I removed the paint from the copper that remained on the board, and I have to say that I am pretty impressed by the results.

IMG_1957.JPG.14052ec41066f9827b0e35e9c9e35cba.JPG

For anyone that wants to know my engraving settings that I used they are below:

 

xTool S1 20 watt diode laser 

Selected material 3mm basswood plywood since I was just taking off paint.

Power = 60%

Speed = 120mm/s

Pass = 1

Bitmap mode = grayscale

lines per cm = 100

Engraving mode = Bidirectional

 

 

 

 

Edited by Shift838
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Very nice indeed! Saves you from buying the expensive photosensitive PCB's. That said, I'm not sure this is much faster than traditional light etching although it certainly gives your neat machine something to do 😄

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Yay! Laser PCBs! 
 

I once hoped that the laser precision would allow for prototyping finer traces. But in my experiments, I only got as far as a working 1-sided Arduino with 0.1". 
 

What etch process did you use? I found the "regenerating copper chloride" process quite efficient. Vibrate the solution every minute or so. 
 

I see you etched away a large  area. I would try to minimize the copper being removed. That conserves your solution.


Another trick that I liked--if you are rasterizing a design, is to burn vector outlines of the traces. 
 

It looks like you hit upon a good paint for this. My friends and I tried a bunch of spray paints before getting one that stuck well all through the etching. 

 

Have fun with your laser! I know you are creative and persistent! 
 

 

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