We are shortly going to announce a "what can you do?" section in the blog, featuring the kind of neat, awesome and crazy things you can do with the tools at the asylum. This blog is for the laser cutter.
The Makers Asylum is a proud owner of a 100W Laser Cutter with a bed size of 3 ft by 2ft ( 600mm by 400mm).
It can cut through acrylic( 1 mm to 12mm), MDF( 1mm to 4mm), leather, foam, paper and any softer materials.
It can etch/engrave designs to. And that is where I got an idea.
PCB’s are an indispensable tool for makers who design electronic circuits. The purpose of a PCB is to provide copper connections to pads of electronic devices and provide mechanical support the components. Unfortunately, its a rather slow process ( 5-7 days) for professional PCB manufacture. Sometimes, we need to test an idea quickly.
You can make a single layered PCB with this process, and perhaps a 2 layered one if you really understand what is going on. A word of caution, this process is only for small quantities of prototyping.
Lets get started:
This is what you will need
1) A copper clad PCB.
2) Spray Paint
3) the layout of your PCB, unmirrored.
5) Swabs of cotton
Clean the copper side of the PCB with Acetone to remove any oily deposits on the PCB. Rub it, thrice until the cotton you are using comes out really clean.
In a well ventilated area, spray paint for a distance of 15-20cm on the copper side of the PCB. Make sure this spray is uniform and not having blobs. Let this spray paint dry at least for 30-45 minutes.
Spray paint atleast 3 coats of color on the PCB.
This spray painting of PCB can be done beforehand, so you have PCBS already spray painted and ready to be etched.
Load the PCB design in the Ardicam software ( available at the asylum) as a BMP file.
Your goal is to expose the copper under the spray paint, by etching the spray paint. Of course, this means areas where tracks are going to be present is going to be un-etched by laser, and the color should stay there. 3 passes with 25% power and 350mm/s speed should clean up the color easily. This is what you get after the engraving process.
Once you have this, you can dip this in your favorite etchant, which will remove the exposed copper, and the copper under the tracks remains. Solder and fire away!