Creating a PC board can be simple or complex, and you'll find you'll
spend quite a while perfecting your technique. I'll outline a few
ways. I'd try the simplest ones first, then progress:
1. KISS method (Keep It Simple Stupid)
Get some uncoated single sided copper plated PC board material from
Mouser, DigiKey, Radio Shack, Jameco or the like.
Get an etch resist pen. The best kind is Staedtler Lumocolor #313
Red. Find it in a good drafting or office supply store. Radio Shack
sells an etch resist pen that is worthless. You'll still need this
pen later when you are using CAD software. You might also get some
stick-on transfers for a PIC socket.
Draw the circuit on the copper.
Get a simple etching kit from one of the above sources. It will
contain Ferric Chloride, which is a caustic acid that you must not
get on your skin or in your eyes, a plastic tray which you should
throw away and replace with a nice glass cooking tray from your
kitchen, and some instructions. Follow them and make a board, any
board. Your first two or three tries will probably fail, don't give
up. Don't pour Ferric Chloride down the drain, it is hazardous waste
and also will eat your pipes.
2. Graduate to PC board layout software. There are hundreds of
programs, and each two PIClisters will provide three opinions as to
which is the best. EAGLE from CadSoft is a good shareware that will
work pretty well, and there are many others.
3. Print it on a laser printer, and use iron-on transfers available
at the above sources. I hate Iron on transfers, but the are cheap.
4. Graduate to a pen plotter that you kluge together to hold etch
5. Throw the pen plotter and the iron-on transfers in the trash and
graduate to sending GERBER files to a service bureau or using photo
process plotting methods. These are the only two ways I uyse anymore
after trying all the others.
6. Get some real software, either upgrade the freeware package your
started out with, or get a more expensive commercial package.
7. Get your boss to pay for all this stuff after convincing him you
can already do it then learn how to do it before he catches on. (It
worked for me!)
-- Lawrence Lile
"Nyquist was an optimist."
=> Median Filter Source Code
=> AutoCad blocks for electrical drafting
>3. Print it on a laser printer, and use iron-on transfers available
>at the above sources. I hate Iron on transfers, but the are cheap.
3a - laser print on tracing paper and use a UV box to expose
pre-sensitised PCB. Quick and works fine up to 50 tracks/inch. Some
inkjets also work well, others don't.
I hear some people have had good results with iron-on toner-transfer
>4. Graduate to a pen plotter that you kluge together to hold etch
Forget plotters - they're slow & messy & more hassle than they're
4a - print to a postscript file and take to a DTP service place - they
can print on film for production-quality artwork for production or DIY
via UV box
>5. Throw the pen plotter and the iron-on transfers in the trash and
>graduate to sending GERBER files to a service bureau or using photo
>process plotting methods. These are the only two ways I uyse anymore
>after trying all the others.
I started writing a definitive guide to high-quality PCB prototype
manufacture, but never got round to quite finishing it - what I did so
far is at
William Chops Westfield
I once was quoted a "refurbished" mechanical PCB machine (mill/drill/router
that grinds off the copper that you don't want, controlled by your PC) as low
as about $3000. That's not quite "hobbyist cheap", but it might be worth
considering for very small businesses that do a lot of very small runs of
boards. OTOH, the "consumables" for these machines look like they're pretty
expensive. On the gripping hand, it's small companies like that who DON'T
survive that result in the cheap refurbished machines' existance.
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