Introduction: Laser Thru-hole PCB Fabrication @ TechShop Chandler!

Picture of Laser Thru-hole PCB Fabrication @ TechShop Chandler!

If this was helpful please LIKE https://www.facebook.com/TechShopChandler ... If it wasn't for TechShop and the opensource maker movement I would of never discovered this amazing technique..
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Awhile back TechShopJim wrote a great instructable on Etching PCB's. I used this method and had great results for surface mount and basic copper traces( no thru hole) but I have several components that rely on header pins aka "thru hole" parts. So I needed a way to quickly etch and drill accurately. I figured out a way to leverage TechShop's lasers to not only etch but drill thru hole's into etched circuit boards (with exposed FR4 / fiberglass board) so that various arduino and other breadboard parts can be soldered. Yes with some elbow grease and ingenuity, TechShop can now be your full service DIY PCB fab shop ;)

Step 1: Etch Your Board Using Whatever Method You Prefer

Picture of Etch Your Board Using Whatever Method You Prefer

Step 2: Add .001 in RGB RED Holes to Your PCB Design

Picture of Add .001 in RGB RED Holes to Your PCB Design

Use your vector program of choice to create holes for laser cutting. Make sure holes are aligned to be in areas that have no copper exposed or the laser will not cut and you will break your circuit if your copper traces get removed.. .001 in - Red RGB = CUT

Step 3: Prepare and Send to Laser Cutter

Picture of Prepare and Send to Laser Cutter

Ensure laser is aligned so that holes are centered within existing copper traces but not on the traces.. The goal here is to use the laser to cut the particle board/fiber glass PCB layer not the copper. This will allow you to place components thru the board and solder to nearby or surrounding copper traces.. On ULS lasers @ Chandler TechShop I use the FR4 material setting under Composite Materials with a .060" thickness .. 1 Pass at 100% power 10% speed should be all you need to blast thru the fiberglass ;)

Step 4: Thru-hole Goodness!

Picture of Thru-hole Goodness!

If all went well you'll notices you have black charred holes where you told the laser to cut. To remove black holes use a .001 header/ jumper cable wire to poke the charred cuts thru and acetone / rubbing alchohol to remove any charring/yellow around holes/copper traces..

Step 5: All Done! No DRILLING REQUIRED! :)

Picture of All Done! No DRILLING REQUIRED! :)

Gently insert header pins to avoid damaging/breaking copper traces...Solder to surrounding copper traces. Now you can mount your breadboard parts permanently to your etched PCB's with laser precision.. This means NO DRILLING required for your thru hole parts ;) .. and yes I made it at TechShop !

Comments

Baghdad_boy (author)2014-03-21

Thanks for the tutorial mate. just check the MSDS of your PCB before doing this. from memory laser cutting FR4 it's generally avoided because of how toxic the fumes are.

dakman123 (author)Baghdad_boy2014-03-22

FR4 and Fiberglass cutting/engraving is fully supported by Universal and Epilog CO2 lasers see : http://www.ulsinc.com/materials-library/materials/... and http://www.epiloglaser.com/how-it-works/laser-mate...

As with all laser cutting as a result of burning of the material, its best to have proper ventilation in place to avoid fumes. Luckily at TechShops state of the art ventilation is available in the building. Other lasers I've heard have filters to trap fumes.

Also, as mentioned, it will char so if you notice too much charring, reduce power and increase speed and/or increase number of passes.. This technique has been proven to reduce charing (and of course reduce fumes) see: https://www.lia.org/store//ICAL07_1402

But all and all I see no issue cutting this (provided you have adequate ventilation) or a N95/NIOSH respirator.

This is handy! Thanks for sharing!

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