Instructables

Making Printed circuit Boards at or Near Home: A Comprehensive Overview, Almost a Guide

There is a bit of controversy over making your own printed circuit boards, many makers think that professional boards are so inexpensive now that they are the way to go. Others want to have more control and hopefully short turn around time that comes with making their own. This instructable assumes that you buy into the "make your own point of view" and will not argue the point.

Near Home is bit of a new idea. What does “near home” mean? There are getting to be more and more hacker spaces ( and similar spaces ) which give makers access to more advanced and expensive equipment than most can afford at home. This instructable assumes such a hacker space is near by. And therefore considers more expensive equipment may be present than in the usual home lab. One such space is now investigating a number of these methods and is hoping to recruit local expertize in developing optimal techniques. For more information on this see the website of AS220 Labs ( http://as220.org/labs/pages/Making%20Printed%20Circuit%20Boards ). If you are near Providence RI consider participating in the project. Results will be posted back here.  We hope other hacker spaces also become centers for board fab.

This instructable will give an overview of most of the popular methods, describe how the steps come together and provide links ( mostly to other instructables, but some offsite ) to material on making boards.  Many of the instructables cover only one or a few steps I list them with the step, and then at the end have links to instructables covering more complete processes.  Note that I am planning to update this instructable for awhile yet, add your suggestions to the comments.

Making boards breaks down into a set of somewhat distinct steps. We will assume you have solved the circuit design stage and are starting on the fabrication stage.
Step 1:  * Draw the schematic in a PC design tool.
Step 2: * Layout the components ( or choose the position of the components on the board ) and Route the traces ( this means determining the path the traces take on the circuit board )
Step3: * Output Files describing the board to the next step in the chain, this could be a set of gerber files, an image file, or perhaps some other file(s)
Step 4: * Transfer the file to the board ( in some cases like a milling machine you are then done )
Step 5 *  If etching: etch the board.
Step 6: * Drill the holes.
Step 7: * Done.

Note that steps overlap somewhat and are often applied iteratively.

At each step there are a host of choices you can make, each may have consequences on quality and future steps. In this overview we will mention the choices but may not follow up on each of them. We will also bias our answers somewht to free or low cost solutions.
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up
crazypj3 months ago

Nice 'ible'

The problem with any on-line supplier/manufacturer, it still takers at least 48hrs to get boards from time of order (overnight shipping is exorbitant cost wise so finsihed part isn't cheap)

For impatient or frugal, Fritzing is good layout software, plus, it's free. You can design on a 'breadboard' and it will convert to a PCB schematic

I think you should place order for your required PCB at
pcbmaking.com and I m sure you will get your job done quickly on affordable
price. It provides professional PCB with Free shipping and big discount price.
Good luck!

bwetman6 months ago

Really nice work,

Looking for more information from you....

:)

mguima1 year ago
Although I drill holes with a dremel in hands or even with a vertical stand, most of times I make holes with a punch tool like this. My punch tool has 1mm and 0.6mm diameter tips and works great with single face phenolite boards.
http://www.instructables.com/files/deriv/FY5/TPOU/H9SZMDLI/FY5TPOUH9SZMDLI.SQUARE.jpg
kit-perfurador.jpg
cpeniche2 years ago
Great work.!! Now that you have your board why don't you try the dry film solder mask? The green stuff. Is very easy to use and your boards will be comparable as the professional pcb makers.

Is very useful for boards that use smd components, after you apply the green coat soldering is very easy

you can buy it at ebay here:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Dynamask-5000-dry-film-solder-mask-/271020895325?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f1a1aac5d
akaziuna2 years ago
Love this! Great work Russ! I agree with Mr. Moose, we should have a DIY PCB symposium at AS220 Labs.
Just a question, in etching, do you just put the design on the PCB, and then put it in the etching material? I'm interested in doing Arduino projects, and would like to be able to make a cheap board.
Oops, didn't read the whole thing now I get it. Except, tinning, is that the metal plates around the connector and where the processor/microprocessor sits?
Not quite sure I get the question, most of the boards here do not have a microcontroller. In any case I am not sure what the "metal plates" are, you may be referring to the "copper pour" area. In this technique the conductors are more or less formed by small areas where the copper is removed to insulate the conductors rather than just put coper to make the conductors.
All I was asking was what tinning was. By metal plates I meant the metal around the connections.
Tinning is adding metal over the copper to protect it against corrosion and make it accept solder more easily. Usually a chemically deposited layer of tin. Some people also add a layer called solder mask which stops solder from adhering where you do not want it.

The area around connections are called "pads".
SkizMaroo2 years ago
DesignSparkPCB (http://www.designspark.com/knowledge/pcb) is the hobbyists answer to the free version of Eagle.
It is freeware, and has a lot of nice features that Eagle lacks, with none of the free version constraints. If youre familiar with Eagle youll have no trouble finding youre way around it.
jrutter3 years ago
Great Guide Russ!
Mary6663 years ago
Nice overview, I like the idea of hackerspace fabrication.
russ_hensel (author)  Mary6663 years ago
We are working on that. Anyone who thinks they might like to attend should contact me either thru instructables or the link at as220.
MrMoose23 years ago
Nice work Russ. Do you think AS220 could have a symposium on this so others could share their experiences?