Make a PC Board With a Dremel

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About: I like to tinker and experiment with electronics, robotics, programming, and photography. Along with my latest interest in Steampunk.

Intro: Make a PC Board With a Dremel

This is not an Instructable for a particular device or circuit. I'm using the circuit I made for an Artbot project as an example. If you need a quick and dirty way to fashion a pc board, you can cut out the copper clad with a Dremel tool. Just plan you circuit and cut away copper to form your paths. No etchent, photo plotting or even drilling needed in some cases. Of course, you can't do any real fancy and do complex circuits, but for something simple, this does the trick.

Step 1: Layout Your Circuit

Use a sharpie to draw where you want to cut the copper clad.

Step 2: Cut Out Copper

My favorite tool bit to use with the Dremel is a "mini saw" bit. Use it to cut away slots to isolate paths. It's like the reverse of laying out a trace.

Step 3: Check Slots and Clean

Be sure the cuts are clean. If you need to drill holes do it now before cleaning. Rub surface with a steel wool pad or scratcher pad to remove burrs.

Step 4: Add Your Parts

You can now add your parts and finish your circuit.

Step 5: Done

Your circuit board can now be used in your project. I'm building an Artbot to show at the Maker Faire and up coming Robogames and needed a simple board to hold a few parts.

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    21 Discussions

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    botronics

    6 years ago on Step 2

    I don't know the part number. I call it a "mini saw". Just see what available at your local Home Depot or Lowes. The saw makes nice straight cuts. A ball cutter type of tip would work if the cut need not be straight.. Its best to secure the board with a vise and not run it on your pants leg like I did. I now have holy pants.

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    sammyrampers

    6 years ago on Step 2

    Can someone tell me the name of the bit being used in the rotary tool?

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    Jodex

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Nice idea. May even be worth of trying =D

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    botronics

    9 years ago on Introduction

    Those are not bad at all. Looks like they would work out fine. if you got the equipment, by all means do it. Better than using pref board and spaghetti tubing. No mess with the etching and disposal too.

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    botronics

    9 years ago on Introduction

    When playing around with blades, you can get cut up pretty bad. You have to apply a lot of force to cut the copper. Thats when you can slip easily.

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    MoeK

    11 years ago

    This is old hat. Google "paddyboard", for the Australian version. Also, "ugly construction" and "dead bug construction". You can do quite complex stuff. Amateur radio types have been doing this for years to make receivers and transmitters. You use PCB material as a ground plane and suspend circuitry above it using smaller pads of circit board material as islands or even very high value reiistors as standoffs. If you can develop a pattern with straight lines, a hacksaw will do the cutting just fine.

    2 replies
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    botronicsMoeK

    Reply 11 years ago

    I read an article by Bob Pease from National Semi. "What's all this stuff.. " were he shown a circuit made up by cutting up pieces of circuit board and super glued them to a larger board for a ground plan. These islands can be soldered to for developing circuits. This does work very well.

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    agis68

    9 years ago on Introduction

    Good idea for short circuit but when u have a lot of PCB parts? Has to be more detailed. But for jobs like that its ok...

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    DYLEGO

    9 years ago on Introduction

    how does this work? if the entire board is copper, doesnt the electricity go all over instead of just on the paths?

    1 reply
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    botronicsDYLEGO

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Its a thin foil of copper on non-conducting fiberglass board. Cutting the foil, cuts the paths.

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    Punkguyta

    11 years ago

    I thought that you were using a cutout wheel on your dremel to do this and then I saw the bit, what kind is that? I've never actually seen one of those.

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    appsman

    11 years ago

    This is not bad, but it's actually easier and cleaner to use a hobby knife. just slice through the copper in strips and peal them off with a good needle nose pliers. Take an Xacto knife and snap about 1/8" off the tip of the blade with the pliers. That makes it easier to apply some pressure on the knife. I found it much easier to control the knife compared to a Dremel and have made PCBs for surface mount ICs this way. I will take some pics and show what I mean in a week or so.

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    Tek465m

    11 years ago

    Have you ever played with BEAM bots?
    Your circuit layout looks similar to the Magbot or sun swinger circuit. You could do away with the hall effect and PIC, and make it solar powered. Pick up a copy of "Junkbots, Bugbots, and Bots on Wheels" or if you just want the circuit and description, download the manual at Solarbotics.com

    I've build a couple of them free-form BEAM style as gifts and they have never failed to impress.

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    rockyt

    11 years ago

    The circuit that is shown, what does it do and what's it for? Nice idea!!

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    botronicsrockyt

    Reply 11 years ago

    It will be for a Magnetic Pendulum Artbot. I will have three pendulums with magnets suspended over three coils each for a total of nine. The pendulums get a kick as they cross over a hall senser monitored by a pic microcontroller. All three pendulums also interact with each other. I will name it "Three's a Crowd" and hopefully get it done to show at Robogames 2007 and the Make Faire. I have a youtube video showing preliminary experiments.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hwHTeuX6Qk

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    botronicsFrenchCrawler

    Reply 11 years ago

    It was a nice day outside and I didn't have a table, so I did the work on my porch steps. It's a good idea not to do it indoors or you will have copper and fiberglass chips in the house. Ya, I did nick my pants, so don't have your good slacks on.

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    mrmath

    11 years ago

    How hard is it to keep from cutting through? What speed to you set on the dremel?

    1 reply
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    botronicsmrmath

    Reply 11 years ago

    I thought at first the saw would cut through easily, but it didn't. In fact, I had to go over a few spots to remove more copper. One trick is to move in the direction opposite to the rotation for better control. It probably depends on how sharp the bit is and how heavy the copper clad is. I was using board with 2 ounce copper. Regarding speed, just use a medium speed.

    Check this site for more info about PC milling
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PCB_Milling