Cut Circuit Boards With a Paper Cutter

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Introduction: Cut Circuit Boards With a Paper Cutter

About: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through understanding, and strives to inspire others to lear...

You can cut printed circuit boards apart with a paper cutter. You'd think they would crack or splinter, but they don't! Plus, this method doesn't generate a bunch of toxic dust. Watch prank's technique in the photos.

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    20 Discussions

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    JamesW440
    JamesW440

    7 months ago

    Yes, this works pretty well if you 'chop' the material and if it is not too large, but you cannot hold it in place (that is why you use the 'chop' technique. This is the equivalent of a large scissors or a tin snips.

    I usually use a small Dremmel saw - a very thin spinning disk, but it must be held tightly and not allowed to spin out which can damage the material around the cut. Plus the cut is quite thick - about 1/16", which is too much.

    A laser is thin, but burns - you don't want that. I think that the best method would be some kind of very long razor blade cutting against a backdrop of steel with a channel in it which houses a tough plastic such as polycarbonate. Such a steel back-drop occurs on a table saw, for example.

    To make the blade, a metal 'knife' consisting of a piece of metal bar with a channel cut lengthwise about 2/3 to 3/4 of the height of a standard heavy duty razor blade is what is envisioned, but could easily be made from two 1" x 1" x 1' long angle irons back to back separated by metal pieces the approximate thickness of razor blades. The two angle irons are bolted together using three bolts and the center spacer made so that it is perfectly straight. The number of heavy duty razor blades needed side-by-side to cut a 6" piece of pc board would be about four. So insert that many blades with the cutting side down into the holder made from the angle irons so that the dull edge is against the separator that holds the angles apart. The separator must be part of the bolted assembly, that is, the bolts should be installed through it near the inner edge of the separator so that when they are tightened, the blades are all pinched and held firmly.

    If one is gutsy, a handle could be fashioned to allow you to hold the blade in position. Place the pc board over the plastic piece in the channel and align the blade above the plastic on top of the pc board to be cut, and rap it hard enough with a hammer on the top (where the two angles come together) and at the center of the board below - driving the blade through the material against the plastic. The plastic must not allow the board to deflect by pressing into it or sliding to the side. It must be hard enough to stop the blade without breaking and without being scored very much while not damaging the blades. But if it does, install new blades. I am thinking in terms of standard blades used in box cutters or for trimming knives like for sheet rock, etc.

    Alternatively, a guide to hold the blade could be fashioned out of wood so that the blade would not turn when struck.

    A third method would be to place the knife under a press such as one used for pressing bearings. But then the base of a smooth piece of fairly thick material with a channel for the plastic would be needed for a backing (probably couldn't use a table saw top unless you have a small one or a large press). I think this would be my preferred method since I have a press. The cut would be due to pressure on the blades sharp edge into the material and should cleanly shear the material with minimal tearing effect because the blades are so sharp.

    Even old style shaving blades could be used, but the back of the blades should be backed up against a machined edge between the two angle irons. If the blades have the top edge bar on them like the old single blades, the machining might be necessary, but if they are standard flat or double edged shaving blades, the separator should be thinner than the blades and again bolted with the angle irons so that the blades do not slip and are misaligned at the cutting edge.

    The angle irons serve to steady the horizontal motion, while the separator or the machined edge serves as the 'hammer' and distributes the force applied evenly to all of the blades at once. So something to help hold the blade upright while being pressed might be necessary. However, if the top angles are flat, and the pressure is applied properly, the cut will occur. Might take some practice.

    I also considered a knife for this blade, but it would have to be quite long, very thin and fit into a pressing block similar to that which I have described (at least very sharp).

    0
    KendallA1
    KendallA1

    2 years ago

    I use the same process. I bought an old paper cutter like they used in schools on eBay for $30. I use it to cut paper, pcbs, I even cut some mica sheets for replacing some mission style lampshades. The blade still cuts single sheets of paper cleanly after all the abuse I've heaped upon it. Great 'able, great info...

    0
    47degreesnorth
    47degreesnorth

    4 years ago

    Works great!! Thanks for the tip

    0
    gussmith001
    gussmith001

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Will these cut easily through double sided photo resist pcb that has a plastic film on it. I would like to cut a bigger pcb in smaller pieces before using it.

    0
    dozer789
    dozer789

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome idea! I have wondered how to cut them good, and this should work!

    Thanks for posting.

    0
    juse
    juse

    11 years ago on Introduction

    What thickness is your board material? My .062" was too thick for this technique.

    0
    devynfarr
    devynfarr

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I just cut a dozen 1.25 inch square boards. All 2oz copper on 0.062" fiberglass. No trouble. You have to mean it, a good sturdy CHOP all at once. No slow stuff or the board will bend at the end of the cut. I used the heavy old paper cutter in the library.

    0
    crummett
    crummett

    10 years ago on Introduction

    This would work with a smaller, heavy bladed cutter. I tried it on my 24" and it really felt like it was doing some damage to the cutter. What's the best way to cut a board with components installed? That is, cutting the components as well. Any suggestions?

    0
    jeff-o
    jeff-o

    11 years ago on Introduction

    GLEE!! I've never considered this before, but now it seems so obvious! Cutting PCBs has always been such a chore. I'm putting a paper cutter on my Christmas wish list now. :)

    0
    frollard
    frollard

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    When I bought some from a guy on ebay - he used his home shop sheet-metal guillotine...I want to call it a 'brake' but thats the bender...Works on the same principle as this, with great results!

    0
    Davad
    Davad

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    It's call a sheet metal shear.

    0
    jeff-o
    jeff-o

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    No, I think you can use a press-brake to cut as well as bend. At the place where I work, they have both, but the guillotine is serious overkill for a small PCB! I wonder if I'd even be able to find the piece back there once it's cut off...

    0
    frollard
    frollard

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I was buying '360 square inches' of pcb...so I got it sliced into 10x 1x36" strips to make lighting strips. Definitely need a brake to cut something that big without sawing it.

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    jeff-o
    jeff-o

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Definitely. That, or a table saw if you're in a pinch.

    0
    awang8
    awang8

    11 years ago on Introduction

    I've always used tinsnips and a hacksaw. I never expected a paper cutter to work! I know the easiest way is definitely a laser cutter. Oh how I wish I was a member back then...

    0
    Plasmana
    Plasmana

    11 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, I never thought of that! Thanks! And would cutting veroboard greatly wear down the cutter?

    0
    Scubabubba
    Scubabubba

    11 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent! If you have an MDF papercutter (instead of a nice solid wood one like in the slideshow, or a metal one) you might want to reinforce it with some hardwood planks on the bottom and replace the anvil screws with longer ones that go into the planks. I killed an expensive Dahle trimmer when the screws pulled out of the fiberboard. Leverage can work against you sometimes . . .

    0
    gmjhowe
    gmjhowe

    11 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, thats really cool. I would try it, but i don't want to worry about ruining my only one.
    If i ever want anything major cutting down (especially my books) i just get my colleague at work to cut it down on a industrial guillotine!