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3D Printer For Making Prototype PC Boards?

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  • #61
    Originally posted by MattiJ View Post
    At uni we taped both sides of artwork to a piece of scrap pcb and slipped the photoresist coated pcb between those two layers. But needs 2-sided uv lightbox.
    Yeah, we did that about 20 years ago, then got a better setup. Never did do plate-thru though. Made protos a bit interesting sometimes.
    CNC machines only go through the motions

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    • #62
      A viable option with a 3D printer is to replace the print head with a sprung pen holder and use it as a plotter with an etch resist pen ;-)
      If you benefit from the Dunning-Kruger Effect you may not even know it ;-)

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      • #63
        What I want both now and when I posted this is a way to use the actual Gerber files generated by a PCB design program to make one or just a few actual prototype boards. The prototype board would be used to verify the design before ordering a larger number, like 100 or more, of boards from a PCB fabricator. I need to be able to do this in a relatively inexpensive manner and hopefully with some measure of speed.

        The answer to the plated holes question for a prototype board is Z-wires. You just skip the hole plating step and insert a wire in each hole and solder it in place on both sides. It is called a Z-wire because when it is bent over on both sides of the PCB it becomes sort of Z shaped. It is not a very good production technique as it adds time to the assembly. But it will prove that the Gerber files are OK and that is precisely what I want to do. In my world, I would sell the boards made by the professional shop and the prototype board would probably go in a bin for that project just in case I would need a working board later for modifications or whatever reason. It would never be used in any actual device. And if there is any problem with the boards that I order, I want it to be the board shop's problem, not mine.

        Therefore, plated holes are not needed in an actual prototype board. At least, not in my opinion.

        I know many here will make boards in small quantities for actual use. There is nothing wrong with this. But in that case, using Z-wires is still an acceptable solution.

        One more thought: on a PCB group there was a recent discussion about using brass inserts for this. They were talking about just buying brass rod/wire and putting small lengths in the holes in the boards and soldering it on both sides. I am not sure if they intended to swag or bend it. This is not a good idea and I said so there. A significant fraction of my house has been paid for by this kind of technique. A major electronic manufacturer used brass inserts that were crimped to the two sided and even to one sided PCBs. Then they used wave soldering. About 99+ percent of the solder joints were perfectly OK. The others were a real problem. The solder covered the crimp, but did not wet on it. After some year, the joint was bad and you could not even see the joint to inspect it because it was covered with perfectly normal looking solder. The only way to repair a bad board was to unsolder and resolder each and every such point on it. Very, very labor intensive and all too often, I have been that labor.

        Hookup wire is plated and will accept solder very readily. And a wire through a hole that has been soldered CAN be inspected. Brass will corrode just sitting in a bin waiting to be used and the soldering process then must clean that corrosion off 100% of the time. It does not happen that way. And you can't inspect the actual joint if it is covered with solder. Brass should only be used on a PCB if it is absolutely necessary for some other reason and it should be properly tinned before it is placed on the board.



        Originally posted by J Tiers View Post
        Yeah, we did that about 20 years ago, then got a better setup. Never did do plate-thru though. Made protos a bit interesting sometimes.
        Paul A.
        SE Texas

        And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
        You will find that it has discrete steps.

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        • #64
          Originally posted by Paul Alciatore View Post
          ....
          The answer to the plated holes question for a prototype board is Z-wires. You just skip the hole plating step and insert a wire in each hole and solder it in place on both sides. It is called a Z-wire because when it is bent over on both sides of the PCB it becomes sort of Z shaped. It is not a very good production technique as it adds time to the assembly. .....
          We did that on early protos.

          Problem was when a tech would forget to put one in, or , worse, when a thru-hole part had a plate thru connection, and the tech forgot to solder the top side. On a big board, that could be hard to find, and we had boards that were 12 x 12 , or 6 x 20", etc. Lot of parts on those, lots of plate-thru holes.

          The most fun was when the top side solder was forgotten, but the lead initially touched and made the connection. When things warmed up, it might lose contact.....
          CNC machines only go through the motions

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          • #65
            Originally posted by Paul Alciatore View Post
            The answer to the plated holes question for a prototype board is Z-wires. You just skip the hole plating step and insert a wire in each hole and solder it in place on both sides. It is called a Z-wire because when it is bent over on both sides of the PCB it becomes sort of Z shaped.
            The answer for me is hollow rivets which are made specifically for this purpose along with setting tools ;-)
            If you benefit from the Dunning-Kruger Effect you may not even know it ;-)

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            • #66
              Originally posted by Paul Alciatore View Post
              What I want both now and when I posted this is a way to use the actual Gerber files generated by a PCB design program to make one or just a few actual prototype boards. .
              Originally posted by Paul Alciatore View Post
              I often need to make a prototype PC board. In the past I have used a number of methods from hand drawing the circuit pattern with a Sharpie pen to just biting the bullet and just ordering them from a commercial PC board house. The former method is crude and not very good for modern, surface mount components. Ordering them can get somewhat expensive, especially if you need to make revisions and additional prototype boards. Besides, it takes a long time with factory lead time and shipping. No circuit designer likes that wait.

              So I am wondering, has anyone developed a way to use a 3D printer for making prototype PCBs? I am talking about using the printer to lay down a layer of some kind of plastic or ink that acts as a resist and then etching the board with a chemical bath. Then that resist layer would need to be removed. That last step would be the key, how to remove the resist layer after etching.

              I am going to do an internet search, but I know the group here has a lot of knowledge, so I am asking.
              No mention of file format when you initially posted this so it hasn't been addressed so far.
              Just saying ;-)
              If you benefit from the Dunning-Kruger Effect you may not even know it ;-)

              Comment


              • #67
                Well, no I did not talk about Gerber files. I didn't think it was pertinent to the discussion. Besides, they are just about the COMPLETELY UNIVERSAL way to order PCBs. Some board makers use their own system, but Gerber files are just hidden in their system and they can dig them out and provide them to you if they want.

                And I really do not want to get into any sidetracks here. I know there are programs out there to check these files and I have used them. But, when spending my limited money is involved, I think there is no substitute for making and testing a real prototype board. And I can make prototype boards using other means. I want one that is based on the Gerber files that I will send to the PCB fabricator for an actual run.

                I have ordered a 3D printer and expect delivery tomorrow. After some other things that I want on an immediate basis, I will be experimenting with this. I will post any results.



                Originally posted by Magicniner View Post
                No mention of file format when you initially posted this so it hasn't been addressed so far.
                Just saying ;-)
                Paul A.
                SE Texas

                And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
                You will find that it has discrete steps.

                Comment


                • #68
                  I just worked up an article for the winter Digital Machinist issue that covers pretty much what you are looking to do. It's presented as more of an, "I did this" type article than a step by step guide, but it may help. It should mail in early January if all goes according to plan.

                  The author used the Gerber files to create a CAD model in FreeCAD, which he then used to make a 3D printing of a solder mask. The Gerber code defines the shape and location of the CB pads, but it took the author a bit of manipulation in an Excel sheet before tossing the numbers into FreeCAD.
                  George
                  Traverse City, MI

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                  • #69
                    Have you ever found the dxf files created by the pcb software to be different than the gerber files?

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