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How to Make a Custom PCB Using a Low Power Laser Engraver

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Making your own PCB home is a great way to save money and get exactly what you need for your project. With a low-power laser engraver, it’s easy to make a high-quality PCB in minutes. Before we look at the steps involved, let’s look at what PCB is in detail.

What is a PCB?

Image source: All3dp

A printed circuit board, or PCB, is a thin plate of insulating material used to support and connect electronic components. Each component is typically soldered onto the PCB using leads, or wires, that protrude from the component’s legs. The leads are then connected to other components or external connections using copper traces or conductive paths etched into the PCB. By etching the traces into the PCB, manufacturers can create complex circuits with a high degree of precision.

How to Make a PCB Using a Low Power Laser Engraver

First, you’ll need to gather the following materials:

  • A low-power laser engraver: The laser will be used to engrave the design of the PCB onto the board. You can get the best laser engraver at a cheaper cost online and even at your local store.
  • Copper-clad board: This is the material on which the design will be engraved.
  • A computer with design software: For designing the model of the PCB.
  • Safety goggles: To protect your eyes from the laser beam, as it can destroy your eyes.
  • Sandpaper: For smoothing the board after laser engraving.
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Step 1: Design Your PCB in a Design Software

Image source: Electronicschematics

Once you have all your materials, the next step is to design your PCB in your design software. Various design software programs are available, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. A good example is DesignSpark. With this software, you can create PCB layouts with ease.

Once you’re happy with your design, it’s time to export it as an image file. You can export as PNG, SKP, or JPG. Also, DesignSpark allows users to export their files in STL format, which can be 3d printed.

Step 2: Preparing the Copper-Clad Board

Image source: Giangrandi

Next, you’ll need to prepare your copper-clad board. This involves cleaning the surface of the board and removing any unwanted residue. Once the surface is clean, you’ll need to apply a thin layer of the photoresist film. This will help protect your copper-clad board from being damaged by the laser engraver.

After preparing your copper-clad board, you’ll need to set up your laser engraver. This involves adjusting the power and speed settings of the engraver.

Step 3: Engraving Onto the Copper-Clad Board

Image source: Quora

Now that you have your image file and the copper-clad board is prepared, it’s time to start laser engraving. To do this, simply load your image file into your laser engraver and start engraving it onto your board. Make sure to wear safety goggles while doing thisThe entire process takes only a few minutes, and the results are stunning.

When you are happy with your laser engraving, you’ll need to use sandpaper to smooth out the edges. Once you’re done, you can go to the next step, etching using Ferric Chloride.

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Step 4: Etching Using Ferric Chloride

Once your PCB is engraved, the next step is to etch it. This can be done using various methods, but the most common is using a ferric chloride solution. Simply submerge your PCB in the solution and wait for the etching process to complete.

Once your PCB is etched, it’s time to drill the holes for your components. To do this, simply use a drill bit slightly smaller than the width of your component leads. Once all the holes are drilled, your PCB is ready for use!

Safety Measures When Laser Engraving

Regarding safety, you should take a few measures when using a laser engraver to create the PCB. Here are a few of the most important ones:

  • Wear proper eye protection: As mentioned at the beginning of this article, you will need safety goggles to protect your eyes. Also, you should never look at or point the beam directly at someone, even wearing protective glasses.
  • Use gloves and other personal protective equipment as needed: Depending on the material you’re engraving, you may need to wear gloves to protect your hands from heat or chemicals.
  • Keep flammable materials away from the laser: Including paper, wood, and fabric.
  • Ensure that the room is well ventilated: If possible, engrave in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling fumes.

Conclusion

Making your own custom PCBs is a great way to save money and get exactly what you want, and using a low-power laser engraver is a great way to do it. The steps that we have highlighted above should be able to help you create your own PCB quickly. But be sure to take precautions as laser beams can be harmful to your eyes.

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