PCBs as Front Panels ?

From circuitbending to homebrew stompboxes & synths, keep the DIY spirit alive!

Moderators: lisa, Kent, Joe.

User avatar
EATyourGUITAR
has no life
Posts: 3863
Joined: Tue Aug 31, 2010 12:24 am
Location: Providence, RI, USA

Post by EATyourGUITAR » Mon Apr 24, 2017 9:32 am

this is GEDA with gerbv as gerbv was intended on linux. using Ubuntu 17.04 Mate desktop environment. the entire system runs fast from a $5 usb stick. no hard drive needed. no software licences. no subscription. I have drivers for all my hardware including my printer. I can also switch between geda and kicad on the same system.

CLICK FOR BIG
Image
WWW.EATYOURGUITAR.COM <---- MY DIY STUFF

User avatar
truman_k
Common Wiggler
Posts: 93
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2016 10:29 am
Location: Hong Kong

Post by truman_k » Thu Apr 27, 2017 8:39 pm

Hi all, I have submitted a panel design and a board design to PCBway. The board has past the inspection within an hour. But the panel design, I have been waiting for more than a day now. What is going on? :hmm:

Since the panel doesn't require any copper, so I submit a gerber with a copper top layer but no data in it. Would that be okay? or I should at least do a ground fill to the front ?

User avatar
LeftyLogic
Wiggling with Experience
Posts: 326
Joined: Fri Jun 14, 2013 10:46 am
Location: Manhattan, KS

Post by LeftyLogic » Thu Apr 27, 2017 10:11 pm

truman_k wrote:Hi all, I have submitted a panel design and a board design to PCBway. The board has past the inspection within an hour. But the panel design, I have been waiting for more than a day now. What is going on? :hmm:

Since the panel doesn't require any copper, so I submit a gerber with a copper top layer but no data in it. Would that be okay? or I should at least do a ground fill to the front ?
I'd personally recommend using a ground fill on the both sides, as that should (theoretically?) decrease the overall flexibility of the panel somewhat.

Also, a great way to check if your GERBERs are set up properly is to upload it to OSHPark. Their utility will give you a preview of what the PCB will look like and it'll let you know if there are any errors with the files.

Another great tool is Advanced Circuits' FreeDFM, which will check for a huge number of potential errors.
21 and addicted to Frac. :help:

User avatar
Morphology
Common Wiggler
Posts: 176
Joined: Wed May 04, 2016 7:31 am
Location: Kent, England

Post by Morphology » Fri Apr 28, 2017 2:00 am

truman_k wrote: I am thinking of doing the same thing. But pcbway is going to charge extra for large drill holes? Do you mind share an example Gerber files for us?
Sorry for the late reply - I'm off-grid in the north of Iceland in a motorhome (RV).

Pcbway don't charge for cutouts AFAIK. they certainly didn't charge me any extra.

I can certainly post the Gerbers when I'm back in the UK.

The Kicad project and board files for my front panels are all up on Github, so you can recreate the Gerbers using KiCad:

https://github.com/AudioMorphology/Euro ... ster/kicad

Morph
There are only 10 different types of people: Those who understand binary, and those who don't

User avatar
truman_k
Common Wiggler
Posts: 93
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2016 10:29 am
Location: Hong Kong

Post by truman_k » Fri Apr 28, 2017 3:23 am

LeftyLogic wrote:
I'd personally recommend using a ground fill on the both sides, as that should (theoretically?) decrease the overall flexibility of the panel somewhat.

Also, a great way to check if your GERBERs are set up properly is to upload it to OSHPark. Their utility will give you a preview of what the PCB will look like and it'll let you know if there are any errors with the files.

Another great tool is Advanced Circuits' FreeDFM, which will check for a huge number of potential errors.
Thanks for your reply, you are right, I did check my Panel design with OSHPark, they won't let me go with a gerber without any copper part. That's why I wonder if I should give a ground fill or maybe change the drill holes to plated holes?

PCBway did get back to me and I just inform that the design need no copper and used as a panel instead of a PCB. So, they let me pass. And now I am in the fabrication stage. Hope that will come out correctly ...
Morphology wrote: I can certainly post the Gerbers when I'm back in the UK.

The Kicad project and board files for my front panels are all up on Github, so you can recreate the Gerbers using KiCad:

https://github.com/AudioMorphology/Euro ... ster/kicad

Morph
Thanks for sharing Morph. I'll take a look at the kicad file. (but I need to install kicad first) :hail:

User avatar
EATyourGUITAR
has no life
Posts: 3863
Joined: Tue Aug 31, 2010 12:24 am
Location: Providence, RI, USA

Post by EATyourGUITAR » Fri Apr 28, 2017 3:03 pm

truman_k wrote:Thanks for your reply, you are right, I did check my Panel design with OSHPark, they won't let me go with a gerber without any copper part. That's why I wonder if I should give a ground fill or maybe change the drill holes to plated holes?
duplicate and rename the .GML layer (dimension layer). sometimes it is .do if you do not have a .GML. technically the GML is a milling layer and .do is a dimension layer. I think this is why itead does not want people to send .GML unless they need square holes and slotted cutouts.

rename to .GTL for top copper .GBL for bottom copper. the dimension layer is the same as having a real copper layer with only a thin outline but no ground fill. even if you rename the milling layer and have milling voids on the inner part of the pcb it would not make a difference since they all line up with the drill holes anyway. they could fill it and drill it or leave a void in the copper and drill it. no difference. I had pcbcart stop my project because the copper had only 1 net. they thought it was a bad gerber but the gerber was intentional. if only I saw the email or provided instructions I could have avoided delays.
WWW.EATYOURGUITAR.COM <---- MY DIY STUFF

User avatar
truman_k
Common Wiggler
Posts: 93
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2016 10:29 am
Location: Hong Kong

Post by truman_k » Sun Jun 11, 2017 12:57 am

Image
I tried pcbway finally. the outcome of the panel is a bit strange with copper plated. did anyone try to print on bare aluminium? should I explicitly tell them that I don't need any copper?

KSS
Ultra Wiggler
Posts: 847
Joined: Mon Jan 25, 2016 7:28 am

Post by KSS » Sun Jun 11, 2017 8:56 pm

That copper panel gives you a lot of options for changing its look.
1. Leave it as is to age and eventually become green,fingerprinted, brown-orange cool.
2. Dip in Liquid Tin for a silvery panel. Tinnit never worked as well for me as MG's Liquid Tin. And LT doesn't need heating or mixing
3. Explore all the centuries of Copper finishing and patina techniques and go for one or more as an artistic exercise of expression.
4.Spray it with some clear coat to try and preserve the copper color.
5. Drill a hole for a wire and make it your drum trigger. Suggest step 2 if you go this way.

Not sure what you're asking about printing on bare aluminum? Yes, that is done all the time.

Yes, you will need to tell them explicitly you want no copper layer if you ordered this a 2 layer PCB. Having copper on both sides will make for slightly more sturdy and less likely to warp panel.

User avatar
truman_k
Common Wiggler
Posts: 93
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2016 10:29 am
Location: Hong Kong

Post by truman_k » Tue Jun 13, 2017 12:54 am

Well, I talked to pcbway customer service. it was their fault, I did requested for no copper in the submitted order. so i ended up with a cash coupon for next order :despair:

i guess i just spray on some clear coating and use it anyways. a copper panel still looks cool, though its not what i expected

User avatar
tboicey
Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 19
Joined: Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:10 pm

Post by tboicey » Tue Jun 13, 2017 5:48 pm

When repairs are done to classic buildings, the new shiny copper roofs look out of place compared to the beautiful green aged ones.

To accelerate the aging, the workers allegedly peed on the roof during their shifts.

(or more specifically, into a bucket that was then mopped onto the fresh work)

So, think about it.

Lars71
Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 18
Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2015 3:59 am
Location: Gothenburg, Sweden

Post by Lars71 » Wed Sep 13, 2017 3:40 pm

Just tried this, it went really well I think. I did the panel in Eagle and had the panels made at PCBway.
I found this howto about how to create the Gerber files from Eagle:
http://pcbway.blogspot.se/2016/06/pcb-s ... ayout.html

Image

[/img]

expataudio.com
Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Sep 15, 2017 4:04 pm
Location: Dallas, TX

Post by expataudio.com » Fri Sep 15, 2017 4:08 pm

Lars, is that a regular PCB, or their Aluminum?
How does the silkscreen look close up? sharp?

Lars71
Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 18
Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2015 3:59 am
Location: Gothenburg, Sweden

Post by Lars71 » Sat Sep 16, 2017 4:57 am

That's regular PCB, single layer with no copper on the front side. I'll get a set of panels with copper on both sides in a few days, if they look any different I'll post an update.
The silk screen is very sharp. It seems to be displaced by just a tiny amount (the black edge of the "out" hole in the picture).
One or two of the panels have some minor surface scratches from handling but nothing that will be noticeable if you don't look for it I think. Also, a few panels have the same missing piece of the number 2 for some reason... but at about $2.50 per panel (excl. shipping) I'm not going to worry too much about these defects :)

Image

expataudio.com
Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Sep 15, 2017 4:04 pm
Location: Dallas, TX

Post by expataudio.com » Sat Sep 16, 2017 11:48 am

Excellent - thank you!

Lars71
Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 18
Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2015 3:59 am
Location: Gothenburg, Sweden

Post by Lars71 » Mon Sep 18, 2017 8:39 am

I got another set of panels today, with black solder mask and copper on both sides - they look just as good as the ones with just the solder mask on the front side.

Another detail, BTW - while the black solder mask is completely opaque, the coloured ones (at least red and blue) are not - so at least one layer of copper in the panel might be a good idea. The panels will be somewhat transparent otherwise.

User avatar
Rex Coil 7
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 6274
Joined: Thu Nov 29, 2012 11:29 am
Location: Captain Of Outer Space

Post by Rex Coil 7 » Mon Sep 18, 2017 9:40 pm

Edit: Sorry, I was trying to start a new thread about a totally different topic, and somehow it ended up here. I wasn't even in this thread, all I did was click on "new topic", posted my stuff, and found the post in here. I wasn't even in the "Music Tech DIY" subforum! Everwhat.

WTF Holmes?

Pardon the intrusion ..... slips out the door, no-one even noticing ....

:despair:
Never Quit, Die Falling Forward
5U PROJECT - (skip pages 4 through 6, boring junk) ... https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewt ... highlight=

User avatar
Morphology
Common Wiggler
Posts: 176
Joined: Wed May 04, 2016 7:31 am
Location: Kent, England

Post by Morphology » Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:41 am

Lars71 wrote:I got another set of panels today, with black solder mask and copper on both sides - they look just as good as the ones with just the solder mask on the front side
If you get time, could you post a photo please - in the just Black soldermask one, you can see some of the 'grain' of the PCB substrate, and I'd be interested to compare the smoothness with the version with the copper layer?
There are only 10 different types of people: Those who understand binary, and those who don't

Lars71
Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 18
Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2015 3:59 am
Location: Gothenburg, Sweden

Post by Lars71 » Tue Sep 19, 2017 9:09 am

No problem, here it is :) You can still see some of the underlying structure. Also, upon close inspection, these panels are not entirely flat around the holes due to the through-plating - this was not the case with copper on only one side, there were no plated holes on those.

Image

User avatar
Morphology
Common Wiggler
Posts: 176
Joined: Wed May 04, 2016 7:31 am
Location: Kent, England

Post by Morphology » Tue Sep 19, 2017 10:01 am

Interesting, thanks for posting the pic.

Hardly any difference, certainly no improvement with copper on the front face and, arguably, slightly worse due to the plated through holes.
There are only 10 different types of people: Those who understand binary, and those who don't

User avatar
EATyourGUITAR
has no life
Posts: 3863
Joined: Tue Aug 31, 2010 12:24 am
Location: Providence, RI, USA

Post by EATyourGUITAR » Tue Sep 19, 2017 12:27 pm

I think there is more stiffness in the panel with copper on both sides and through hole plating. it also provides better cooling for your rails and your case if you have problems with heat.
WWW.EATYOURGUITAR.COM <---- MY DIY STUFF

ratsnake
Common Wiggler
Posts: 126
Joined: Mon Feb 29, 2016 3:49 pm
Location: Berghain
Contact:

Post by ratsnake » Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:03 pm

Is there some easy way to turn illustrator layers into a gerber zip? seems kinda annoying using pcb software to basically layout vector art and cutting/hole lines.

Lars71
Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 18
Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2015 3:59 am
Location: Gothenburg, Sweden

Post by Lars71 » Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:44 pm

Morphology wrote:Interesting, thanks for posting the pic.

Hardly any difference, certainly no improvement with copper on the front face and, arguably, slightly worse due to the plated through holes.
Exactly. I'll probably do panels with copper on just one side in the future because of this.

User avatar
mskala
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 2480
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2014 7:33 am
Location: Toronto

Post by mskala » Tue Sep 19, 2017 4:42 pm

I don't know why you'd object to plated through holes, but it should be easy to specify them unplated in the Gerber files if that's an issue.

User avatar
LeftyLogic
Wiggling with Experience
Posts: 326
Joined: Fri Jun 14, 2013 10:46 am
Location: Manhattan, KS

Post by LeftyLogic » Tue Sep 19, 2017 6:17 pm

ratsnake wrote:Is there some easy way to turn illustrator layers into a gerber zip? seems kinda annoying using pcb software to basically layout vector art and cutting/hole lines.
I typically use the import DXF function in KiCAD to get my panel art into the program, then line up mounting holes with the outlines on the silkscreen layer. You could probably import the mounting holes as a separate dxf file and put it on the mechanical layer directly if you wanted to, but you wouldn't be able to get plated holes that way.

Seth
21 and addicted to Frac. :help:

User avatar
tboicey
Learning to Wiggle
Posts: 19
Joined: Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:10 pm

Post by tboicey » Tue Sep 19, 2017 9:07 pm

ratsnake wrote:Is there some easy way to turn illustrator layers into a gerber zip? seems kinda annoying using pcb software to basically layout vector art and cutting/hole lines.
EaglePCB can import Bitmaps.

So you can rasterize any image into a bitmap and then import it with Eagle. It basically makes thousands of polygons representing each raster line but it works well.

You can make bitmaps with a few colours and it will import them as different layers, usually 200, 201, etc.

Then you can move those layers in Eagle to be top copper or top silkscreen solder mask keepout or whatever you need.

Post Reply

Return to “Music Tech DIY”