Xcarve for making pcbs

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msegarra
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Xcarve for making pcbs

Post by msegarra » Sun Apr 04, 2021 11:25 pm

I’m interested in doing it myself so I was curious if anyone else had used a cnc router like an xcarve to make pcbs?? And if so how well it works??
Last edited by msegarra on Mon Apr 05, 2021 9:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

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KSS
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Re: Scarce for making pcbs

Post by KSS » Mon Apr 05, 2021 12:27 am

Use toner transfer instead for the traces. Drill with the xcarve if you want, but the balance is truly tipped against doing it that way now at the low price and ultra quick time of getting professional PCBs.

You can do the traces by TT and hand drill the holes -drill press or dremel- so much faster than setting up an xcarve or similar. I'm sure Dr Sketchy will be along at some point to share how quickly this part can be done. It's a little like flying a relatively short distance. By the time you figure all the hassles of getting to the airport -drawing the PCB and getting it aligned with your work and your machine calibratred, tool sharp and correctly set- the time spent flying -while you're there watching it because you can't really trust a cheap machine to do a good job all the time- and then after you land and have to rent a car, get to where you're going -clean up the burrs, fix the bad spots where board flex or thickness screwed you, dealt with a busted drill and too many undrilled-missed holes as a result- you might just as well have driven instead. aka Choose to do TT traces and manually drilling holes. Or buy PCBs.

MW member Nateflanigan has a recent thread where we were mainly talking about drilling and engraving panels, but the PCB thing came up too.<--It alays does. ;) Look for that thread and it will show you the options, concerns and tradeoffs. There's not much difference between clean panel engraving and mechanical etching of PCBs. A friend of mine who owns a trophy shop and has been engraving since he could walk -family business- recently told me he almost never uses any of his mechanical computer engravers anymore. And those are expensive commercial precision tools. Because the also expensive fiber laser he now chooses does a better job faster.

Diamond-drag scratching or diode laser through an applied resist and then etching the traces anyways- is also better and faster than mechanical etching with a cutting bit. We talked about that in Nate's thread too.

I still drill by computer <-- when doing a run, but not usually for a single- but haven't done traces that way for a *very* long time now. <--Sure, it can be done. But it's just a serious bunch of yuck with too many potential downsides compared to setting up for TT PCBs. Or simply buying them instead.

The trick to getting good TT PCBs is using a laminator with reversed gears to slow it down, and I'm still using old tool catalogs for the paper instead of something fancy -and expensive!- Like PnP or other 'starched' dextrin release paper. Done the DIY dextrin, purchased dextrin, shiny label backing, photo paper, PnP, magazines, and the cheap shiny paper of tool catalogs does best -for me, so far- and is essentially free. Samsung ML1430 and HP 8100DL laser printer now. But i've used a lot of others too. The modified GBC H220 laminator is the real key. Cupric chloride copper etchant -aka HW store muriatic and drug store Hydrogen peroxide- with an aquarium pump into a one-way valve!, then to a tube punched with a boatload of holes in a cereal box style 'pitcher' and boards etch in a few minutes. Tube held down by gravity. The aquarium stone didn't work as well as a self-riddled with holes tubing. I use THHN #12 or 14 solid copper wire bent into whatever I need for holdingthe PCB in the etch. The size and shape of the Cereal storage pitcher makes this all very portable and visually easy to confirm etching quality. Easy to store also.

I've done the ziplock baggie version too, and it's fine, but getting a setup together as described above and using it is such a low hurdle that I'd only go the ziplock route if I were doing one away from home in dire need. But it *does* work. Don't use a cheap ziplock!

Another key is to make your PCB layout with .015 holes in the middle of all pads.<--This isn't emphasized enough! It naturally guides the drill if you're hand drilling. And still does so if you're using a drill press, dremel or computerized machine like an xcarve. Don't leave the inner pad holes full size! Single biggest deterrent to effective hand drilling. I drill ALL holes small first. Then go back and -carefully- choose each of the larger hole positions and re-drill. I've found this to be the safest way not to make a hole too big by accident. and also not to miss a hole that needed to be big. At least when than happens it can still be made bigger. And if you're discovering it after the board is wholly or partially populated, the smaller hole is nice to guide the now more precarious drilling of the larger hole.

Mechanical etching had its day in the sun, and it *can* still be okay. But if you set up as described -or just buy PCBs- you'll never miss it.

The most dangeous part to *your* health is the Muriatic aka HCL. But it's not terrible if you're not a fool. People buy it to clean thier driveways every year. And the blue to green is truly beautiful.
The most dangerous to the environment's health -especially fishes- is the copper in the solution. So don't run it down the drain. The websites describing the process also describe appropriate ways to dispose and deal with it. It's not hard to responsibly and reliably dispose of the typical small amount a DIY person might have. Best is to simply re-charge it and keep using the same batch!

Fix typos and improve clarity. Hopefully!
Edit: Be sure to look up CraigyB's Digisound DIY thread in the 5U section of MW -even if you're not into 5U- to see how simple it *can* be to make your own synth PCBs. One of the best threads on MW ever! viewtopic.php?t=173386&highlight=
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msegarra
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Re: Scarce for making pcbs

Post by msegarra » Mon Apr 05, 2021 10:12 am

KSS wrote:
Mon Apr 05, 2021 12:27 am
Use toner transfer instead for the traces. Drill with the xcarve if you want, but the balance is truly tipped against doing it that way now at the low price and ultra quick time of getting professional PCBs.

You can do the traces by TT and hand drill the holes -drill press or dremel- so much faster than setting up an xcarve or similar. I'm sure Dr Sketchy will be along at some point to share how quickly this part can be done. It's a little like flying a relatively short distance. By the time you figure all the hassles of getting to the airport -drawing the PCB and getting it aligned with your work and your machine calibratred, tool sharp and correctly set- the time spent flying -while you're there watching it because you can't really trust a cheap machine to do a good job all the time- and then after you land and have to rent a car, get to where you're going -clean up the burrs, fix the bad spots where board flex or thickness screwed you, dealt with a busted drill and too many undrilled-missed holes as a result- you might just as well have driven instead. aka Choose to do TT traces and manually drilling holes. Or buy PCBs.

MW member Nateflanigan has a recent thread where we were mainly talking about drilling and engraving panels, but the PCB thing came up too.<--It alays does. ;) Look for that thread and it will show you the options, concerns and tradeoffs. There's not much difference between clean panel engraving and mechanical etching of PCBs. A friend of mine who owns a trophy shop and has been engraving since he could walk -family business- recently told me he almost never uses any of his mechanical computer engravers anymore. And those are expensive commercial precision tools. Because the also expensive fiber laser he now chooses does a better job faster.

Diamond-drag scratching or diode laser through an applied resist and then etching the traces anyways- is also better and faster than mechanical etching with a cutting bit. We talked about that in Nate's thread too.

I still drill by computer <-- when doing a run, but not usually for a single- but haven't done traces that way for a *very* long time now. <--Sure, it can be done. But it's just a serious bunch of yuck with too many potential downsides compared to setting up for TT PCBs. Or simply buying them instead.

The trick to getting good TT PCBs is using a laminator with reversed gears to slow it down, and I'm still using old tool catalogs for the paper instead of something fancy -and expensive!- Like PnP or other 'starched' dextrin release paper. Done the DIY dextrin, purchased dextrin, shiny label backing, photo paper, PnP, magazines, and the cheap shiny paper of tool catalogs does best -for me, so far- and is essentially free. Samsung ML1430 and HP 8100DL laser printer now. But i've used a lot of others too. The modified GBC H220 laminator is the real key. Cupric chloride copper etchant -aka HW store muriatic and drug store Hydrogen peroxide- with an aquarium pump into a one-way valve!, then to a tube punched with a boatload of holes in a cereal box style 'pitcher' and boards etch in a few minutes. Tube held down by gravity. The aquarium stone didn't work as well as a self-riddled with holes tubing. I use THHN #12 or 14 solid copper wire bent into whatever I need for holdingthe PCB in the etch. The size and shape of the Cereal storage pitcher makes this all very portable and visually easy to confirm etching quality. Easy to store also.

I've done the ziplock baggie version too, and it's fine, but getting a setup together as described above and using it is such a low hurdle that I'd only go the ziplock route if I were doing one away from home in dire need. But it *does* work. Don't use a cheap ziplock!

Another key is to make your PCB layout with .015 holes in the middle of all pads.<--This isn't emphasized enough! It naturally guides the drill if you're hand drilling. And still does so if you're using a drill press, dremel or computerized machine like an xcarve. Don't leave the inner pad holes full size! Single biggest deterrent to effective hand drilling. I drill ALL holes small first. Then go back and -carefully- choose each of the larger hole positions and re-drill. I've found this to be the safest way not to make a hole too big by accident. and also not to miss a hole that needed to be big. At least when than happens it can still be made bigger. And if you're discovering it after the board is wholly or partially populated, the smaller hole is nice to guide the now more precarious drilling of the larger hole.

Mechanical etching had its day in the sun, and it *can* still be okay. But if you set up as described -or just buy PCBs- you'll never miss it.

The most dangeous part to *your* health is the Muriatic aka HCL. But it's not terrible if you're not a fool. People buy it to clean thier driveways every year. And the blue to green is truly beautiful.
The most dangerous to the environment's health -especially fishes- is the copper in the solution. So don't run it down the drain. The websites describing the process also describe appropriate ways to dispose and deal with it. It's not hard to responsibly and reliably dispose of the typical small amount a DIY person might have. Best is to simply re-charge it and keep using the same batch!

Fix typos and improve clarity. Hopefully!
Edit: Be sure to look up CraigyB's Digisound DIY thread in the 5U section of MW -even if you're not into 5U- to see how simple it *can* be to make your own synth PCBs. One of the best threads on MW ever! viewtopic.php?t=173386&highlight=
Wow sorry I didn’t research it enough this is perfect thank you for your help!

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