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PCB Panels - some info/tips/babble
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> BugBrand Devices  
Author PCB Panels - some info/tips/babble
BugBrand
Someone asked for some tips about PCB panels so I thought I'd write something here.

General thoughts - I've loved the strength and appearance of PCB panels. Initially I tried regular thickness (0.063") but got some bending/flexing - only then did I realise my PCB place does 0.126" thickness (c.3mm) - much nicer! The whole process is not feasible for really low quantities - prices start to become reasonable from 10+ units (very good from 20+ upwards). They've appeared to be very reliable (I do tell the PCB house to avoid scratches and blemishes and they tend to be good now..), no fading, pretty much scratch resistant (though I do now supply nylon washers for fixing). And, yes, they look lovely. You'd be hard pressed to bend / snap one, that's for sure.

The regular panels are basically plain one-sided - a pour of copper is placed under the solder-mask as I found this made the appearance slightly better than not having any copper. Very few panels have any active traces (only CTL1 & 2, from the top of my head) and in those cases I do use 2-sided PCBs, just having headers or whatever on the rear side.

Sometimes I do play a little with the copper pour layer - you can add extra lines in the copper to kind of give emphasis to areas / split things up - see it on the CTL2 for example - these are just unconnected copper lines, no signal etc. (http://www.bugbrand.co.uk/images/large/CTL2_LRG.jpg)

I use FrontDesigner from Abacom - pretty cranky software, but I never got around to changing - then export HPGL *.plt data (all lines as Milling), take it through EagleHPGL and thence into Eagle where I have to tidy it up and place holes manually (ie. it is a somewhat laborious process to be quite honest - but the system ain't broke so I ain't fixing it just yet..)
xpando
thanks for posting this Tom! i really want to experiment with using the copper layer in panel design. looks great. lots of aesthetic potential there.

also, i usually create a new library part in Eagle for custom symbols (logo's, vector graphics, ect) that i want to add to the silkscreen layer. do you think this is the best way or would it be a better idea to draw the whole panel in Illustrator/Inkscape and import it to Eagle as a script? the reason i do it in Eagle as a library part is so that its in the library and i can throw it on any panel design.

in pictures it looks like some of your modules have slightly beveled edges around the borders? am i just having acid flashbacks or do you add a beveled edge? if so, how is this added to the panel in Eagle? or, is it requested to the production house?

thanks for sharing this info. there really isnt very much info about the concepts of designing pcb front panels even though there are a few companies and diy'ers that do it. i like the look and i think theres tons of design concepts to explore via the copper layer.
BugBrand
Aye, I never really learned about making fancy silk-screen shapes.. Would be good to have a custom symbol within Eagle (though maybe then hard to rescale - never figured that out either..).

Bevelled edges - modules don't but I do on a few things like Weevils - just bevel the corners of the OUTLINE layer and the PCB-house should follow accordingly.
xpando
BugBrand wrote:
Aye, I never really learned about making fancy silk-screen shapes.. Would be good to have a custom symbol within Eagle (though maybe then hard to rescale - never figured that out either..).

Bevelled edges - modules don't but I do on a few things like Weevils - just bevel the corners of the OUTLINE layer and the PCB-house should follow accordingly.


thanks Tom.. i appreciate the info
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