DIY printed circuit boards (PCB) are an intermediate step toward mass producing an industrial-grade integrated circuit.
After prototyping a project using tools like a solderless breadboard, small-run or one-off PCBs are a good choice when you want a more structurally stable version of your circuit that is destined for mass production. Perhaps you would like to be able to install it into a larger project prototype. Once all the what-ifs and tests are successful with these hand-made PCBs, higher resolution industrial processes can be used to fabricate more robust PCBs.
Thanks to members, mirage335 and Dan Barlow, we now have a standardized method to fabricate DIY PCBs with traces (conducting areas) and spacing (non-conductive areas) of 6 mil (0.15mm).
For projects where the 10 mil tolerances made possible by our CNC mill are not enough, photolithography is a good alternative. The process uses light-sensitive coatings to mask conductive surfaces before etching. The result is a a lovely printed circuit where before you had a jumble of wires. The process, workflow, and references are described by mirage335 on our wiki.
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Recently, HacDC member, TJ Johnson, generously reconditioned and bought new bits and a shiny vise for the TAIG CNC Mill HacDC has on extended loan from Vince Rossi & Adam Metallo of the Smithsonian Institution 3D Digitization laboratory. Over the coming weeks, TJ will be teaching a handful of single-session classes on using the mill.
On 1/26/13 a few of us crowded around TJ as he went through a presentation of slide-based and hands-on instruction covering care & maintenance, jargon, safety, and milling. The fun part of the class consisted of learning to use the software to fabricate a cube-shaped aluminum object with a complicated milled out shape within.
The classes of 2 or 3 students are designed to provide 1-on-1 instruction while maintaining safety. All remaining sessions are filled but TJ will schedule more sessions soon. Because of the small class size, these will likely not be announced via our MeetUp group so if you’re interested, join our discussion email list to find out when they’ll be held next.