Using a lasercutter to make a printed circuit board

From Google Group, by way of @laurence.

Does anyone have experience using a lasercutter to make a printed circuit board? Instructables says to spray paint it black, etch with the laser, and then use etching chemicals to remove the blank parts. Any better ideas?

@laurence I don’t think the Zing 40W CO2 laser which we have is suitable for cutting copper clad. Have a look at this: Seems like you’d need a Fiber Laser for that. cc @Blaise

Thanks Vic and Ken. This technique only uses the laser to remove the black paint not the copper. The etching chemicals remove the copper. But as Ken notes the etching chemicals are nasty. Abe made that CNC for cutting circuit boards and Yev improved it but I don’t know how to use it yet.

You definitely can’t etch the copper cladding with our laser, but as Laurence notes, the proposed technique was to use the laser to etch away the resist, not the copper. It seems to me that, even with a different style laser, it would be a neat trick to calibrate the settings so you’d cut the copper through but not the board itself.

Has anyone experimented with conductive filaments for the 3d printer? Strike that…you can’t solder to a board that melts at a lower temp than the solder itself.

Just copying @Ken_Rother’s google group comments here for posterity:

Laurence, if this is going to be a single sided board you might want to consider milling instead. Avoids all the nasty chemicals and produces a reasonable result. If interested I have a CNC that does a nice job. See attached photo

RE: our little CNC, excerpted from a recent (6 weeks ago) conversation with Yev:

I put the stepoko board on that machine, it works but there were a few areas of concern for me. First off the stepper motors seem to be moving very sluggishly. I’m not sure if it’s the Motors themselves or poor wiring on my part. Second, I’ve only gotten the stepoko board to work with a wired USB connection to a computer. I have not been able to set up the raspberry Pi to make it run headless.

Provided these can be addressed, I see no reason why the board can’t be used to run CNC jobs in copperclad, plastic, aluminum and wood. Just make sure the tool is HSS and not greater than 3/16” diameter.




I worked with Buddha a loooong time ago (July 2015!) We were able to make Abe’s PCB mill move with a Windows machine running Easel . Note that at the time, Easel seemed to be ill-suited for PCB milling, but at least we proved it moved. We also ran Universal G-Code Sender from a laptop to the “old” controller board that was on the machine at the time (now replaced).

Then Yev came along and did all the hardware updates. There’s a nifty new modern driver/controller board attached, so most communication/configuration issues should be easier. There’s also a Raspberry Pi attached in hopes that we can eventually set it up to be headless/wireless. All that remained at that point was for someone to figure out the complicated “toolchain” of software and setup the machine itself to cut (bits? spindle speeds? how to clamp the workpiece?)

The research I’ve done to date points at chilipeppr as the shortest path to success (but perhaps not the simplest/most user friendly?)

Here are some videos (Frank from Germany goes into detail about using Eagle in Ep 1, and actually mills the board in Ep 2.)

Here’s a different end-to-end video:

I hope this helps. I’m really interested in learning this-- if you know when you are going to sit down and work on it, let me know and I’ll attempt to come meet you.


Other resources: - I think this is the “old fashioned” way to generate G-Code from Eagle files. - This page is an advertisement for a “wizard” program, but looks like there are some good hints and pictures here.