With the low-cost PCB fabrication services available to hackers and makers these days, we’ll admit that making your own boards at home doesn’t hold quite the appeal that it did in the past. But even if getting your boards professionally made is cheaper and easier than it ever has been before, at-home production still can’t be beat when you absolutely must have a usable board before the end of the day.
If you find yourself in such a situation, this new method of DIY PCB production detailed by [Adalbert] might be just what you need. This unique approach uses a desktop fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printer throughout all of its phases, from creating a stencil based on the exported board design, to warming the UV soldermask to accelerate the curing process. It may not be an ideal choice for densely packed boards with fine-pitch components, but could definitely see it being useful for many prototypes.
[Adalbert] has done an excellent job of documenting the process through a step-by-step guide posted on Hackaday.io, and has also put together a video you can see after the break.
But if you’re looking for the short version, the process involves taking a 2D DXF from your PCB design software, converting it into three dimensions, and printing it out. This is then placed over a copper clad board that has been coated with soldermask, and a UV light source is used to expose it. Afterwards, isopropyl alcohol can be used to wash away the unexposed mask, leaving behind your PCB design.
You’ll still need to chemically etch the board, and if you’re using through-hole components, manually drill your holes. But compared to some of the old school methods of making your own boards, it’s relatively straightforward. This technique looks like it could also hold promise for small scale production, as the stencil can be reused indefinitely.
If your 3D printer is of the resin variety, don’t worry, you can make PCBs with those as well. We’ve also seen impressive boards produced with cheap laser engravers, as well as budget CNC routers.