Author Topic: Etching PCBs with a SLA 3d printer  (Read 93 times)

Offline TMaxElectronics

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Etching PCBs with a SLA 3d printer
« on: February 22, 2021, 12:16:48 AM »
I recently started making my own PCBs again because I got tired of waiting for two weeks and paying 35€ shipping, just to test out an idea. But I was thinking about ways of improving the process and looked into all of the more widely known "fast" ways of making PCBs. They basically all involve direct masking/exposing of the OCB material and avoiding the use of transparency film and range all the way from milling the PCB with a small cnc machine to a modified laser printer with a blue photodiode that then exposes the photosensitive film on the base material. But they all involved either equipment I didn't have, or some more or less extensive modification.

But then I though of my little SLA (LCD masked UV resin) 3d printer that was sitting in the corner collecting dust and started looking into the possibility of using the <10um pixel pitch LCD for direct PCB exposure. The chitubox file format is quite simple and only packs the image data with run length compression, and there was another java project that decoded and encoded the format already out there, so I quickly threw together a piece of software that converts the gerbers directly to the printer's format:



Since the printer handles all of the exposure timing for you all you need to do is to tell it for how long to expose the PCB and which type of photopolymer is applied to it, copy the file to the printer and hit print with the PCB on it instead of the resin tank.
Well... at least thats the idea :D

So far I have gotten mixed results, and managed no better than 0.2mm spacing and 0.15mm trace thickness,though those were both not to a quality that I'd call acceptable and it is really only useable down to 0.3/0.3mm. The issue seems to be the distance between the LCD and glass that the PCB sits on, as there is a clearly visible blurriness when just looking at it with a piece of paper.  I think .3/.3 is still certainly usable (especially since it reduced the time from gerber export to finished PCB to only around 25min) but it's not perfect.

I have actually ordered a replacement screen for the printer, so it might be possible to remove the glass in front of the LCD screen and get better resolution. It might even be easy enough to make a pcb toaster (or waffle iron? xD ) that has two of the displays and can expose a double layer PCB in one go... but that would be a project for later  ;D

What do you guys think? Is this something worth pursuing or am I wasting my time? :P

Offline Twospoons

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Re: Etching PCBs with a SLA 3d printer
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2021, 12:32:09 AM »
Whats the light source? Is it a point source or an area light?  A point source should produce a reasonably sharp image.
The best light source would be a laser, as these do behave like a true point source.

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Re: Etching PCBs with a SLA 3d printer
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2021, 12:32:09 AM »

 


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