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Blog#11 - Engrave PCB?

Engrave your PCB?
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Author: Andrei
10/07/2018
When thinking on making a PCB there are a few options that you could choose. You could home-etch the PCB using chemical solutions that will etch out the copper on the board that is not covered by your design. You could also engrave the PCB using a CNC mill that will mill out each track one by one using your design and a G-code. And the last option is to order your PCBs to a professional manufacturer where you send your GERBERS and receive directly the made. Which is better? Well, let's see...

To order your boards, use PCBWay.com and select yout color.
Below we have an etched PCB. What you ahev to do is to print the layout on a plastic sheet and then transfer the design to the copper. Then submerge the entire PCB into etchant that will dissolve only the copper that is not covered by the ink of your design. Is this a good way to do this. Well yes, and it has been used for many years. The results are not perfect and sometimes there are copper imperfections due to the printed ink quality.


PCB engrave
Second option, to engrave the PCB. Here we have the design of ELECTRONOOBS of the first version of flight controller for brushed drone. We can see that each track is carefuly milled with a bit of only 0.1mm. The process is very slow and can easyly fail but the result is much better than the chemical etch.

With this process, the width of the tracks is much smaller so SMD components can also be used. Besides, using the G-code software, it is very easy to place the top and bottom layer just on on top of the other and make a double layer PCB. Of course, you also have to buy the blank copper board, buy the drill bit and own a quite expensive machine.


Professional manufacturer
Finally, the option with most quality is to order the PCB to a professional manufacturer. It is obvious that with this option you will get the best result but should you use this service?

Well, till not much, the price for PCB manufacture was quite expensive and only big companies and projects were using this service. But now, manufacturers as PCBWay also have prices for small projects. Now any hobbyist or maker could afford ordering small PCBs with very high quality. So now, are the options before good options? I mean, if this is so cheap, why not use it?
Ok, so as a final tought, if you want something fast, line in one day, using etchant or PCB mill is a good option. 24H services for PCB manufacturers are expensive. But, even so, etching and engraving are not that cheap compared with professional manufacture. You still ahve to buy the copper boards for a few dollars, the echant is quite expensive, you need tools such as a laser printer and transfer paper. Also, engraving machines are very expensive. If you already haev one and you use it a lot, it is a good investment, but if not, low cost professional PCB manufacture is the best option.





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