PCB Engraving & Etching.
One of the bigger questions I get asked is about PCBs, and can you make them with the MicroSlice. Well I can now answer that question; Yes, you can make PCBs using the MicroSlice!
How is it done?
I designed a simple circuit in Illustrator;
The design is saved as an SVG and imported into Inkscape where the Laser-Engraver Plug-In generates G-Code and stores it in a file.
The G-Code is then loaded into Zapmaker's Grbl Controller;
I have used standard blank copper PCB which has been sprayed with two light coats of black Acrylic paint, left to dry, and then placed on the MicroSlice Cutting Table. To get the best results you'll need to make sure the laser is correctly focused onto the PCB.
Next the G-Code is sent to the MicroSlice;
The tracks have to be engraved several times to make sure the laser cuts through both the paint and any residue left behind.
After the laser has done its work the PCB is put into a Ferric Chloride bath and agitated for about an hour.
By holding the cleaned PCB up to a light you can check the etching has cut all the way through the exposed copper. If it hasn't quite worked it can be put back in the etching solution for a bit longer.
While it is possible to make PCBs using the MicroSlice the process isn't perfect. So far I have only been able to etch the PCB effectively by using the new 250mw diode unlocked at the £55,00 Stretch Goal. I have not been able to do it successfully using the 100mw diode.
Hopefully this won't be a problem as the £65,000 Stretch Goal which unlocks a 200mw diode for the Standard kit isn't too far away!