So far I have built a CNC router in order to make PCBs, but I then wanted the boards to be painted. It would be nice to make PCBs at home that look like they were done by the pros, so it does not just end with the CNC router.
DIY PCB (Printed Circuit Board)
2 January 2013
Last updated: 17 July 2013
Design of the PCB:
At the moment I am using Eagle CAD http://www.cadsoftusa.com/ to design my PCBs. It is wonderful professional grade software and to learn the software there is a free version. The only drawbacks that I have seen with the free version of Eagle CAD is that it is limited to a few inches by a few inches and that it can only be used for non-commercial use. Other than that it is great! For the hobbyist you can create a not on a small board, and if you wanted to you could build a whole radio with these small modular boards then interconnect them together.
Once I have created my schematic and board layout using Eagle CAD, I take the board layout file and run it though PCB-GCODE http://pcbgcode.org/index.php which is a program that takes the info from Eagle CAD and produces G CODE that my CNC Router needs to etch and drill the PCB.
Tough I have not converted yet, I have been looking at KiCAD http://www.kicad-pcb.org/display/KICAD/KiCad+EDA+Software+Suite as an alternative to Eagle CAD. My main motivation behind this is to be able to use KiCAD to create PCBs that I can sell, KiCAD is free, and with it being free I can help other people use it in order to design and build their PCBs.
Working with CAD software such as Eagle CAD, KiCAD, and CAM/BAM http://www.cambam.info/ (software that I use to build other projects on my CNC) one has to work with measurements. Building PCBs you work with the sizes of traces, drill holes, pads, etc. In doing so I found it is useful to have conversation charts such as this one http://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/fraction-and-metric-conversion-chart/ Some other useful charts and PCB design info can be found here http://www.pcbdesignandfab.com/guidelines.htm
Something that has elude me for some time, was a good way to make silkscreens on a PCB. I wanted a good way to paint the PCB to protect the ground plane and to identify where the components needed to be positioned. I have been looking at ways of doing it from a CNC, though looking on YouTube I saw a good DIY video of doing it the old fashion way.
Rosin dissolved in thinner to protect the tracks and give a good look
Here is another cool link http://www.protonbasic.co.uk/showthread.php/56074-More-direct-PCB-printing watching this made me think of all sort of possibilities. I could print on silkscreens, solder mask, all sorts of stuff.
I found a good company for drill bits for my CNC router. These bits are used, but of high quality and a great price. http://drillbitsunlimited.com/Default.aspx
Via or Through-Hole Plating:
So far this https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=KTNuTv_IQp4 looks like the best tutorial for making your own Vias, if you can find an easier/safer method then please send me an e-mail.