Author Topic: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?  (Read 4861 times)

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Offline coppercone2

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #25 on: February 26, 2019, 07:54:13 pm »
I swear sometimes I get the feeling when you write about PCB manufacturing you get responses that should begin by "This post is sponsored by (insert PCB manufacturer here). :scared:

Or its one of those people that manages to get tomato sauce on the ceiling opening a can.
 

Offline coppercone2

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #26 on: February 26, 2019, 07:58:12 pm »
A fun project too if you make your own mask is to make a burnisher/heavy roller for adhering film. With a nice handle and all.
 

Online nctnico

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #27 on: February 26, 2019, 08:49:27 pm »
I swear sometimes I get the feeling when you write about PCB manufacturing you get responses that should begin by "This post is sponsored by (insert PCB manufacturer here). :scared:
I have a whole UV exposure box and spray etcher setup ready to. Lots of copper clad material on hand too but during the past 2 years I might have used it once. First of all it isn't easy to get the exposure right due to differences in the resist layer between various boards. You need high quality pre-sensitised boards to get consistent results. Etching is quick in the simple FeCl spray etcher I have (rotating tube, not a pressure pump). But then the board will need cleaning, drilling and a protective coating. Another factor is that for SMT components the traces and pads get tiny so your whole process gets very sensitive to proper exposure, development and etching of the board. I'm not saying that it is impossible but for the amount of time and equipment it takes to get really good boards you can also have boards made which are double sided with soldermask, silk screen, plated through holes, routed in an odd shape, etc.

Edit: What I want to add is the following: I have been etching boards for over 30 years now. Back then having PCBs made was very expensive. Even for companies. Part of my electronics education is etching your own boards. Back then it was economic for companies to have their own etch setup. I would have given my left nut to have access to cheap professional PCB manufacturing like you have today.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2019, 08:34:43 am by nctnico »
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Offline M4trix

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #28 on: February 26, 2019, 09:41:26 pm »
I swear sometimes I get the feeling when you write about PCB manufacturing you get responses that should begin by "This post is sponsored by (insert PCB manufacturer here). :scared:

Or its one of those people that manages to get tomato sauce on the ceiling opening a can.

PCB manufacturers have their marketing agents among us. Their job is to discourage you from making boards at home.
Their typical discouraging arguments are... not worth the effort, too messy, too expensive, toxic chemicals and fumes, it will stain this and that, you can't make it look professional. ;)
 

Offline james_s

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #29 on: February 26, 2019, 10:03:31 pm »
Valid points, and I do send off for professional boards more often than I etch them myself, but I do still etch them myself. Sometimes because I'm in a hurry and sometimes because I just feel like making something. I can go buy a pie at the supermarket too but I often prefer to make one at home.

If I just went out and bought everything instead of building it myself I wouldn't have much of a hobby left.
 
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Offline mrpackethead

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #30 on: February 27, 2019, 12:46:02 am »
I can go buy a pie at the supermarket too but I often prefer to make one at home.

You can very fesiably make a much better pie at home than in the supermarket, often for considerably less money than the one at the supermarket.
The same is not true for pcbs

Wonder what a Pie made of FR4 tastes like. Maybe some solder paste sauce
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Offline KL27x

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #31 on: February 27, 2019, 06:18:19 am »
No one asked this question, but I still feel compelled to list what I have spent.

1. Laser printer $100 (each)
2. Laminator $35
3. Heat gun $25.00-50.00 (each)
4. Etch tank $100.00 of plexiglass and nylon bolts and silicone and plywood.
5. 5 gallon compressed air tank for running the bubbler $25.00
6. regulator to reduce the air pressure $20 (each)
7. Tubing, bubble wall wand, various bits and fittings $30-$50?
8. Acid and peroxide to make cupric chloride $25?
9. Turkey baster 7.00
10. Air compressor. I didn't buy it for the tank, but I'll list it anyway. $100.00
11. 150-200 sheets of transfer paper in 10 years. $150-200
12. Plastic cutting board and stainless steel wool. w/e

There is some maintenance. Probably a gallon of acid every 4 years. Tubing wears out and cracks, occasionally. I had to replace the regulator once, when I was too lazy to disconnect it from the tank and the fumes eventually corroded the innards. I have had to take apart and clean the regulator a few times - aside from corrosion, I had the connector plugged up by carpenter bees, once. And the innards clogged by a spider nest, once. I keep the connector taped over, now. I am on my third laser printer since I started, ten years ago. But that has nothing to do with making PCBs. I'm on my fourth heat gun. After my first cheapo died, I bought a PC. It lasted like 6 months. Then a Dewalt. It didn't do much better. Then another cheapo, and it has gone for maybe 4 years, now.

I had to clean up etchant spills probably 4-5 times before I got the memo: don't turn the air too high, because the height of the foam head changes depending on the state of the etchant. Cleaning ferric stains from concrete is easier than cleaning cupric. With a ferric stain, you just pour some muriatic, brush it around, then rinse. With cupric you have to pour muriatic then add peroxide over that.

The biggest surprise is the laminator. I thought it would die by now. I keep it near the tank, outdoors, so I expected it to die, eventually. It is going on 10 years.
 
« Last Edit: February 27, 2019, 06:40:20 am by KL27x »
 

Offline james_s

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #32 on: February 28, 2019, 05:53:03 am »
You've spent quite a bit more than I did. I don't count the cost of the laser printer because I didn't buy the printer for making PCBs, I needed a printer anyway. I have a heat gun but I've never used it for PCB making so I don't count that. My etching tank cost less than $5, I made it with scraps of acrylic I bought at Tap Plastics, before that I used a glass cake pan. For the bubbler I use a fish tank air pump I got for $3 at a thrift store. I think the tubing was under $5 at a hardware store and for the bubble wand I used a piece of acrylic tubing also from Tap Plastics, bent it into an L shape and drilled a bunch of tiny holes in it. A gallon of acid was under $10, peroxide was under $5. Haven't used a turkey baster for anything, I have an air compressor but I've never used it for making PCBs, and 25 sheets of Press n Peel lasted me almost 7 years. I cut up pieces that are only as big as I need, a full sheet is good for dozens of small boards.

Maintenance? Essentially zero, I still have more than half the bottle of acid I bought almost 10 years ago. I add a capful of peroxide now and then to recharge the etchant, I think I'm on my second bottle of that.
 

Offline IanB

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #33 on: February 28, 2019, 06:03:38 am »
The amount of money you can spend is obviously on a sliding scale according to your needs, with fun at one end of the scale and professional results at the other.

When I was a teenager I simply bought an etch resist pen and some ferric chloride from a local electronics store. I found copper clad board as discarded waste in a dumpster (I was lucky). I drew out my traces on the board with the pen and etched it in a plastic tray. I drilled the holes with a hand drill (carefully).

Sure, the results weren't pretty, but the cost was pocket money. And it was fun.
 

Offline james_s

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #34 on: February 28, 2019, 06:05:55 am »
I've gotten some pretty nice results, I routinely use 0603 parts on home etched boards, I've successfully used ICs with 0.5mm lead pitch although that's pushing the limits of the process. It's less about money spent and more a matter of attention to detail and initial effort spent dialing everything in. Once you get a process set up that works for you it's a matter of being consistent.
 

Offline IanB

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #35 on: February 28, 2019, 06:37:19 am »
I've successfully used ICs with 0.5mm lead pitch

Isn't there an issue with bridging here? Professional boards have solder mask that repel the solder and allow you to do drag soldering. I can see this being more cumbersome with no solder mask to help.
 

Offline sleemanj

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #36 on: February 28, 2019, 06:55:49 am »
Professional boards have solder mask that repel the solder and allow you to do drag soldering. I can see this being more cumbersome with no solder mask to help.

Often enough the soldermask is pulled back on such parts by cheap board houses anyway.

Yes it makes hand soldering more difficult, but it's not impossible.
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Offline KL27x

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #37 on: February 28, 2019, 07:58:15 am »
If I include my first 3 tanks, add another pile of plexiglass to my expenditures. Plus an Igloo cooler, lol. And not one but 2 fish tank bubblers I tried before going to compressed air. I made some mistakes in the first two tries of making a plexiglass tank, trying to do solvent welding. The guys that make 200 gallon fish tanks are evidently much better at it than I am. I couldn't hold a liter of acid for more than a month before springing a leak.

Quote
25 sheets of Press n Peel lasted me almost 7 years. I cut up pieces that are only as big as I need, a full sheet is good for dozens of small boards.

Yeah, I cut them up, too. That's how much PCB I have made. In fact, I think I shorted a 100 pack of PnP in my estimate. But it's hard to remember. I have had some unique needs, in the past. I switched to Pulsar from the moment I tried it. I keep some pre-cut 3x4" pieces taped to printer paper in a 3 ring folder, ready to feed into the printer. But I've done boards up to 5.5 x 8.5".

Admittedly, I tried to make toner transfer work for some apps where I really shouldn't have. And I caused myself more problems than I solved. But I was making toner transfer PCB before I even know how to make a Gerber.  I used a lot of paper and made a lot of boards that I had designed in paint or in ExpressPCB. Particularly early on when I still had some gremlins, I had some misguided efforts. When you go from one perfect sample to making a half a dozen panels at a time, you find out how reliable your process really is. But I've had plenty more apps where toner transfer is perfect, and gremlins are no more.

Quote
Isn't there an issue with bridging here? Professional boards have solder mask that repel the solder and allow you to do drag soldering.
EZ solder mask with just a sharpie:
[Imgur](
)
The black isn't sharpie. It's oxidized copper. Using a sharpie, you can color in the pads then oxidize the rest of the board. Then the solder won't wick out of the pad area. It holds up to a few careful reworks, maybe, but it eventually dissolves with enough flux and heat. This is a huge SO chip. Drag soldered. But I've done quite a lot of SSOP. I've done down to MSOP and QFN, too. I consider any trace down to 8 mil to be no special care. One shot one kill. One of the boards I made needed all 8 mil traces. Albeit, it was (very!) small, but I made a 4x6" panel of it with zero defects. That one was just a plug-in daughter board for a couple of small EEPROMS, but to keep it completely single-sided took some tight routing. The board in the linked pic is mostly 12/12 or thereabouts from very early in my learning curve.

It's really so so very easy to get 100% perfect, consistent results every single time. There is just no way UV is better or easier down to 8 mil, if you use the right tools and strategy with toner transfer. Honestly, if you go by what tutorials are available, today? It is going to waste a lot of your time. The info today is actually worse than it was 10 years ago. The websites I learned from 10 years ago are all gone. And to sort through the pile of crap videos out there and somehow figure out what is good and what is bad, there's no way to know. And it will waste a lot of time.

UV is probably the best way to go if you want good results right away. And if you want a more professional quality soldermask.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2019, 09:58:39 am by KL27x »
 

Offline TheNewLab

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #38 on: February 28, 2019, 09:12:46 am »
 :-DD
Post 27 )(Bronto48) on that sharpening tiny drills bits comment:

"I read the original thread question as: how are tiny drill bits sharpened at the drill bit factory??? What kind of machines exist for that job, when you have to do it in a production environment?? Anybody out there seen that machinery/operation?

I know, I know, some wag is going to suggest a room full of minature machinists with tiny grinders......"  :-DD :-DD

er, from
https://www.practicalmachinist.com/vb/general/how-do-you-sharpen-tiny-drills-153602/index2.html
 

Offline coppercone2

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #39 on: February 28, 2019, 05:49:59 pm »
There is a commercial (maybe german knife manufacturer) that shows a zoom into one of those wooden knife racks with a built in sharpener and inside you got some kind of crazy construction equipment and little constructune workers operating a crane with a grinder on it to sharpen the blade. It looked like what you would imagine a starship drydock to look like lol
 

Offline Richard Crowley

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #40 on: February 28, 2019, 06:11:57 pm »
PCB manufacturers have their marketing agents among us. Their job is to discourage you from making boards at home.
Their typical discouraging arguments are... not worth the effort, too messy, too expensive, toxic chemicals and fumes, it will stain this and that, you can't make it look professional. ;)
If I thought I could get PC boards from China to Oregon in a week, I would try it.
But my experience with shipping from China is measured in months (plural) not weeks.

Even though I am in the rather older part of the BB generation, perhaps I have the attention span of someone who grew up on Sesame Street.
 

Offline ataradov

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #41 on: February 28, 2019, 06:26:16 pm »
If I thought I could get PC boards from China to Oregon in a week, I would try it.
But my experience with shipping from China is measured in months (plural) not weeks.
I routinely get boards within a week. Just use UPS/FedEx for shipping.

Even though USPS I get boards from PCBWay in 2 weeks including manufacturing.
Alex
 

Offline Bassman59

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #42 on: February 28, 2019, 06:45:23 pm »
If I thought I could get PC boards from China to Oregon in a week, I would try it.
But my experience with shipping from China is measured in months (plural) not weeks.
I routinely get boards within a week. Just use UPS/FedEx for shipping.

Even though USPS I get boards from PCBWay in 2 weeks including manufacturing.

Seeed has been taking about three weeks from order placement until the boards land on my desk.

Oh, and I can't make four-layer boards at home, so the whole point is moot.
 

Offline KL27x

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #43 on: February 28, 2019, 08:06:11 pm »
Before I ordered a board for which 1 or 2 days actually mattered, I went back through through my purchase history to see which shipping option is actually faster. To me it was DHL, preferred. At least over the last few years, what I found is Fedex IE takes 5 days. DHL 3 days over a weekend, or 2 days if neither Sunday or Saturday is involved. Dunno... maybe it takes 4 if the stars align, but I didn't find any of those in my sample size.

Some PCB manufacturer can make a board in one day, but it really depends on how busy the factory is at any given time. I've ordered a board on a Friday and had it in my hands Tuesday morning, DHL.

Your actual location in the US can matter, of course. I've lived places where the local UPS service was atrocious. I am in a big city, now. For me DHL is one day over the pacific. One day to clear customs, tops. At my door at 10:30 to 10:40 like clockwork. I could meet the driver at the door with a cup of coffee. I'm not even sure how that can happen in just 2 days, but it can.

I got an average of between 2-3 weeks with seeed. But it has been more than a few years since I used them.

I wouldn't have guessed Oregon is necessarily that bad. The package spends a day on a boat crossing the Pacific before clearing customs in California.  I guess the local delivery might add some days if you're out in the boonies, so to speak.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2019, 08:43:45 pm by KL27x »
 

Offline Richard Crowley

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #44 on: February 28, 2019, 08:39:25 pm »
I wouldn't have guessed Oregon is necessarily that bad.
If the west hills didn't block the view, I could see the port from here.
Portland Oregon used to be a major west-coast port.
But the longshoremen have literally shut down the port. 
Of course they still get paid for doing nothing. Nice "work" if you can get it.
Everything comes in on a truck from Seattle or San Francisco. Or by air.

Ref: https://www.oregonlive.com/business/2016/01/portland_longshore_workers_pai.html
 

Online nctnico

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #45 on: February 28, 2019, 10:33:00 pm »
I've successfully used ICs with 0.5mm lead pitch

Isn't there an issue with bridging here? Professional boards have solder mask that repel the solder and allow you to do drag soldering. I can see this being more cumbersome with no solder mask to help.
That doesn't make any difference.
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Offline KL27x

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #46 on: March 01, 2019, 12:27:29 am »
^I agree, with clarification.
You don't actually need soldermask between the pins to "repel" solder. This is a common misconception. At a certain fineness of pitch, commercial manufacturers do not put soldermask between pins/pads, anyway. In my experience with FPC, the manufacturer never puts soldermask between the pads of an IC despite you put them in your Gerber. And this makes no difference to drag soldering, at all.

There is a difference in trying to drag solder boards that completely lack soldermask, though. The solder wicks down the traces. Depending on your traces and plane layout, you can end up with bridges because of this. The bridges won't be between pins/pads of the IC. It will be between traces/planes. Even if you don't get bridges, these lumps and bumps make inspection more difficult.

Drag soldering is also much less efficient when you only solder 3 pins at a time before the bead spreads over your board.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2019, 12:30:17 am by KL27x »
 

Offline james_s

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Re: How expensive is it to make your own PCB at home ?
« Reply #47 on: March 01, 2019, 04:53:29 am »
I stick a piece of polyamide tape across the traces near the IC pins to form a temporary solder mask. This usually does a good job preventing the solder from wicking down the traces.
 


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