View Full Version : How hard is it to make diy PCBs if youíre a Noob ?

04-04-2013, 02:35 PM
Just a general question about the learning curve for making PCBís on your CNC. I have nearly completed my web controlled Arduino BB RC Tank project Iím still coding (and really enjoying it) but thereís not really enough space for the Arduino boards ..so I thought I would make PCB from scratch using Ladyada kits or even buy the parts and put it together to make it smaller or even make it fit better ina strange shape. Anyway is there any point to putting a lot of hours into learning everything I need to produce a PCB for it ? I think the biggest problem I would have is the drawing the schematics as I donít have a that much of an electronics background, besides perf board any alternatives ?

04-04-2013, 02:51 PM
Shouldn't be that bad.

Have a play with eagle cad and do a couple of simple circuits, there is also MillPCBS.com (http://millpcbs.com/) with some advice & vids for milling your own pcb's.

Mad Professor
04-04-2013, 03:14 PM
I use DipTrace (www.diptrace.com) for designing my pcb's.

I have tried the tonner xfer, and the uv xfer, this is before I had my cnc.

Using the CNC to cut the tracks and drill holes is much quicker, but I still prefer the etched pcbs to engraved pcb's.

04-04-2013, 03:49 PM
I use EagleCad for designing the boards and an add in ulp called pcb-gcode to make gcode files.

You can download Eagle and use it as freeware for "small" boards" and hobby use and the add in is also freeware and can be found on the eagle site or through its yahoo group:
pcb-gcode : The pcb-gcode User's Group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pcb-gcode/)

Works great for those one off boards and if you want "autoleveling", there is a version that runs on an older version of eagle also.

04-04-2013, 04:46 PM
Has anybody tried a combination cnc and etching for pcb's. Just coat the pcb with resist(paint will do) and scratch the outline on the cnc and then etch in ferric chloride, just a thought.


04-04-2013, 06:06 PM
I mill my own pcbs all the time....the win for me is turnaround time (from completing the circuit to having the board in my hand is about 1hr ...on par with chemical etching but the results are more predictable & also the holes are done at the end of the process - and the pcb outline/mount holes sorted). I've tried most CNC pcb milling methods & associated apps,here's what I settled on...

1. Design cct in Eagle
2. Export track layer (from the Eagle board) to a gerber file
3. Import gerber file to cambam - cam it up.
4. Save g-code
5. Open g-code in CNC-USB
6. Probe actual FR4 copper surface with CNC-USB (then use probed data to update the Z height data sourced from your g-code file)
7. Mill board.

The problem with milling pcb is one of height irregularities - it doesn't take much error with a V cutter to end up with a track that is not isolated etc....especially with SMD components (which is what I typically use) That's why I went with CNC-USB ...it has an integrated feature called warp (step 6 above).

It's apprently possible to do a similar thing to 'warp' with an Eagle plugin called pcb-gcode...I tried with mixed/frustrating results.

Lee Roberts
04-04-2013, 07:21 PM
I really like DipTrace.


04-04-2013, 08:03 PM
Check out visolate which is quite good, the page has a lot of other useful stuff to.


04-04-2013, 08:47 PM
wrt to pcb milling, I thought visolate would be by saviour...(I spent way too long trying to master it) ...it turns out it was my curse.

Using voronoi regions sounds like an excellent way of cutting down on track cutting (track isolation) time...turns out it's also an even better way if increasing the stray capacitance on your final pcbs (not by a little...by a *massive* amount)

04-04-2013, 09:16 PM
I would agree with you on that Hank. To have a go at routing pcb's though is a good way to practice with software wise though.

04-04-2013, 10:03 PM
I'd say designing PCBs is not massively complicated if it's for simple circuits, where placements of elements is not that crucial. I've used EagleCAD before and got my head around it pretty quickly.

As far as cutting goes, I would've loved to have a CNC simply to cut the acid etched PCB down to the right size, especially when doing round shapes. Then again, if you can auto generate the g-code, I guess there's no quicker way. Just for laughs and to show acid etching works not so badly, here's a PIC based timer board I've done a long time ago:


this is the round PCB which could've used a CNC.


04-04-2013, 11:16 PM
Wow thanks guys .. loads of advice there and ideas :) .. what do think of this and dont start with "Fuckin Maplins are crap" lol but they have a starter kit (http://www.maplin.co.uk/pcb-starter-kit-with-press-n-peel-17352#overview) half price its looks like print iron and disolve.. thinks its wortha tenner punt to havea go ?

04-04-2013, 11:33 PM
I'd say Maplins are crap, but it's where I got sodium persulphate which I couldn't get anywhere else. To make your board you need that, an iron, a blank PCB and ink printer. As always google is your friend.

That kit says etchant material, although doesn't specify what it is. Then again for a tenner, might be worth a try.


04-04-2013, 11:48 PM
I'd say Maplins are crap, but it's where I got sodium persulphate which I couldn't get anywhere else. To make your board you need that, an iron, a blank PCB and ink printer. As always google is your friend.

That kit says etchant material, although doesn't specify what it is. Then again for a tenner, might be worth a try.


Looks like most of the stuff is in the kit .. whats an iron .. think I heard my ex once mention the word lol :)

1 pack assorted single-side copper boards
(10 x 8, 9 x 6, 8 x 6, 7 x 5, 6 x 4, 5 x 3)
1x tray for etching boards
1x tray for rinsing boards
1x 500g SP etchant
1x permanent etch resist pen
5x sheets of Press-n-Peel
1x 100ml approx. of Press-n-Peel stripper
1 pack 10 paper wipes
1 pair safety glasses
1 pack data sheets inc. Health and Safety coz your bloody stupid and we need to cover our arses !

Dudes if this strapping young lass can do it .. i'll be buggered if I cant at least make an attempt !
Natural blonde .. me thinks not ! “Start rubbing over it with a wet sponge “ , I have to admit this strangely aroused me ! :P


05-04-2013, 11:44 AM
Fivetide, for a tenner I am sure you could do something with that. The kit looks do-able too! G.

05-04-2013, 12:01 PM
Fivetide, check out EEVblog Electronics Community Forum - Index (http://www.eevblog.com/forum/index.php)
The PCB/EDA/CAD boards have quite a bit of info.

I personally get any PCBs I need made in China via Seeedstudio, as I'm normally needing multiple copies for various projects, so one of prototyping takes too much time to make a batch. While I'm waiting for delivery it means I can get on with other projects.

05-04-2013, 12:04 PM
Don't need to bother with the press 'n peel kit. You can just use photo paper and a laser printer to achieve the same thing. Wax paper works extremely well.

05-04-2013, 12:09 PM
Crap I was suppose to say laser printer. A cheap option is to use magazine paper, the up market magazines like Vogue work very well as they are printed on rather high quality paper. Find a page with nothing printed on it (there's loads of commercials in those mags anyway, so this shouldn't be a problem) and etch away.


05-04-2013, 12:10 PM
The kit looks do-able too! G.

Like what you did there G :)