Jun 21, 2016 | By George Fomitchev

As we know, 3D printers have opened the doors for what is possible with home production and rapid prototyping. Even with a desktop 3D printer, you can create practically any model in a 3D modeling program and print it out within the comfort of your home. 3D printing electronics, however, has remained somewhat out of reach, with only a number of companies and individuals manufacturing them.

Up until now, making a circuit board prototype necessitated a soldering iron, or involved ordering short production runs from external sources. However, many of us can make it using a conventional iron and a laser printer as can be seen below:

As you can see, however, this process is not the most pleasing either aesthetically or technologically. That is why, in this article we would like to present another method of creating PCB prototypes using a 3D printer.

Any DIY Engraver can also be used or a constructor of a makeblock plotter xy type.

If you didn’t already know, it is possible to install a diode laser on almost any 3D printer, attaching it as an addition or in the place of the printer’s extruder. Diode lasers, which are small and compact, have a relatively small power output compared to CO2 lasers, but in this case that is fine.

So, how does one go about manufacturing a circuit board prototype at home or in the office?

First thing is first, you’ll need a copperized glass fiber plate, any dark vinyl film (any dark film that a laser can burn through will fit), iron chloride (which can be bought at chemical reagent stores), and a diode laser installed on a 3D printer. The laser’s power output is not crucial, but we do recommend using a diode laser of more than 2W (2000mW).

Installing a laser on a 3D printer is very easy, check out the videos below to see how it’s done:

How to install it on an Ultimaker:

And on a WanHao DuPlicator i3

With your laser in installed, we can get started:

1. Create a circuit board model using any program of an InkScape type. It is important for the model to be done as an inversion picture, we will explain why later.

2. Next, convert the model into gcode.

3. Stick the vinyl film onto the copperized plate of glass fiber.

4. Place the vinyl coated glass fiber plate onto your 3D printer’s work table and turn on the 3D printer in the laser cutting/engraving mode.

5. Next, you can observe the laser burning an inversion image of the pattern onto the vinyl.

6. Dissolve the iron chloride powder in water (do not worry, no chemical reaction will follow)

7. Once that is done, put the glass fiber plate into the iron chloride water for 45-60 minutes.

The copper on the glass fiber surface, free of the film after the laser burning, will react with the iron chloride (copper etching chemical reaction) and goes into the solution leaving clean glass fiber in the contours of the inversion image.

Next, make holes for the necessary connectors with a small drill, or alternately leave it as is, and solder the connectors on top of the circuit board.

There you have it, we have shown you how you can create a small shop or laboratory for circuit board manufacturing, using a 3D printer and a laser.

This technology is certainly not perfect and has several shortcomings, but it is efficient and can be used at home and in small laboratories.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



Maybe you also like:


Suncat2000 wrote at 9/28/2016 10:34:40 PM:

Basically, whatever you use to convert the InkScape drawing to G-code outlines the traces. Then the laser is used to burn the outlines through the vinyl and you peel up whatever isn't a trace to resist the etching solution. Did I get that right?

Joe wrote at 7/1/2016 5:20:20 PM:

I wonder if it may be possible to use a 3D printer to print a resist mask onto the copper. So, you would use the filament material to resist the solution that dissolves the copper. Then, you need a method to remove the mask material. It might simply be peeled up, but may be easier than the effort to peel away the mask in the way the article describes. Alternatively, perhaps acetone could be used. I don't know if any of the above would work, I am just speculating.

Joe wrote at 6/21/2016 3:41:08 PM:

Be forewarned that cutting vinyl with a laser will release chlorine, which is VERY corrosive to metals. The maker space I am part of, will not permit vinyl or PVC to be cut using their laser cutter.

Andreas wrote at 6/21/2016 1:04:18 PM:

I would like to give that a try some day, but from what i can see, this process seems to only work for thru hole or large pitch components. Would be interesting to see them make a more difficult layout with SMD components, like an LQFP 48 with 0.5mm pitch, making it way more useful for todays microcontrollers and most other common integrated circuit packages. For now, i'll continue to work with UV exposure of precoated boards and transparent film, or direct toner transfer.

Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to

3ders.org Feeds 3ders.org twitter 3ders.org facebook   

About 3Ders.org

3Ders.org provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive