Jan 8, 2015 | By Simon

Ever since a large majority of the population has chosen to stream or download their movies and tv shows, the prices for the once-expensive Blu-Ray players and pickups have dramatically dropped in price (not to mention the prices for Blu-Ray discs themselves).

Aside from just scanning data on a disc to play high-definition movies however, the Blu-Ray pick up is actually a powerful device capable of much more than just playing your Seinfeld marathons in high-definition.

One such example of the Blu-Ray pickup being put to excellent use is in the latest project from Diyouware’s DiyouPCB open-source PCB printer.  Using the Blu-Ray pickup, the creators of the DiyouPCB have created a way of sensitizing Dry-Film: a photoresist material that is popular amongst those who print PCB’s.  The easy-to-use film is capable of adhering to a copper board through heat and at under $20 for a square meter, is extremely affordable for printing small circuit boards.


After reverse-engineering the Blu-Ray pickup (to be more specific, this pickup’s official part name is a PHR-803T from Toshiba), the Diyouware team took advantage of the complete system with it’s multiple components ranging from the auto-focus, laser power, laser oscillator and more into the design of their PCB printer.

With the goal of making the printing process as easy as placing a piece of paper in a typical 2D paper scanner, the team set to work on developing the design by further researching how they could incorporate the Blu-Ray pickup into existing 3D printer and CNC machine components.

“For the first tests we replaced the Dremmel of our CNC router by a laser diode withdrawn from a Blu-Ray Pickup,” the team said on their blog.  “These laser diodes emit light near the UV band but we had doubts about if it would enough to sensitize the dry-film. We did some testing and it worked. The laser started to "paint" in the film but in a very rude way, probably because it emited too much power or lack of focus.”

After determining that they would have to continue to iterate on the function of the laser itself, the team broke down the principles of how the Blu-Ray pickup itself was operating and how they could better incorporate its function into their PCB printer design.  All of course, with limited technical information and relatively no support from Toshiba after attempts to communicate.  After coming to the conclusion that the Blu-Ray pickup was similar to how a standard CD operates, the team took what they knew and modified their approach into something that would work for their intended purposes.

“For our purposes we just needed to turn-on the laser, modulate his power and focus it properly on the PCB.” the team said.  “The PHR-803T has a FPC connector of 0.5 pitch with a 45 pinout. Only connect some wires to the connector took us some time. We finally designed a special breakout board to easily "sniff" the signals.”

Once they were able to determine the best direction to move in based off of their modifications, the team moved forward with designing a circuit that would allow a user to control the laser.  Particularly, a user would need to be able to turn the laser on and off, control the intensity, move the focus, read the photodiode signals and be able to perform auto-focus.

The first Pickup Driver prototype

To test their circuit and prove the functionality of their concept without diving into mechanical design, the team installed the pickup on their RepRap 3D printer by replacing the extruder with the pickup.  On the printbed they placed a PCB covered with dry-film and conducted some tests.  The results proved that the idea could be feasible although there were some more iterations that needed to be performed before dialing in on a final design.

Once the laser functionality was fine-tuned and ready to be used with mechanical parts, the team dove into designing both the programming for the Arduino that powers the system as well as the actual parts and glass cover for placing the PCB onto.

“We thought that the printer could to be based on a simple cartesian robot with two axis X/Y moving the pickup in a given area,” the team added.   “We didn't care about the size of the printing area because we will use stepper motors with enough power. It was the same for us to make it small or large and finally we choose a size of 210mm x 170mm. We have never done PCB's so large but you never know when you need it.”

After some additional testing and problem solving (including line shape and quality, vibrations and materials), the team’s final PCB Printer design culminated in a machine that is capable of not just printing circuit boards, but also one that is capable of printing the very same circuit board from which it runs off.

“The first circuit that we made with the printer was his own Pickup Driver PCB,” the team said.  “We wanted to prove that the printer could print his own electronics. Once again self-replication.”

The Pickup Driver PCB

This being an open-source design, the Diyouware team has released all of the necessary files and information for anybody interested in creating their own DiyouPCB printer including the necessary firmware to program the device.

For a more in-depth explanation of the steps and a full material list, head over to the DiyouPCB project page here.  


Posted in 3D Printing Company


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