fq1pcbfab1- Can you make a PCB?

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KiCad is an excellent tool for designing a PCB.

However, you probably want an actual, physical board at the end of the day!

You can send files created by Kicad out to a commercial service, and they will make your boards for you. That solution, of course, has pros and cons.

(One option, which I haven't (yet) explored, but would be my first port of call, if I get to wanting it, would be OSH-Park.com. A KiCad user has done a page of "How to send Ki-Cad to OSH-Park" guide. Again… not tested by me… but looks sensible.

Alternatively, you can make your own (simple) boards… without vast expense or complex equipment.

I offer an extended guide guide to making PCBs by hobbyist means. In a nutshell…

The name is misleading

The name, "printed circuit board," is actually quite misleading.

The physical PCB is made as follows…

You start with a piece of rigid, non-conducting material with a "skin" of copper over all of at least one side.

Where you want copper at the end of the process, you cover the copper, for instance by drawing with a pen using a "waxy" ink, or by a photographic process.

The board is then immersed in a solution of an agent, e.g. ferric chloride, which "eats" away exposed any copper. The "waxy ink" protects the copper underneath it. (Ferric chloride isn't the only agent used. "Acids", in the correct sense of the work, are not used… but you still have to treat the etching chemicals with respect!

You clean the board, removing all trace of the ferric chloride and, now, of the etch-resist "ink".

Next you drill holes. (If you are making a double sided, "through-plated" board, I believe the process is slightly different…. but the process is based on the same principles.)

And thus you obtain the "printed" circuit board, ready to be populated with whatever devices are called for by the design!

Now… the above is, I think, right… but so much more fun is….


(Be sure to listen right past the credits for the outtake!)

(One little carp: I'm not sure I see any merit in the "sponge" method of etching, which is a minor part of the video.)

KiCad will create a PCB design for you. You can then send off the Gerber files (and some money) to a service, and they will send back the physical PCBs, or you can print it out, as ink on paper, and turn that into a board "by hand".

I also offer you a more detailed guide for hobbyists who want to turn ink on paper into copper on fiberglass. The techniques described there do not require the equipment and expense of doing it "photographically". The ways described there work fine for small to medium sized boards. (Alternatively, many intermediate hobbyists use simple "photographic" processes… also mentioned… without vast expense or trouble.)

If you are using the laser printer system, some say that "PULSAR" paper is worth the trouble of ordering a pack. You can always cut just a "big enough" piece out for each project, and… carefully tape it to a "carrier" sheet, to transport it through your printer. (Note the "carefully"… saving 75 cents to get two projects out of one sheet won't go very far towards printer repair costs if you use the wrong tape (melts to roller) or it comes adrift, and wraps itself around a roller!)


10 sheets, "letter" size: $15. Not sure about p&p. They're in the USA. Also: tips on their site about making PCBs.

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