Monday, January 24, 2011

From Cricut, to Circuit - Preface - Making your own circuit boards

I Cross-posted this to the DIYStompbox crowd, and got some interesting feedback. It has been a few weeks since I wrote about this here (or anything for that matter), but I have developed a working process in that time. I have been pleased to get some satisfactory results with much trial-and-error. First things first:

The required software:
1. Download the Cricut DesignStudio (Trial Version) - Required to update the Firmware of the Cricut Personal from v1.0 to v1.34.
2. Download for free - Inkscape - to convert popular Raster graphics formats into SVG Vector format
3. Obtain Craft Edge-Sure Cuts A Lot - To cut/draw TrueType Fonts and/or SVG files

The Process:
1. Create a custom PCB layout, or download your target layout created by someone else. Some people prefer to use full-fledged design software like AutoCAD, but there are other tools out there more specialized for Electronics production, like Storm Software's DIY Layout Creator (Java Required)
2. Convert PNG, JPEG, GIF layout into SVG using InkScape
3. Import SVG into Sure Cuts A Lot
4. Verify paths are clean, and do not cut across your traces in a continuous fashion (I may need to write another tutorial for this in InkScape, with the best practices I have found.
5. Cut Layout pattern with Cricut
6. Apply cut pattern to Copper-clad epoxy board
7. Prepare layout for etching
8. Etch your board in an etching solution (Ferric Chloride, Sodium Persulfate, Ammonium Persulfate)
9. Process the etched board (cleaning, cutting, drilling, tinning, etc.)
10. Post-production

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