I just received a rather cheery email from Joshua R. Perk starting, "Hey Max, I love the work you do, so I thought I might write."
He certainly started off on the right foot (LOL). Joshua went on to say: "We've created the first desktop circuit board printer that makes it easy for any maker to etch circuits at home. We're Kickstarting, and would love to hear your feedback." Of course, I immediately bounced over to Joshua's Kickstarter page to feast my orbs on his BreadBox desktop circuit board printer.
Unusually for me, I can keep this short and sweet. My immediate feedback for Joshua is "I want one!" As he points out in this video, the maker community is booming. Microcontroller development boards like the Arduino and the Raspberry Pi are really affordable, thereby allowing us to do all sorts of interesting things. However, when it comes to implementing homegrown circuits like the DIY MSGEQ7-Based Audio Spectrum Analyzer I built a few days ago, most of us are limited to using solderless breadboards.
Ideally, once we have a prototype working, like the breadboard on the lefthand side of the image below, we'd like to transfer it to a professional-looking printed circuit board (PCB), like the one on the righthand side of the image.
Joshua R. Perk shows a PCB created using the BreadBox desktop printer.
A variety of low-volume PCB services are available to us, but they aren't cheap if you are doing a lot of this sort of thing. Also, it can take several weeks before you get your board(s) back in your hand. The thought of a desktop PCB printer is certainly appealing.
Initially, I had dreams that you would be able to upload a standard design file to the BreadBox via a USB connection, press the "Go" button, and sit back while it printed your design, etched the copper, and drilled the holes for you. I'm sorry to relate that life is not quite so sweet. As you'll see in the Kickstarter video, it's up to you to draw or transfer your design to the bare board. Then you use the BreadBox for the etching, after which you'll still have to drill the holes through the board.
Even so, this is nothing to be sneezed at. Etching your own boards in the family's Pyrex cooking dishes is problematic at best (and the chemicals tend to smell really bad). The great thing about the BreadBox is that Joshua and his team have performed loads of experiments to get everything just so.
As Joshua says on his Kickstarter page, the project's backers went out to get "some of the best minds we could lay our hands on" (which certainly gives one pause for thought). As a result, after you've poured in the chemicals and pressed the "Go" button, the BreadBox handles things like timing, mixing the chemicals, and agitation to produce a really professional looking, predictable, and repeatable board.
All I know is that I would love to have one of these little beauties sitting on my desk right now. What say you?
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun & Interesting