Pretty much everything I do right now lives on a protoboard till it gets dead-bugged. I don't do any PCB design at all since everything in my workshop is extremely simple. I do however LOVE the asthetics of a PCB and plan on keeping a close eye on this designline if only for the visuals!
It's unlikely that there would be a low cost tool to make PCBs using the 3D printing approach since you would need to print an insulating substrate followed by (or combined with) metal. All the low cost 3D printers I know about can only do plastic...
I have seen tools that used a CNC approach where you start with copper-clad PCB blanks and the tool cut lines in the copper to generate spaces between the traces. I think they were limited to simple designs with larger traces. I haven't heard of any recently but then I haven't looked....
Around 1990 there was a promising attempt to do this by Ariel Electronics (California), which created a gadget called the Circuit Writer which extruded conductive plastic wires onto a substrate. I actually visited Ariel and saw a Circuit Writer working. I don't think the technology got anywhere, but maybe it was just ahead of its time and with newer 3D extrusions this could be done practically. For more info, Google "ariel electronics circuit writer".
@mrbern: Back in the late 80's we used a process called Multiwire which was embedding insulated wires in a resin that was placed on the pc board.
I wondered if anyone would get it -- that's the one I was thinking of -- we used multiwire in the mid-to-late 1980s -- it was actually amazingly efficacious for its time -- I think there was a later version called microwire with laser-drilled vias, but I didn;t have anything to do with that myself.
@elizabeth: It's unlikely that there would be a low cost tool to make PCBs using the 3D printing approach since you would need to print an insulating substrate followed by (or combined with) metal. All the low cost 3D printers I know about can only do plastic...
Oh, is that what this person was asking -- my bad -- I thought it was a generic question about how to make your own printed circuit boards at home.
@hm: Can they employ some form of Cu ribbon to keep Cu trace and low power laser drill for vias?
That sounds like an interesting approach but I haven't heard of anyone doing that. It also wouldn't solve the problem that occurs with the 2D router approach which is that vias are not plated so you have to solder wires into the via holes (which means via holes and pads need to be larger than they would otherwise need to be.
Another problem with the 2D router systems is keeping the front and back of the board aligned since you have to route one side and flip the board to do the other side.
The approach used by the Ariel Electronics Circuit Writer mentioned by betajet actually sounds like it would work for 3D printing a PCB. It might be do-able with a two head 3D printer if you could get the conductive plastic in a suitable form factor...
@_hm: I am wondering, is there low cost tool for 3D prinitng of PCB to get them faster and at lower cost in your home?
I have a couple of friends who make their own PCBs -- I remember once chatting with one of them about a small project idea in the morning, and he called me in the afternoon to say that he'd made a prototype PCB and one populated with components was already in the post to me. I will ask him if he woudl be interested in posting some articles on this here on PCB Designline.
@hm, Max.....The best thing I have seen that would kinda be affordable for home use is a 2-D router that can cut the copper layer and thus form tracks. Because there is copper everyehwere, not just where there are tracks, the PCBs look a bit unusual, but it works fine. I have no idea how much they would cost, though...
I used to do all of my protowork on vero unless it was really complex when I went to wire wrap. There you could buy plastic pin identifiers that numbered all of the pins for you and you could write on them what IC it was dramatically reducing mistakes. Then CAD tools got affordable and then prototype board became really affordable and I haven't veroed or wire wrapped anything in 12 years. I mean if I can get 2 x 10"x16" panels for $295 full of circuits double sided through-hole plated and with double side silk screen and 6thou track and spacing and solder mask and can merge as many designs as I like into the space why would I ever bother having dirty chemistry with mediocre results and in place of professional results.
I do still use vero to mount connectors for a one off adapter, but otherwise I just collect up to a few dozen designs and just get them made :-)
BTW, I have a whole bunch of boards for a robot I've been working on for too long :-) All RS485. I got 19 different designs for $295 delivered to my door in 5 days :-) it was great
I still like Vero and love that tool for doing vero CAD, but I think for the moment it has had its day, along with wirewrap and multiwire.
I worked for a company in the mid 80's that did a 32bit processor board using it and remember thinking that it could compete with conventional PCB in density up to probably 8-10 layers.
I also remember working in Germany in the early 70's and Siemens was using double through-hole plating using silver rivets to connect topp and bottom traces that were a reliability nightmare.
@Duane: Have you seen this technique? I understand it went to the moon and back.
I haven't seen one in the flesh (although I would love one for my collection), but I have seen it before. As you say, it was called the cordwood technique -- it actually offered tremendous packing density for the time -- I'm always amazed by the different techniques folks come up with...
This is indeed an amazing archievement. I have the deepest respect for the engineers of that time. Amazing. Watching closely you see components with extreme high quality, hard to get today. However, in surplus you might be able to find those polystyrene film capacitors, they are great for high end audio (with common sense, of course ;-)
This is going a bit off topic, but very interesting to mention, for others here interested in this kind of vintage stuff: It is very worthwhile to have a look at the V2 rocket electronic control system. Amazing how that works and how it was build. Have a look at this link: http://www.cdvandt.org/v2__computer.htm
Click on the PDF link. It is in German language, but Google will help you out and the pictures and schematics... Amazing ! Don't forget that this were the basics for the whole NASA operations during the '60's.
We see a lot of different type of PC boards here in my day job. Of course, standard FR-4 is the most common. Flex boards show up now and then, as do rigid flex. Every now and then an aluminum PCB comes in. These are usually small board for high-power LEDs.
High layer counts are becomming more common - I've seen as high as 30. Those ones are pretty hard to do.
In the world surrounding DesignCon, PCB not only get respect, they are feared for their ability to closes eye diagrams, produce corsstalk, send EMI flying around, and so on. Eric Bogatin really pioints out how PCBs affect signals, right down to the way the glass is weaved in the board material. See Glass Weave Skew Problems May Be Solved. In fact, there's a probem because Glass Weave Needs a Standard.
Wire wrap was such a nice approach for prototyping. The cousin 'stitch-wire' could actually be used in small production batches and I used it on a few boards with great results. The wires were automatically 'welded' to the board. A room full of sewing machine like machines and operators (who I'm positive all were experts with sewing machines first) could crank these out very quickly. Eventually went to machine control but the image of all the sewing machines cranking out circuit boards stays with me...