Awesome project Joshua, congratulations. Let me get this right - your machine prints the PCB as well as etching it? You refer to "Compatible" PCB - is this the pre-coated UV sensitive stuff or something else? And what PCB design packages will it work with? Obviously you could do 2 layers only with this, and no through hole plating? but this would not be a hassle for me (and many other hobbyist level users). I'd be keen to know more, thanks.
Getting quick-turn bare PCBs via the web isn't a big issue for me. Costs and delivery times are reasonable for small boards. And I don't want to have to work with or store etching chemicals.
The major stumbling block for me is populating the boards with small surface mount components. It's a hassle packaging, lableing and shipping off components, providing special build instructions, paying for NREs, ect. I'd much rather have a desktop based solution that can apply solder paste, place components and reflow solder so I don't have to farm out the prototype build.
I think it would be better to bring down the price of mail order one off PCBs through automation. The machine acts sort of like an internet controlled vending machine where the user makes selections that get charged to their credit card, paypal or whatever. The machine would be operated over the internet by the user and mail out the PCBs all automatically. Only periodic maintenance and service would require a Tech.
Thank you for the kind words, Max! Our first concept of the BreadBox was an all-in-one solution but it turned out to be quite... a project (to say the least). We've decided, while it might not be as elegant, some things cannot be done as well when combined. When the BreadBox pushes out of production, we are releasing an auto driller that identifies through-holes and (well, as the name implies...) auto-drills them.
Hello! You are absolutely correct. In our recent project update, we explained the real purpose of using the word "desktop" and of course, we are stressing safety in chemical exposure and also environmental waste!
I suspect that the day will come also but my guess is that what we need for that is a 3D printer that can print both metallic (or conducive) material and insulating (non- conductive) material on the same "level". No mess with etching or any of that and you could use the same printer to make a case for your project. Of course, the materials would have to be compatible with soldering which makes the problem more difficult. The thing is that once you have something like that, the possibilities do not stop at two layer boards.
If soumeone built something like that at a reasonable cost, I'd buy it.
If I knew more about material properties and mechanical design, I'd try to build one. As it is my knowlege of material properties is primarily from a university class that was more years ago than I'd care to admit.
@tenbest: I've done self etched boards, as well as have access to a board router, but the hassle of not having plated vias and holes has pushed me well past the pain threshold.
On the one hand I congratulate these guys for not biting off more than they can chew, as it were -- I'm notorious for over-engineering everything.
On the other hand, I agree with you in that what I really want is somthing that I can connect to my computer -- download the design files for a double-sided through-hole board -- and press the "Go" button -- and for the unit print the layout and drill the holes and etch the board and give me a double-sided board with plated-through holes.