Author Topic: Custom PCB Boards?  (Read 1733 times)

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tehachapifan

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Custom PCB Boards?
« on: December 20, 2018, 07:23:23 PM »
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I know this has been discussed before but darn if I can find anything via a search, but what are people doing for custom PCB boards? I remember seeing posts about how to etch the conductive parts but am also wondering if the boards themselves can be easily made into custom (sometimes odd) shapes to fit certain installations? The apparent need for etching chemicals has been keeping me from giving this a try up to this point but I'm getting tired of the messy cluster of resistors stuffed in a cab or wherever, worrying if I applied enough liquid tape to the exposed connections. :scared:



Russ

Steveruger45

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Re: Custom PCB Boards?
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2018, 09:05:54 PM »
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What with the new esu slide in decoders I don’t see as much of a need as once was.  That said, on the occasion I need one I’ve just been using modified old dc boards where I can and/or make them mechanically rather than chemically.
Steve
Atascocita, Texas

wvgca

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Re: Custom PCB Boards?
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2018, 10:44:30 PM »
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this image is part of fifty pcb's from allpcb,
they go on top of a athearn motor to make hookup easier ...
fifty were seventeen dollars, including slow ground shipping

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« Last Edit: December 21, 2018, 07:26:52 AM by wvgca »

peteski

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Re: Custom PCB Boards?
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2018, 12:02:40 AM »
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Yes, there are lots of companies out there which will manufacture PC boards for you. You need to learn their software to design the boards first, then those companies also have some limitations (like the minimum size, shape, and thickness of the board). Still, for some projects that might be the best option.

But you want to roll-your-own single copy of a PC board in an hour's time (at home), there are ways to do that,  I have been doing it for decades.  Just on Sunday, I made couple of small PC boards to help out in friends DCC installation.  We just used them tonight.

As for odd shapes, the typical fiberglass-epoxy PC board material is easy to cut/file/sand. JUst be mindful of the dust - it is a fine powered epoxy resin and glass.  But over the years I never had any bad reaction to it.

I think this is the thread you were looking for:
https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=43987.0
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tehachapifan

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Re: Custom PCB Boards?
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2018, 12:27:11 AM »
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Thanks for the replies! Yes, Peteski, that is the thread I was looking for. :D
Russ

Steveruger45

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Re: Custom PCB Boards?
« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2018, 09:48:45 AM »
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Found this on the interweb.
https://www.instructables.com/id/Stop-using-Ferric-Chloride-etchant!--A-better-etc/

Anybody ever try this method before?
Steve
Atascocita, Texas

peteski

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Re: Custom PCB Boards?
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2018, 03:17:37 PM »
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Found this on the interweb.
https://www.instructables.com/id/Stop-using-Ferric-Chloride-etchant!--A-better-etc/

Anybody ever try this method before?

Nope.  I have no problems with using Ferric Chloride. It is not like I use gallons of the stuff.  In most cases I use a fluid ounce or two.  I have no desire to mix my own etchant.   I did buy a FeCl alternative etchant:Ammonium Persulphate. It is sold by MG CHemicals in granular form. I haven't tried it yet.

I checked the website you linked to and I found it humorous that he used a crystal carafe to store this stuff.  Etchant looks pretty enough to drink . . . :facepalm:
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tehachapifan

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Re: Custom PCB Boards?
« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2018, 03:47:28 PM »
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I think I might want to give one of the companies that manufacture custom boards a try. I'm still not sure I want to deal with the chemicals and disposal.
Russ

DKS

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Re: Custom PCB Boards?
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2018, 03:57:49 PM »
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You need to learn their software to design the boards first...

This. Found a decent board company to work with, had long discussion about how to submit the design. It was a small board, only about an inch square, copper on one side only. I wasn't about to spend hundreds on the software they used, so I asked them if they could work with drawings instead (you know, old fashioned printed things with numbers for dimensions?). They agreed. What I got back was almost 50% larger than the printed dimensions I gave them... :facepalm:
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Steveruger45

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Re: Custom PCB Boards?
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2018, 04:33:31 PM »
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Nope.  I have no problems with using Ferric Chloride. It is not like I use gallons of the stuff.  In most cases I use a fluid ounce or two.  I have no desire to mix my own etchant.   I did buy a FeCl alternative etchant:Ammonium Persulphate. It is sold by MG CHemicals in granular form. I haven't tried it yet.

I checked the website you linked to and I found it humorous that he used a crystal carafe to store this stuff.  Etchant looks pretty enough to drink . . . :facepalm:

I spotted that too.  I guess he knows rye isn’t green.   :facepalm:
Still if you have these chemicals already or at least some of the acid left over from etching your garage concrete floor ready for paint, I guess it’s worth a go.
Steve
Atascocita, Texas

wvgca

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Re: Custom PCB Boards?
« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2018, 05:21:41 PM »
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You need to learn their software to design the boards first,

not true, while most pcb companies have free software that you can use,
they all can take industry standard gerber files, which most [if not all] software brands can export ..

Lemosteam

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Re: Custom PCB Boards?
« Reply #11 on: December 21, 2018, 05:50:29 PM »
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not true, while most pcb companies have free software that you can use,
they all can take industry standard gerber files, which most [if not all] software brands can export ..

What is the file extension for a gerber file? Wondering if me CAD software a already can create one.

railnerd

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Re: Custom PCB Boards?
« Reply #12 on: December 21, 2018, 06:20:43 PM »
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For a one-off, @peteski is right— you can use copper clad board and etch it yourself.

KiCAD, or the "free" Tier of Eagle can create Gerbers easily (well, if you know what you are doing).

I've had decent luck with OSHPark (US-based, and fast turnaround) or Seeedstudio (China).

OSHPark will take Eagle BRD files directly— which skips many steps.

-Dave

peteski

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Re: Custom PCB Boards?
« Reply #13 on: December 21, 2018, 06:51:26 PM »
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I never said that PC Board design software must be purchased or that it is expensive. DKS said that.  While that was true few years back, nowadays most low-volume PC Board manufacturers provide some sort of design software for free. But they aren't all compatible, and you still have to  learn to use it.  It is not very intuitive. And even then, there are many limitations you have in your design.

Like I said, if I need a really simple one-of PC Board for a DCC install (or something similar) with no limitations to the board size or traces/pads layout  I do it at home, by hand, without a computer, and have it ready in couple of hours.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2018, 06:54:52 PM by peteski »
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woodone

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Re: Custom PCB Boards?
« Reply #14 on: December 21, 2018, 07:12:12 PM »
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For what the OP was asking (I think) was a way to clean up the resistors and there wiring.
I make my own with a cut off wheel in a Dremal. Solder SMT resistors to the small PC board and it really cleans up some wiring too. I get 4 resistors and wire tabs on less than a 1/2 inch X 1/2 inch board.