Photoplotting has revolutionized the way printed circuit boards (PCBs) are produced. Introduced by Gerber, photoplotting uses a xenon bulb to project shapes onto a film for photolithography, which has many applications, including PCB manufacturing.
In a creative twist, maker Wil Straver has built a DIY photoplotter using a 3D printer, a UV LED, and some ingenuity.
In his setup, a 3D printed assembly holds the circuit board, LED, and a magnet to attach the assembly to the 3D printer. To create a 0.3mm aperture, Straver printed a mold and cast epoxy for the part contacting the PCB film. The fan control switches the LED on and off, similar to laser cutter modifications in 3D printers. Standard nuts are utilized as heat set inserts, proving effective for this low-load application.
After several iterations of pinholes and mounts, the final design works well and even accommodates double-sided boards. With a laser cutter and proper focusing, a similar result can be achieved. However, be cautious when using “high power” laser modules, as they may not focus to a dot due to their internal construction.
As you can see, even low cost 3D printers can be modified to create an effective photoplotter for PCB production, opening up new DIY possibilities for electronics enthusiasts.
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