3d printhead for acid resist mask

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Thread: 3d printhead for acid resist mask

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    Registered DrStein99's Avatar
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    Default 3d printhead for acid resist mask

    I have searched around google and haven't found anything conclusive. I found some theories, but can't find any project that claim success past 1 first initial test.

    I would like to bolt a 3d-print head to a 3-axis desktop cnc table. Using the 3d print head, I would like to extrude a very fine layer of wax (or ANYTHING) around the traces to a blank, cleaned copper clad PCB. Then, switch to a drill-head and drill the hole pattern on the same machine. After that, take the copper PCB, etch in ferric chloride (or WHATEVER).

    Has anyone done this, or have any links to sites where this is done?

    What I have tried so far over the course of about 4 years in trial and error:

    • Laser printer methods: Frustrating. I went through 3 used laser printers, all of the output inconsistent leads, and have found this to work on occasion and fail more often. If it's not a toner cartridge issue, a fuser roller, or something else expensive, that winds up failing when I am ready to do a project. It's handy for arts and craft silkscreen printing.
    • Direct inkjet printing: I spent alot of time modifying various inkjet printers to print on a copper pcb. Between the ambient room temperature, and chemistry of the inks, I can't get consistent results. I also don't know anyone who has an inkjet printer, that it actually can sit for a 1 month, and then re-use it and get complete coverage in the ink. Very unreliable and time consuming.
    • Thermal wax transfer: I bought a thermal printer and wax transfer paper. The thermal printer uses heat to print the pattern, melting the wax onto the paper surface. I take the paper, and iron wax printout onto a copper clad pcb. This worked initially. It provided inconsistent results due to temperature, moisture, possibly residue on unclean copper and / or paper surface. Sometimes bubbles would appear or leads would not transfer. This method was the most successful of the 2 previous ones I have tried. I found recently there is an ALPS decal printer for bumper stickers, and BROTHER thermal printers used in tattoo industry - which are possible solutions. I due to the failure rate of my previous attempts, I'm too cautious to buy another printer to troubleshoot for another 6 more months.
    • PCB routing using mill engraver: This worked the best for best results eventually. Unfortunately I am dexterous and pealing up the copper causes me trips to physician office again to talk about carpel tunnel surgery.


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    Member dharmic's Avatar
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    Default Re: 3d printhead for acid resist mask

    1. Laser print a reverse image to tracing paper. It's less problematic than overhead transparency sheet through the fuser and still gives a crisp result.
    2. Use photo-resist on the PCB - either pre-clad PCBs or buy the liquid, sponge on and dry (in a dark room).
    3. Put the printed sheet face down on the board and expose either in the sun or in a UV light box with vacuum table, they're not stupidly expensive if you have a few boards to do.
    4. Etch and drill.

    I get consistent results with tracks and separations down to 0.005" using this method.

    Well, I say "get" but what I mean is "got". With the low price and fast turnaround of places like OSHPark, SEEED and a bunch of others for boards with through hole plating, tented vias, silk masks, 4 layer or more boards etc I don't bother stuffing around with home PCB manufacture any more - the results are always going to be inferior and (in terms of time etc) way, way more expensive than shopping it out.



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    Registered DrStein99's Avatar
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    Default Re: 3d printhead for acid resist mask

    Dharmic: Thanks for the input. I've scrapped 3 laser printers so far, and am not interested in buying another unreliable used one or a new one for a nice low cost of $500+ an additional toner cartridge, so so this piece of trash can start giving me trouble again, Once a flake of wax, rubber, dirt or something else blemishes those sensitive rollers and printer is no longer reliably useful. Toner cartridges are like $100, and then I find it's a fuser roller, so I'll buy the rebuild kit for that - to find it fails too, and then wind up buying a fuser roller assembly - before I know it I'm $300 - $400 in the hole again paying for a printer that just never wants to work correctly. I know the process of using a laser printer and am not interested in using that.

    As far as pcb service goes, it's about $20-25 shipped for 10x10 board that might take me 3 weeks to get 10 boards. I would do this after I can finalize a prototype pcb under my own devices, somehow.

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    Default Re: 3d printhead for acid resist mask

    Not sure what you're doing to your printers: I got good results on two different $100 cheapo home office laser. I don't put wax etc through, just clean paper. Keep it clean.

    The PCB service? Well, I used to think the way you talk in your last line - I'll prototype at home first then send it off. But I was only making one or two-offs usually anyway. And the hours I burned making crappy home PCBs ended up being better spent on other projects. Check the design, check it again and check it a couple more times before sending it off so you don't need to re-spin the board. Then send it. Then move to another project for a couple weeks and, when the boards turn up, get on with it. That's my approach, anyway - and for me it works very well with a lot less frustration and mucking around and with much more polished end results.



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    Default Re: 3d printhead for acid resist mask

    Using a 3d print head for resist etching seems like a simple idea. I can't understand why I can't find examples of anyone trying it, with so many people using 3d extrusion printing now.

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    Default Re: 3d printhead for acid resist mask

    Probably a few reasons, here's a couple...
    1. It's a whole lot more fiddly, a whole lot slower and a whole lot less accurate than photo resist for fine detail;
    2. If you're going to wait for a 3 axis machine to draw the patterns and are happy with the drop in max resolution, it's going to take the same time to just carve it and you then don't have to futz around with etchant etc.



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    Default Re: 3d printhead for acid resist mask

    photoresist - toner transfer - rub on - iron on - been there - done that - nothing but trouble

    routing is the way to go if you have the machine for it - not sure what you mean by peeling the copper -



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    Default Re: 3d printhead for acid resist mask

    My FDM 3d printer has a .3mm nozzle which means each line of filament has to be wider than this. Normally the minimum line width is .5mm which is wider than 3 traces done in a professional lab. You may get better resolution with SLA or DLP printers.

    I would wager that each of the processes you've tried so far will be better than a 3d printer. You could try asking this on the RepRap forums. I'd be surprised if someone there hasn't tried it already.



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