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Making PCBs with a cutting plotter

There are a few HOWTOs for this method. However not very detailed, and I had to find out a couple of things by myself.
So this is my version. THT, as well as SMD (less effort) is possible. Until now I've only produced one-layer-PCBs.

This is how a populated PCB from a cutting plotter can look like. Trace-width is 0.6mm:

      from cutting plotter

Required materials:

-cutting plotter
    -in my case a 2nd-hand "Silhouette Portrait 2" with "autoblade"-knife. But there aren't any special requirements for the type of cutting-plotter

-standard cutting mat, slightly sticky

-self-adhesive copper foil
    -I've used "guitar pickung foil". My first one was significantly thicker than the one, which is shown in this example:
     "Guitar pickup copper foil 300 x 200mm Self Adhesive". Small pieces are enough, Minimum dimensions a bit more, than the PCB than you want to be plotted
    -the exact thickness of the copper foil is unknown, but I guess more than the typical values for the cupper layer on common PCBs

-Substrate cardboard
    -not too rough: Otherwise you can't peel of the cut-out parts, without breakaway the cardboard
    -glossy but not too glossy: Otherwise the parts that should stick, won't stick enough
        -best material so far: Glossy paper for self-made gift cards
            -to find out which substrate is suitable, you can just glue a little piece of copper foil onto it:
              It should stick good enough, but when you peel it of, there mustn't breakaway scraps of paper with it

Required software:

-PCB-design software
    -tested with KiCad (open-source). All layout-programs should make it, as far as they can export dxf

-software for cutting-plotter
    -vendor software for Silhouette Portrait 2, free with a few restrictions that don't matter
        -runs also in Linux with VirtualBox
    -alternative: Plugin for InkScape - I couldn't make all settings make what they should do:


1. Example-layout, made with KiCad, mostly SMD, four pin-holes for wires.
The edge-cut is set to the upper copper layer:


2. In KiCAD menu select "File / Merge..." and maybe change settings.
       The units must be the same as later in the plotter-software:

KiCad plot

3. In Silhouette Studio select the machine and cutting mat, if this isn't already default.
Optional: I suggest drawing a little sqaure, to find out the best settings for plotting:

Silhouette square

4. Now peel of the protection shielt. and glue the copper foil onto the glossy paper. After that glue both together onto a lightly adhesive cutting mat:

Kupferfolie auf Glanzpapier

5. By clicking "send" there comes a new view with the settings for cutting depth, force and speed.
        Put the cutting mat with glued on copper-foil-cardboard into the plotter and press "send".

plot square

6. The foil should peel of pretty easy, and the copper foil around it must not rip paper with it:

Quadrat ausgeschnitten

This is an faulty example, the glue rips of the paper:


7. Now switch to "design" and merge the PCB-layout:

merge pcb

pcb merged

8. Then plot the PCB just like the little square before. The square can also be deleted:

send pcb

9. The result:

Platine nach dem plotten

10. Now peel of the foil around the traces. Cut out the PCB with scissors...


...Tweezers also help:


And finished! :)

Fertige Platine

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