The PCB machine at IMA is the LPKF ProtoMat S43. It can be used for circuit prototyping, it is often the final phase of PCB production and can produce compact, permanent and modular circuits boards that can will make your electronic project stable, compact and appealing. The use of this machine is taught in the Rapid Prototyping class. This page is divided into the following sections:
- Create Your PCB Design & File Prepping
- Running the PCB Machine
- PCB Production Processes
Create Your PCB Design & File Prepping.
Before you schedule to use the PCB machine, make sure you have done the necessary preparations.
1. Prototyping your circuit. You need to have prototyped your circuit on either a breadboard or a purf board to insure that it works.
2. Creating your PCB design. You need to recreate your circuit in a PCB design software such as Fritzing, Eagle or 123D Circuits from Autodesk (There are many other PCB design softwares, but we will mostly be using Eagle in IMA.). Please reference the Resources + Tutorials part of this section for tutorials on how to design your own PCB.
3. Exporting gerber files. Export your design in the form of gerber files.
NOTE: For professional circuit board fabrication, you will need to export an assortment of layers from your design file, including silkscreen layers, solder mask layers, etc. But for our PCB machine, you will only need to export 4 basic layers:
- Top Layer: top copper trace layer
- Bottom Layer: bottom copper trace layer
- Drills: drill positioning layer
- Board Outline: board outline layer
The extension file for each of these layers might be different in different softwares. If you they are using Fritzing, the files extensions may look like this:
If you are using Eagle, then the extensions might look like this:
A chart of the layers you want to include in each file is shown below:
Resources + Tutorials:
- Simple Fritzing Tutorial
- Eagle Tutorial 1: Schematic Design with Jeremy Plum
- Eagle Tutorial 2: Printed Circuit Board Layout with Jeremy Plum
- Eagle Tutorial 3: CAM Output and DFM with Jeremy Plum
- 123D Circuits (Autodesk)
Running the PCB Machine.
The PCB machine must be run under the supervision of IMA faculty and staff. Students are not allowed to run the machine independently. During the cutting process, you required to remain at all times next to the machine.
ONE: CAM Software Interface
The CAM software generates the necessary tool paths for the drill bits to cut your circuit by translating the gerber files you exported into something the PCB machine can understand.
Video coming soon.
TWO: Machine Software Interface
The Machine software places the circuit file within the cutting area virtually and allows you to move, adjust or duplicate circuits before cutting. It also provides a software interface that controls the running of the machine and runs through the cutting process step by step.
Video coming soon.
PCB Production Processes