Laser cutter fun

In a couple of weeks it will have been a year since I blogged about 'pieceof' coming back from fab. It was the first board I made with PCBmodE and it's still one of my favourites. To celebrate this, I'd like to share an experimental concept -- laser cutting circuit board mock-ups for footprint verification and physical feel.

Looking at a zoomed-in layout on the screen can be deceiving. When I print a 1:1 copy of the board to measure the footprints, I'm always surprised at the actual size. I always do it as a last step before sending the boards to be made.

Someone on Twitter once remarked about people joining a hackerspaces that "they come for the 3D printer but stay for the laser cutter". That's pretty accurate for me as well when I joined Makespace. I didn't think much of this bit of kit until I learned how to use it and started experimenting. One of my first experiments was to try to mock-up a circuit in order to get a "feel" for it. Printed paper glued onto a piece of cardboard is good, but not great, particularly when there are through-hole components.

After much experimentation with the laser's speed and power, this is the result

The material is a 3 mm two-tone gold pigment on black acrylic. Since the native format of PCBmodE is SVG, it was a simple process to take all the copper info and convert it to DXF using Inkscape for the cutter's software. Notice that the engraved bits are not quite black -- this is due to flakes of pigment being impregnated into the black acrylic as the laser engraves. It's actually a very nice unexpected effect. Since I was a noob I didn't realise that these results are quite impressive for our cutter -- that bottom connector is a 0.5 mm pitch FFC!

The settings I used on the LS 6090 PRO:

speed           400
power           18
scan            0.01
always blow

speed 12
power 100

I've been doing other interesting things with the laser cutter, but for that you'll have to wait until next week ;)

Saar DrimerComment