Fibercuit Laser-Cuts Prototype PCBs and Varieties 3D Kirigami Objects



It’s now simpler than ever earlier than for makers to get good PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards). With free, open supply software program like KiCAD, they’ll ship off designs to plenty of reasonably priced PCB fabrication homes and get professional-quality boards again in as little as per week. However even per week might be an excessive amount of time in case you’re going by way of a number of PCB design iterations, which is why DIY PCB fabrication methods nonetheless have a spot in our neighborhood. Developed by a workforce from the College of Maryland’s Small Artifacts Lab, Fibercuit is an fascinating new fiber laser-based PCB fabrication system that may rapidly create prototype PCBs and even kind 3D copper objects.

There are two widespread at-home PCB fabrication methods in use at this time: chemical etching and milling. Etching is a tried-and-true methodology that makes use of particular chemical substances to dissolve unmasked copper on a PCB clean, forsaking traces and pads. However etching is messy, requires guide drilling of through-holes, and ends in boards which might be clearly do-it-yourself. Milling is extra easy, nevertheless it does require a milling/engraving machine and people aren’t low-cost. It additionally necessitates the usage of a respirator and cautious cleanup to forestall inhalation of dangerous substrate mud within the air.

Fibercuit is a greater approach in case you occur to have entry to a fiber laser cutter/engraver. Fiber laser cutters aren’t low-cost — they’re far costlier than low-power stable state lasers and even highly effective CO2 lasers. It most likely isn’t value shopping for such a fiber laser only for fabricating PCBs, however Fibercuit is interesting if you have already got a fiber laser.

This method isn’t revolutionary (laser-cut PCBs are already a factor), however the subtle software program management and streamlined course of make it stand out. The thought is straightforward: the fiber laser cuts the borders of the copper traces, pads, and so forth. To create a clean for this course of, the person applies Kapton tape (the substrate) onto skinny copper sheet. A curler helps to take away the bubbles. The software program takes a PCB design file and units the laser to a decrease energy density stage to chop by way of solely the copper, leaving the Kapton substrate intact. The next energy density stage can lower by way of the Kapton to “drill” through-holes.

Fibercuit has two extra methods up its sleeve. First, it could use the laser to soften solder paste and kind solder joints. That eliminates the necessity for guide soldering and accelerates the general course of of constructing a prototype. These solder joints aren’t precisely clear, however they do work. It could additionally bend parts of the board with the very exact utility of warmth. That’s helpful for producing 3D “kirigami” PCBs, which we’re positive that some inventive people can discover a strategy to apply to their initiatives.