Using a laser cutter when etching PCBs

No, I can’t use my laser cutter to actually remove the copper on the PCBs. Unfortunately. Well, I haven’t tried as I expect it won’t work. But I can use it to remove the photoresist, instead of using a transparency and UV box. I’m not sure it’s simpler, but I wanted to give it a go anyway.  Here is a picture of the board after I’ve ‘engraved’ it using the lasercutter.

And here is a picture after it’s been etched, the normal way, using FeCL. The FeCL solution was a bit old, so the quality of the etching is a bit uneven. It shows promise, though I must admit I’m increasingly using professionally produced boards. But for a quick prototype, this is quite simple and fast.

3 thoughts on “Using a laser cutter when etching PCBs”

  1. That’s a cool idea. Someone did something similar with black spraypaint.

    The problem is there’s a lot of laser time since you have to cut away everywhere there isn’t going to be traces.  One idea that I played with was:
    -stick wet paper to the copper clad
    -cut out the traces you do want
    -spraypaint through it. 
    -let dry
    -remove the paper
    -etch
     I didn’t quite get the result I was looking for, but I think I could with a bit more monkeying around with laser settings and the masking material.

  2. Thanks for the info and link.

    When using a CNC to cut PCBs, some people use a special pattern that consists only of lines, not removing all the copper, but just the absolute max. Called a Voronoi pattern. There is software for doing this for CNCs and I guess one could use the same for laser. This would limit the laser-usage.

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