Thursday, September 24, 2015

I've built a copper plating station

Here's a cross section of a 0.3mm hole.

This is a tiny test board with 1.0, 0.8, 0.7, 0.4 and 0.3mm holes, in rows of two. The board is 1.6mm thick, BTW.

Another test board, etched and tinned. The .8 and 1mm holes are all off center due to a CNC mishap, but all the other holes are successfully plated through.

As I was designing more and more circuit boards, I got increasingly annoyed with waiting up to 8 weeks for a batch of boards. Also, ever so often I noticed errors in the layout after sending it away for manufacture. So I started acquiring the tools and skills to make my own boards. Initial tests with toner transfer were promising, but showed that the toner transfer process was very sensitive to dirt and dust, of which there's plenty in my lab. So I quickly  moved on to photoimaging the layouts, which worked a lot better in my dirty environment (especially after I discovered an extremely simple wet lamination process). With the ability to image, develop and etch boards with feature sizes down to 4/4mil (when using actual laser exposed film, 5/5mil with laser printed transparencies), the only missing link was a way to plate through holes and vias. So I designed a cheap and easy to build copper plating station. The full project log is over at There is even a short video. Check it out: