Cutting PCBs & Etching

Thread Starter

Dr.killjoy

Joined Apr 28, 2013
1,200
I have a couple design that I would like to transfer to pcb.. But I have no shop to cut my pcbs smaller . So I am looking for suggestions for cutting pcb?? There was a couple suggestions to use the X-acto and keywhole blade but wanted more experience.. Also I know there are a couple posts about making pcbs. But I wanted to see if anyone has experience with etching with a sponge ???



Thanks
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
8,867
I tried many methods for cutting copper clad; including utility/X-acto blades, hacksaw, chop saw, metal snips, etc. I now use a sheet metal shear. I bought one from Harbor Freight that will do 10" wide stock for around $125.

I watched a YouTube video of someone using the sponge method for etching. I worry about over etching from the abrasive action. I put warmed etchant in a glass container and agitate manually.
 

GopherT

Joined Nov 23, 2012
7,983
I have a couple design that I would like to transfer to pcb.. But I have no shop to cut my pcbs smaller . So I am looking for suggestions for cutting pcb?? There was a couple suggestions to use the X-acto and keywhole blade but wanted more experience.. Also I know there are a couple posts about making pcbs. But I wanted to see if anyone has experience with etching with a sponge ???



Thanks
If you etch with a sponge, make sure you use good gloves and expect micro-splashes or bigger droplets flying around as you move the sponge. You will get orange dots on you (if you use Ferric Chloride).

As for cutting boards. Boards under 6 inches - I score deeply on one side with a utility knife and straight edge. Then I carefully roll the knife to the back side to mark EXACTLY where to place the straight edge for the back cut. Score the back heavily. Then place the scored edge on a very sharply edged table top (I use my ping-pong table). Otherwise anything with a 90-degree edge with no radius. Hold the part of the board down well with one hand and break the overhanging part downward. It will snap easily. I like to use 1/16" boards to keep the cutting really easy.

otherwise, tin snips, band saw, hack saw, or drilling holes next to each other works too. It all depends how concerned you are about your end product.

 

#12

Joined Nov 30, 2010
18,076
I like the hacksaw method. Put the victim between two pieces of wood and clamp the sandwich in a vise. Cut where you think you should and finish the nasty looking edge with a bench grinder.

I absolutely love the photo resist method, but most of my boards are 0.1" center with #30 wire run from dot to dot.

Of course, these methods depend on what you have handy. What tools do you have handy?
 

AlbertHall

Joined Jun 4, 2014
8,314
Knife and snap for me. Wherever possible I avoid fibreglass board due to the damage to tools but until recently I couldn't find any double-sided FR2. I found some on ebay so now even double-sided boards are easy to cut/drill.
 

jpanhalt

Joined Jan 18, 2008
7,862
I use a vinyl tile cutter from Home Depot (http://www.homedepot.com/p/Roberts-12-in-Quik-Cut-Vinyl-Tile-VCT-Cutter-30002/100038849 ):
upload_2016-10-23_5-35-43.png

I paid about $25 a couple of years ago. Same Asian-made device might be cheaper elsewhere or go on sale. The scissoring blades help keep the PCB from moving. It is nice for small pieces, gives a square edge and any hanging fibers of glass from the PCB substrate are easily cleaned with a sanding block.

I also have a PEXTO metal shear, but would not recommend using it for PCB boards, unless that is all you plane to cut with it. PCB is much more abrasive than aluminum and such and will affect how well it cuts metal.

John
 

Thread Starter

Dr.killjoy

Joined Apr 28, 2013
1,200
I tried many methods for cutting copper clad; including utility/X-acto blades, hacksaw, chop saw, metal snips, etc. I now use a sheet metal shear. I bought one from Harbor Freight that will do 10" wide stock for around $125.

I watched a YouTube video of someone using the sponge method for etching. I worry about over etching from the abrasive action. I put warmed etchant in a glass container and agitate manually.
Right now I don't have that kind of money for that type of shear but it would be really nice.. I wanted to try the sp0onge method and your really not scrubbing the pcb but more or less just reapplying etching fluid.

If you etch with a sponge, make sure you use good gloves and expect micro-splashes or bigger droplets flying around as you move the sponge. You will get orange dots on you (if you use Ferric Chloride).

As for cutting boards. Boards under 6 inches - I score deeply on one side with a utility knife and straight edge. Then I carefully roll the knife to the back side to mark EXACTLY where to place the straight edge for the back cut. Score the back heavily. Then place the scored edge on a very sharply edged table top (I use my ping-pong table). Otherwise anything with a 90-degree edge with no radius. Hold the part of the board down well with one hand and break the overhanging part downward. It will snap easily. I like to use 1/16" boards to keep the cutting really easy.

otherwise, tin snips, band saw, hack saw, or drilling holes next to each other works too. It all depends how concerned you are about your end product.

I checked out that video before and thanks for the great info.. I always wear safety equipment when dealing with chemicals like this and I could always use a file to clean up the edges too..
Also how do you cut small boards from a sheet or do you just cut across and separate the extra ??

I like the hacksaw method. Put the victim between two pieces of wood and clamp the sandwich in a vise. Cut where you think you should and finish the nasty looking edge with a bench grinder.

I absolutely love the photo resist method, but most of my boards are 0.1" center with #30 wire run from dot to dot.

Of course, these methods depend on what you have handy. What tools do you have handy?
Right now I don't really have any tools at my current place. I have a hacksaw but it needs a new blade but have no really way to hold the pcb .. I would to try photo resist but don't have the setup and will try using toner transfer..
There is also the problem of a small drill press for drilling holes but I might save up for the Jameco Drill press or get a dremel drill press..

Knife and snap for me. Wherever possible I avoid fibreglass board due to the damage to tools but until recently I couldn't find any double-sided FR2. I found some on ebay so now even double-sided boards are easy to cut/drill.
Yeah all my pcb are fiberglass right now but might to branch out..
I use a vinyl tile cutter from Home Depot (http://www.homedepot.com/p/Roberts-12-in-Quik-Cut-Vinyl-Tile-VCT-Cutter-30002/100038849 ):
View attachment 114099

I paid about $25 a couple of years ago. Same Asian-made device might be cheaper elsewhere or go on sale. The scissoring blades help keep the PCB from moving. It is nice for small pieces, gives a square edge and any hanging fibers of glass from the PCB substrate are easily cleaned with a sanding block.

I also have a PEXTO metal shear, but would not recommend using it for PCB boards, unless that is all you plane to cut with it. PCB is much more abrasive than aluminum and such and will affect how well it cuts metal.

John
LOL I don't have the room for a metal sheer right now lol..
The vinyl cutter seems like awesome idea but might be a little big for a small work bench..
Also would you happen to have a pic of a cut ???
 

RichardO

Joined May 4, 2013
2,273
This what I use to separate small boards from a panel (they are Wiss M6):


These snips are sold to cut circles in sheet metal. There are both left-handed and right-handed versions. One side of the snips bends the PCB material but the other side does not. The side shown in the picture is the "straight" side. This side should be closest to the good PCB when cutting. The trick is to put about 1/4 inch between the boards on the panel so that the first cut to separate the boards does not crack the adjacent board.
 
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