The point of this page is to be a quick reference for each step-by-step process we've covered in class. I'll be adding more content, images, videos, and links as time goes on, and please let me know if anything is unclear or incorrect.
Select the copper plate you will be using, and measure it's width and height with a ruler. Then [IMPORTANT] measure it's thickness with calipers.
In the top right corner of Otherplan, you can Setup Material. Select double-sided FR-1, and enter the dimensions you measured earlier.
Drag and drop your Eagle .brd file into Otherplan, and your design will appear in 3d model and as a new entry on the right side. Add all the bits you will be using for this board (aka 1/32", 1/16")
With the correct bits selected, carefully look over your design and check to see if any traces are too close, or any holes are too small they won't be drilled
To fix any problems, keep Otherplan open, and also open the Eagle file to edit. Adjust your traces, or drop new holes, and press SAVE in Eagle. You can then press the refresh key on your file in Otherplan, and the changes will appear.
Once your file is ready to be milled, you can start using the machine.
Power the Othermill on, and connect to your laptop over the USB cable. Otherplan should now say that you are connected to a mill, and can control it.
The Othermill is designed to hold plates 5"x4". If your board is larger than this, you can cut it to size in the shop.
Apply double-sided tape to the bottom of your board, and press if firmly down onto the Othermill's bed. Press firmly and for about 30 seconds, making sure that the tape fully stuck and flat to the aluminum bed.
The top-right of Otherplan will show what bit it thinks is currently connected. This might not be a bit your using, or could just be completely wrong, the machine's not that smart.
Select Change Tool, and follow the instructions. You should add the smallest bit your job is using (aka 1/32"), and follow the instructions for homing. Each every time you change the bit, you must re-home the Z-axis.
Once correct bit is setup, your material is ok, you can press "Start Cutting!". While the job is running, do not listen to headphones, and do not leave the machine alone.
If your job is using multiple bits, the machine will automatically stop and ask you to change bits. Follow the instructions just like before, and it will continue with the job.
Once the job is finished, use a vacuum to clean both your board and the entire insides of the Othermill (including those hard-to-reach places in the top).
Scrub your board with a scour pad to remove any roughness and copper hairs, and test all connections with a multimeter
Apply double-sided tape to the bottom side of your copper plate. Place it it on the bed, and firmly press down. While pushing down, slide your hand along the plate to make sure all the tape is pressed flat.
Press the top green button on the mill, and it will power on and home. There is a green LED next to the white button labelled VIEW. If the light is on, then VIEW is on, and the machine will ignore all messages sent to it. When VIEW is off, the machine will listen to messages and move around. You can use the VIEW button to pause and later resume a job.
When VIEW is off, you can use the UP and DOWN buttons to move the head along the Z axis. Single button presses will move the head one micron (1/1000 inch). Keep holding the button down, and the mill will move continuously until you release the button.
The serial cable being used at ITP requires a driver to be installed on the laptop. You can find a driver here.
Download the software from the github repository, the readme describes how to install. Open and run, and connect the mill's USB cable to your computer. Press the SCAN PORTS button to find the mill's serial port. Select the correct port, and press CONNECT.
Drag your Eagle .brd file onto the interface, and your design will load. Buttons will generate for the layers in your file. When a layer is selected, it's contents will turn red in the graphic, indicating which toolpaths will be sent to the mill.
The machine will think that whatever height you set it the Z axis to is the top of your copper plate, so we have to touch our plate with the bit before running a job.
With the Z axis all the way up, slide your first bit into the collet, and tighten both the two hex screws.
With the Z axis still all the way up, use the arrows on the interface to move the bit along the X and Y axis until it's over the copper. Move the Z axis down until the tip of the bit touches the copper, even making a tiny mark on the surface.
Select the first Eagle layer you want to mill by pressing it's button on the interface. Select from the menu what sized bit you will use. The bit you select will change the speed and plunge depth of the machine.
Then enter the depth you would like it to cut down to (in inches). If just removing copper for traces, set a small depth (like 0.01). If drilling holes or cutting dimension, enter the total thickness of your board (measure with calipers).
Double check your bit is touching the copper plate, and has an X and Y position that will fit your design. Press RUN JOB, and the selected layer will begin cutting. When the job is finished, the bit will move back to origin.
To pause a job will it's running, press the VIEW button. To resume the job, press the VIEW button again and the machine will start up immediately.
The job is being slowly fed from your laptop to the machine, so we have to first erase it in the mill, then we erase it in your laptop by quiting the interface.
To erase a job, first pause it by pressing the VIEW button. While in VIEW mode, press the UP and DOWN buttons at the same time, and the light will start flashing. Shut down the interface, and then the light will stop flashing. You have fully erased the job, and can now restart the interface.
Hide all layers in your Eagle .brd file, and only show the layers that you want to remain after acid etching. These usually include Top (or Bottom), Pads, Vias, and Dimension.
When only those are visible, File->Print and save as a PDF file. Make sure you have the "Solid" and "Black" options checked. If you are etching onto the Top of your board, also select "Mirror" and your design will flip horizontally. If you are etching onto the Bottom of your board, leave it unselected.
Use Illustrator or similar software to place your design on the sheet, or to make multiple copies of your design for one sheet. Print your design onto transfer paper using the laser printer in the hard-lab. If using the blue transfer paper, make sure you are printing onto the glossy side of the sheet.
Before applying ink to your copper plate, make sure your board is shiny and clean. Scrub off any dirt with a scour pad, and then clean it with isopropyl rubbing alcohol and dry off.
Place your printed design face-down onto your copper place and align with any holes you might have already drilled. Once aligned, add a small piece of tape to one side of the paper so that it doesn't shift in the laminator.
Heat the laminator up to it's 5-mil setting. This takes about 5 minutes, so start heating it up early. Firmly hold your paper to the board so it doesn't move, and slowly feed it through the laminator. Do this 5-10 times (sometimes longer!)
When done laminating, place the board and paper still stuck together in a tupperware container with cold water in it. Leave for a couple minutes, or until the transfer paper floats away from the copper plate. Peel back the paper, and your traces should be written in black ink on your copper plate.
What happened is you heated copper plate and ink so that it melts onto the copper. Not hot enough, and only part of your design will transfer to the copper. Too hot, and the ink will start to bubble on the copper. If you don't heat it for the right amount of time and the transfer doesn't work, simply rub off the ink with a scour pad, and start again.
Do not touch the toner, as it is still soft can move around. To dry the board off, use a hair dryer from the shop, and try not to let anything touch your design.
If there are any spots on your design missing some ink, you can simply use a permanent black marker to correct the mistake. You could even skip the entire toner transfer process, and simply draw onto a copper plate with permanent marker!
As mentioned in the toner transfer section, you can fix any mistakes in your design with a permanent maker. Apply the marker to a dry plate, and try to spread the ink thick so it fully covers the copper.
If you are using [muriatic acid + hydrogen peroxide], measure them at a 1-2 ratio (aka 1/4 cup of muriatic acid, and 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide), and make sure to first add the hydrogen peroxide, then second add the muriatic acid to your tupperware container. It should be a clear color before you etch.
If you are using ferric chloride, simply pour from the gallon container of pre-mixed acid into your tupperware container. It should be brown before you etch.
With a second container of water next to it and wearing rubber gloves, add your copper plate to the acid. Mix the acid constantly by gently lifting one side, causing a wave pattern to move back and forth. With a rubber glove on, you can remove and inspect the plates. Once they are etching, they will start turning pink or purple.
Eventually all your visible copper will disappear. How long this takes depends on the intensity of the acid. The muriatic acid mixture can be very fast right after mixing, and will eventually turn green/blue as it absorbs the copper. The ferric chloride can take more time, and will start turning green as it absorbs copper.
When your board is finished etching, remove it from the acid and put it in your water container. Pour your used acid into one of the "old acid" buckets. That stuff is now filled with copper, and is bad for the environment and cannot simply be thrown away.
Rinse out your tupperware containers and board in the slop sink, making sure to rinse away any tiny amounts of acid that might be in the sink. Dry your board with a hair dryer, then remove the black ink with a scour pad.
Our solder mask will cover everything except the places where we need to solder something. Those spots have their own layers in Eagle, call ehd tStop and bStop layers. If I'm making a mask for the top of my board, then I'll hide every layer except the tStop layer, and save as a PDF. Make sure you have the "black" and "solid" options checked.
You can then further design your tStop printout by opening the PDF in software like Illustrator. You can place the ink anywhere on the paper, and copy and paste the design to make multiple copies.
ITP uses laser printers, and most transparency papers will melt and destroy a laser printer. You need to make sure you are using transparency paper specifically designed to go through a laser printer!.
Use this transparency paper to print your tStop layer in black ink. If any spots come out too thin, you can thicken the ink with a permanent marker.
Before adding a solder mask to you board, you'll want to make sure all your traces and holes are correct and not bridging. Scrub with a scour pad, and use a multimeter to beep-test all connections. Once the solder mask is added, this sill be more difficult to test.
Cut out a piece of green dry-film solder mask large enough to cover your copper traces. The film as two sides, one shiny and smooth, the other duller and matte. Peel off the plastic on the dull/matte side to expose the adhesive. Press the film ontop of your copper traces, and rub all over to remove any air bubbles.
Pass your copper plate through the heated up laminator, with the film stuck stuck on. The laminator melts the adhesive on the film, letting it stick better to the copper plate. After about 4 passes through, quickly run your board under cold water to quickly cool the adhesive and strengthen the bond.
Take your transparency with the black tStop or bStop layer, and align it to your board. Place in the UV exposure unit, and make sure the transparency stays aligned. Expose the board to UV light to cure all the solder-mask that's not under black ink.
The amount of time it takes for this exposure step depends on the intensity of the UV expsosure unit. UV exposure units must be tested to find their best value, and given a label to indicate times.
After exposing to UV light, leave your board in a dark place for about 30-60 minutes. It has been said that this is an important step in creating the best results.
Fill a tupperware container with warm/hot water, and add 1/2 a spoon full of sodium carbonate (a white powder). Add your plate to the container. Using a toothbrush or similar, gently rub your boad to help the developer.
After a few seconds, you should start to see your tStop or bStop layers revealed through the dissolving solder mask. Continue developing and gently brushing for another minute or so until the copper pads are fully revealed. Do not develop for too long, however, or you will remove more solder mask than you want to.
When done, remove from the developer, clean under a water faucet, and dry with a hair dryer. Do not touch the solder mask, as it is still soft and can fall off.
To fully cure the solder mask, put it back under UV light for 5-20 minutes. This will make your solder mask dry and crispy. Aftewards, solder mask can be removed by simply scrapping at it with a sharp tool to expose the copper underneath.
A solder stencil is a sheet of material with holes cut out of it. These holes represent the parts of your design that solder paste should be on, and is assigned the Eagle layers tCream and bCream. If I'm making a stencil for the top of my board, I'll hide all layers except the tCream layer, then I'll save as a PDF. Make sure to select the "black" and "solid" options.
The size of each hole needs to be shrunk by about 70% before we make the stencil. To do this is Illustrator, open the PDF, and select each shape in the design. Navigate to Object->Transform->Transform Each..., and a popup will appear. Scale the width and height of each shape by 70% each, and apply the changes. Now each hole should be smaller.
Inser a piece of transparency film into one of the Epilog laser cutters. Load your PDF file, and go into the Print options. Using the Epilog's driver, set the laser cutter's Job Type to "Raster," and set the rastering speed and power to low settings. On the 60 watt machine, speed=10 and power=10 work well, while on the 50 watt it seems speed=10 and power=15 works well.
Send the job to the laser cutter, and run it. The laser cutter will slowly cut out your stencil line by line. If it doesn't cut through the material, the power should be set higher. If the edges of the holes are not clean and seem melted, the power should be set lower.
Cut out your stencil, and align it with your PCB. If PCB is still attached to the larger copper plate, you can tape down the top of the stencil to the plate. If your PCB is fully cut out right now, squeeze your PCB between three other plates, one at the top, two at each side, and tape the stencil to the plate at the top. This helps keep the stencil flat when applying paste.
Place a small line of solder paste along the top of you design so that it is the same width. Using a flat scraping tool like an old ID or credit card, firmly press and pull the paste over the entire stencil in one motion. This should press the paste through each hole in the stencil.
Pull up the stencil and check your board to see that the sold spread correctly. If it didn't go well, you can simply clean the paste off and try again. When you are done with the stencil, be sure to scape off all un-used solder paste and put it back in the tub to be reused.
If small changes need to be made, either removing or adding paste, you can use a sewing needle to adjust and move solder paste around. You could even apply paste to an entire board just using a needle, no stencil needed, but this takes a bit longer and is of less quality.
The SMT Station has a large red switch along the right side, which will brighten up when turned on. The compresser as a red switch on its top, and when turned on will immediately begin filling the SMT Station with compressed air. Nothing else is needed to be done, because the compressor will automatically turn on and off when more air is needed.
The the magnetic wedges to hold your PCB, and rest your forearm on the black arm rest. A light should be placed above the workspace to help visibility.
The SMT station can hold a wide array of parts, but you are likely to be using parts not found there. Before beginning your job, make sure that all components you need are present and able to be used. If you find that a compartment in the SMT Station needs to be refilled, please take initiative and fill it up.
When you press down on a part with the nozzle, the station will turn on its suction to pickup the part. When you press down again, the suction will turn off. The nozzle will also rotate along with the rotary knob you use to guide the nozzle around.
If you place a part wrong and have to redo it, I suggest fixing the part with a pair of tweezers. The solder paste on your board will be holding your part down, and the SMT Station is often times not strong enought to re-pick it up.
Once finished placing your parts, put the nozzle in a safe position. Power down the SMT Station with the red power switch, and turn the compressor off with it's red switch. Clean up any parts, reel tape, or solder that is on the machine.
A few minutes before reflowing your board, you should heat up the heat pad so that it is fully hot. Place your PCB with solder paste and components on the heat pad, and let is warm for a 1-2 minutes. This will soften the paste for better reflow.
Turn the heat gun on by setting both switches to ON, and set the temperature to 240 celsius. Solder paste melts around 200-240 degrees celsius, depending on the solder your using.
Carefully hold the heat gun facing down above your PCB, and slowly move it around about 1-2 cm above your board. After about 30 seconds, your solder paste will heat to the point of melting, and will turn a bright and shiny silver. Once all of your paste is shiny silver, heat for another 5 seconds, then put the gun away and power it OFF.
Inspect your solder joints for any bridges, tombstones, or incomplete connections. You can use the magnifying glass to get the best view of your board. If a part needs adjusting, you can re-heat the part with the heat gun, and while still heating it, adjust the with tweezers.