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Thread: DIY Electroplating for PCB Fabrication. ( a developing story )

  1. #1
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    Default DIY Electroplating for PCB Fabrication. ( a developing story )

    DIY PCB has a number of challenges, even if you are lucky enough to have some pro gear.. My challenge is that getting PCB's made externally takes just too long. I'm not able to get PCB's turned around overnight, the best i can get is 4-5 days, and that costs a small truck load of money. So, slowly ( much slower than i had hope ) i'm building up a fab system that i can manuacture almost "factory" grade pcbs for prototyping.. Some of the gear i've bought to do this is pro gear.. and some of it is DIY.. One of the big challenge i've had is through hole plating for vias... I've been using a system called "pro conduct" which is essetially a paste that you put down the holes and bake.. It sort of work, but its limited, and your constantly fighting problems with it.. Not recommended.. Its hard to build dense boards without through holes! The alternaive is properly plated copper holes. But after pricing up an electroplating system for putting copper in the through holes and almost having a heart attack over the price, i've decided that i'll make my own....

    Theres some good links on the inter tubes, so its not a path untrodden, but its also not widely done ( like Ren construction ), so its all a bit hazy still.. )

    The basic process is this;

    (1) you take your blank FR4 board, and drill all your holes..
    (2) you then need to "activate" the holes that are on the board, this essetniallly is a process where you get a conductive path in the hole, but its only a few atoms wide.. I'm going to try to use indian ink and graphite, as a method to do this.
    (3) You electroplate the board, in a elecroplater and deposit copper.. ( cool )

    So yesterday, i started work on the anodes for the electroplating tank...

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    Default Re: DIY Electroplating for PCB Fabrication. ( a developing story )

    interesting read..hope to read more!
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    Default Re: DIY Electroplating for PCB Fabrication. ( a developing story )

    Good stuff... Keep us posted...

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    Default Re: DIY Electroplating for PCB Fabrication. ( a developing story )

    Electroplating... that reminds me of my former workplace where we did manufacture PCBs for internal use. They too had those copper rods but the upper (outside of the solution) copper parts were encased in rubber so as not to accidently short circuit. We used two big meters, Volts and Amps, plus a variac to control the current. I think it could go up to 100amps max - but never actually used that much current. We did run into dust, or contaminant issues at times which caused the plating to became rough. We also used it, not only for plated through holes, but to thicken the copper tracks for additional current capacity.

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    Default Re: DIY Electroplating for PCB Fabrication. ( a developing story )

    I would not be soldering those pipes just put the copper pipes in a tub with copper sulfate. And connect a jumper doesn't need to be much more complex than that.(I have never plated a pcb but i have done other things.)

    1-2volta with around 500ma makes a very smoth and shiny surface. But 12v+ will plat rough and very quick.


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    Default Re: DIY Electroplating for PCB Fabrication. ( a developing story )

    We only concerned ourselves with current, regardless of the voltage. Even the bath temperature affected our current so we would manually adjust it since we didn't have a constant current source. We did get corrosion on our copper connections eventually, which incresead the resistance but we kept adjusting the variac to maintain the desired current. Our power supply was a variac, transformer, fullwave rectifier and filter capacitors. Our tanks were big enough to do several large size boards. It also used an "agitator" in case bubbles built up. The operator had some guideline about the amount of current per square inch of copper, so that more boards required more current, especially if we used double-sided boards.

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    Default Re: DIY Electroplating for PCB Fabrication. ( a developing story )

    The current is the real controlling element.

    I'll be using a Meanwell SP-320-5 Power supply, and four fets configured in an H bridge. The P Fets which will be connected to the +V supply will operate in a linear mode, the N Fets connected to Ground will operate as switches only. The reason for doing this is to run an asymetric pulse plating.. You run about 90% forward, and then 10% reverse. The reason for doing this is to improve the way the copper goes down.. When i get to that bit i'll right up a bit more about it...
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    Default Re: DIY Electroplating for PCB Fabrication. ( a developing story )

    Quote Originally Posted by mrpackethead View Post
    The current is the real controlling element.

    I'll be using a Meanwell SP-320-5 Power supply, and four fets configured in an H bridge. The P Fets which will be connected to the +V supply will operate in a linear mode, the N Fets connected to Ground will operate as switches only. The reason for doing this is to run an asymetric pulse plating.. You run about 90% forward, and then 10% reverse. The reason for doing this is to improve the way the copper goes down.. When i get to that bit i'll right up a bit more about it...
    Interesting, i never though about doing that.
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    Default Re: DIY Electroplating for PCB Fabrication. ( a developing story )

    Neither did I. Our system was built in the early 70's and was closed down around 2003. Goes to show that chemistry doesn't stand still either. lol.
    I'd have to look in my old plating book to see if they mention pulsing the current this way.

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    Default Re: DIY Electroplating for PCB Fabrication. ( a developing story )

    If you feel particually inclined read this article
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