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...