There are numerous online services that will build printed circuit boards (PCBs) on-demand, but they often have long turnarounds. Tired of waiting around, Robin Debreuil found a new method for building two-sided PCBs at home that’s fast, cheap, and relatively simple using a milling machine.
Rather than etch the board with the standard PCB engraving bits, which are fragile and finicky, Debreuil uses cheap scriber tips. These are sturdy, and you only need to scratch them into the board rather than spin them. From here, there are two ways to start designing your board.
The first technique involves making fine traces into the board, auto-leveling it, and covering it in Sharpie. The PCB design is then scratched on each side and finished with a soak in the solution. The other approach entails scratching into the PCB and doing multiple passes into the board. By the third pass, you’ll get to the bare board underneath.
Either method will work, but both require a milling machine to help drill tiny holes into the board. To make sure the alignment stays straight, Debreuil built a PCB jig that holds the board in place during milling and scratching. Once the board is designed, the circuit template is then added to KiCad while the g-code is generated in Flatcam. Now you just run the file and let the milling machine do the rest. Rinse and repeat the process for the other side. The final step is assembling the board.
The milling machine makes the process easier, but be warned that they can be expensive. While some can be as cheap as $150, others can go beyond $10,000. Make sure to check out Debreuil’s detailed guide on building PCBs at home here.