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Old 30th May 2004, 01:17 AM   #1
nuppe is offline nuppe  Sweden
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Default PCB making with plotter?

Hi

I was just wondering, is there anyone out there that has experience using a plotter to draw pcbs?

I picked up an old HP 7475a for scrap at an auction a couple of years ago, and i figured it's about time to put it to use!

I've seen an old thread where Douchekop said he was using a plotter for making pcbs, but he never got into much detail.

By the way, does anyone know where to get HP plotter pens in Sweden (or somewhere else that'll deliver to sweden)?
I've tried searching but haven't found any, i guess plotters are kinda out of style...

If the plotter pens i have left won't work (haven't tried yet), i'll make an adapter for a regular pcb pen to fit the plotter.

Well, if anyone's interested i'll post some results of my experiments later this week (hopefully).

/Andreas
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Old 30th May 2004, 08:03 PM   #2
matjans is offline matjans  Netherlands
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hi nuppe,

i'm doing exactly the same thing. i'm using an old hp too (which is a pita to get to work, btw). You can read more about it on my site: audioworks.plastichead.net

The only problem i have now is that i can't really find a pen that's good enough to resist the etching fluid. I've read somewhere that staedtler lomucolor pens (the red one, coded 313 or something) work really well.

Problem is that when i'm drawing bigger planes the etching fluid eats away some of my ink. Tiny bubbles in the planes (which i hate) and which can't be good. If you need more info, send me an email.

SMaller traces work perfectly, though.
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Old 30th May 2004, 08:51 PM   #3
nuppe is offline nuppe  Sweden
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Default Hi matjans!

Great site, i'm sure i can use that cable info.

I have had the plotter working with (what i think was) a standard cable, but it only worked in autocad, maybe their driver does something special? I can't remember if had to do some tweaking to get it to work, this was maybe two years ago...

Anyway, i guess i have all the info i need on your site, thanks!

As a coinsidence, i have a Staedtler Lumocolor, but mine is black (medium, nr 317-9). I'm making an adapter of a dried up plotter pen to fit it in the plotter. Now i'm just waiting for the battery in my drill to recharge so i can finish it...

Maybe one cold plot two times, letting the ink dry in between, to get a thicker ink layer? I'll try and post results if they are any good.

I'm not sure i'll do any etching right away though, haven't got any project at that stage right now, and i don't want to waste the pcb.

/Andreas
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Old 30th May 2004, 09:44 PM   #4
byteboy is offline byteboy  Netherlands
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Default plotter to draw pcbs

Hi,

Have a look here:

Harry's Homebrew Homepage,

http://w1.859.telia.com/~u85920178/begin/pen-00.htm
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Old 30th May 2004, 09:48 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by matjans
........

The only problem i have now is that i can't really find a pen that's good enough to resist the etching fluid. I've read somewhere that staedtler lomucolor pens (the red one, coded 313 or something) work really well.

Problem is that when i'm drawing bigger planes the etching fluid eats away some of my ink. Tiny bubbles in the planes (which i hate) and which can't be good. If you need more info, send me an email.
Hi

I know there were HP plotter pens available you cold fill yourself with ink. There are cans available with refill ink from Edding. Ive used that ink a lot when I did draw the pattern direct on the copper long time ago. The trick is the copper should be perfectly free of any traces of fat. Now I send my gerber files directly to a print shop. No hassle, no ferrichloride to dispose and perfect PCBs in a few days: http://www.europrint.be/home/eurocircuits.aspx

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Old 31st May 2004, 12:11 AM   #6
nuppe is offline nuppe  Sweden
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Default Adapter ready!

The adapter is ready and working.
I've made some initial tests with the manual keypad, and the ink looks thick and even. I can even feel the traces when i run my fingers across them (i know you're not supposed to put grease on the copper, but i'll have to clean the board anyway). If the ink can resist the etchant this will work very well.

However, i seem to have trouble with the pc connection, but i'll sort that with a new (rewired) cable and the tips matjans described on his site. I'm sure i can get it to work properly.

byteboy:
Harry's Homebrew Homepage was really interesting, especially the part about taping the board to oh-film to get better movement, i never thought of that...

Harry cut his pen, but i think i'm doing plotter surgery instead... There's only a small piece of plastic to remove, then you could have any lenght of pen you'd like!
I don't think the mod would affect the function of the plotter much.

Pjotr:
That print shop looks tempting, but i think it's a little pricey for my taste. Besides I don't do pcb's very often, and when i do, i'm often too eager to wait a couple of days just to start soldering...

Btw, i'm not using ferric chloride, i'm using "natriumpersulfat" (don't know the english name). It's reusable, just put a couple of electrodes in it, and it's a copper plating bath! When the copper is gone you can use it for etching again.

Thanks for all of the replies, i never thought this would create any interest, i'm glad you proved me wrong!
/Andreas
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Old 31st May 2004, 03:15 AM   #7
byteboy is offline byteboy  Netherlands
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Default HPGL plotters

Hi Andreas,

I'am glad you got some idea's of Harry's site!

This is one of the good things of forums like these: one idea creates another and creates another and so on.......

There (still-) seem to be NT4 HPGL-drivers around for the good old HP plotters, maybe these can be helpfull to you, just search the Internet.

The layout of the cable as proposed by matjans seems a little bit strange to me though?

I would suggest something similar to this:

Transmit Data 2 ----------- 2 Receive Data
Receive Data 3 ----------- 3 Transmit Data

Clear to Send 5 ---+------- 1 Rec'd Line Signal Detect
Request to Send 4 ---/

Data Carrier Detect 8 -------+--- 7 Request to Send
\--- 6 Clear to Send

Data Set Ready 6 ------------ 4 Data Terminal Ready
Data Terminal Ready 20 ----------- 8 Data Set Ready

Ground 7 ----------- 5 Signal Ground

This is called a null-modem cable with handshakes.


If you have some results, please let us know and show us!
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Old 31st May 2004, 04:09 PM   #8
nuppe is offline nuppe  Sweden
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I went out and bought me some connectors and cable today, and some fine tip pens (~0,3 mm). The pen i have is good, but a little to large for the smaller details.

When i'm done soldering i'll post back with results and a photo or two. I think i'll do some etching even if i don't have any circuit going right now. I'm eager to see how the ink does.

/Andreas
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Old 31st May 2004, 11:20 PM   #9
nuppe is offline nuppe  Sweden
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Hi all, still no luck with the plotter-pc connection.
The cable works (as posted by matjans), I found the same pinout in a HP refernce, so it should be the right one.

I tested it with Autocad and the output is great.
Eagle is harder, haven't got anything useful out of it yet.

I tried Orcad Layout, but it uses standard windows drivers, and those (hp-gl/2 or hp 7550 plus ) won't work either...

I'm doing some more searching for nt4 drivers tomorrow, and more fiddling with Eagle. I'm too tired now, probably missed something obvious...

/Andreas
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Old 2nd June 2004, 12:27 AM   #10
nuppe is offline nuppe  Sweden
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Default Working, at last!

I just made a good plot using Eagle!
I fiddled with the port settings again (turned on xon/xoff), changed the windows driver to hpgl/2, used hpglx in eagle and now it works! Sweet!

Tomorrow i'll mod the case of the plotter to accept my longer pen and start drawing a real pcb. Then it's etchin' time...

I'll post pictures of the setup and etched pcb as soon as i have something to show (assuming my camera works, it's a little moody sometimes).

Thanks to all who have helped, would never have got this far this fast without you.

/Andreas
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