Printed circuit board milling Alternatives
Printed circuit board milling
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A milled printed circuit board
Printed circuit board milling (also: isolation milling) is the process of removing areas of copper from a sheet of printed circuit boardmaterial to recreate the pads, signal traces and structures according to patterns from a digital circuit board plan known as a layout file. Similar to the more common and well known chemical PCB etch process, the PCB milling process is subtractive: material is removed to create the electrical isolation and ground planes required. However, unlike the chemical etch process, PCB milling is typically a non-chemical process and as such it can be completed in a typical office or lab environment without exposure to hazardous chemicals. High quality circuit boards can be produced using either process. In the case of PCB milling, the quality of a circuit board is chiefly determined by the system's true, or weighted, milling accuracy and control as well as the condition (sharpness, temper) of the milling bits and their respective feed/rotational speeds. By contrast, in the chemical etch process, the quality of a circuit board depends on the accuracy and/or quality of the photomasking and the state of the etching chemicals.
A method with similar advantages to mechanical milling is laser etching and laser drilling. Etching PCBs with lasers offers the same advantages as mechanical milling in regards to quick turnaround times, but the nature of the laser etching process is preferable to both milling and chemical etching when it comes to physical variations exerted on the object. Whereas mechanical milling and chemical etching exact physical stress on the board, laser etching offers non-contact surface removal, making it a superior option for PCBs where precision and geometric accuracy are at a premium, such as RF & microwave designs. Laser drilling is more precise, has extremely low power consumption compared with other techniques, requires less maintenance, does not use lubricants or drill bits, low rates of wear, does not use abrasive materials, does not ruin the boards, is more eco friendly, and in the most high-powered machines, the drilling is instant, but is expensive.