PCB Prototyping Machines: Think of them as Swiss Army Lab Instruments

Posted by on January 14th, 2016

Ever wish you had a PCB prototyping tool that was like your grandfather’s Swiss Army knife? Everything you need for the job would be right at your fingertips in one machine.

Welcome to the future of prototyping.

Today’s PCB milling machines for rapid prototyping systems have evolved and now offer the same kind of proven flexibility as granddad’s classic knife.

Mechanical PCB milling systems have revolutionized prototyping with state-of-the-art capabilities that drive creativity by enabling users to take multiple prototype design ideas to the next level – rapidly, in a single day, and in-house. In addition to the key advantages of achieving fast metallization removal with high resolution, there’s a lot more you can do with our ProtoMat mechanical PCB milling systems:

  • Rework and save high-value boards – Fiducial alignment cameras are included on several ProtoMat models allowing existing boards to be reloaded, which may be necessary to trim design features, drill additional through-holes, eliminate a short or even depanel after programming. With as much as 1.4” of z-axis clearance this ability can save high-value production boards even after population if an etching issue occurred or allow for slight modifications on prototype designs.
  • Software controlled depth engraving (2.5 Dimension) – Several LPKF ProtoMat models provide controlled depth pocket milling and peck drilling through aluminum, brass, copper and even plastics up to a depth of ~8mm. This capability supports the creation of high precision EMI/RFI shields, milling of test or isolation housings, front panel displays and even basic office signs. Metal Core PCB development can also be completed with one machine to rapidly bring new products to market to meet the increasing demand for LED lighting solutions.
  • More precise micro engraving – Using a stepper motor controlled z-drive, and high-speed spindle motors, precise channels can be milled with tooling as small as 0.25mm (10 mils) in diameter. The maximum cut depth is dependent on the tool flute ratio, but the software can lower the tool within the material to a set depth assigned by the operator or within the design data. LPKF CircuitPro software even supports the importing of 3D STEP (.stp) files.
  • Save costs with polyimide stencil cutting – Each LPKF ProtoMat is able to cut apertures in polyimide to match the SMD layout for one-off stencil development. A polyimide stencil is cheaper cost than ordering a stainless steel alternative, which are ideal for high volume production printing, and can be completed in minutes to enable the operator to apply a solder paste on the milled board. These polyimide stencils can be stretched within a low cost LPKF ProtoPrint stencil printer, which offers fine pitch adjustments before the solder paste is applied.
  • Solder paste dispensing in final development and testing – The ProtoMat S63 and S103 models include a solder paste dispensing attachment so solder paste can be applied without a stencil when the pad sizes are 0.4mm and larger. A controlled release of compressed air (required for dispensing) determines the amount of paste to be applied to the pads. This is calculated and assigned within the software based on the pad size and is ideal for final development stages and testing of your prototype designs.

When you want one machine to handle PCB prototyping applications ranging from digital to RF, look no further than mechanical PCB milling systems as a high-performance, economical solution. Your grandfather will be jealous, and your prototyping creativity will soar.

How could in-house prototyping boost your creativity and save time? Visit http://www.lpkfusa.com to learn how LPKF can help you experience true quick turn prototyping using LPKF mechanical or laser milling machines. Use our PCB System Selector wizard to help you choose the right LPKF system for your specific needs.