Forget The UV Resist Mask: Expose Custom PCBs Directly On Your SLA Printer

For the enterprising hobbyist and prototyping hardware developer, creating custom PCBs remains somewhat of a struggle. Although there are a number of approaches to go about this, they usually involve printing or drawing a mask that is used to expose the photoresist layer on the to-be-etched PCB. Here [Andrew Dickinson]’s Photonic Etcher project provides an intriguing shortcut, by using the UV source of an MSLA 3D printer directly after converting the project’s Gerber files into a format the MSLA printer can work with.

The concept is as simple as can be: since MSLA printers essentially function by creating a dynamically updated UV mask (either via an LCD panel or DLP system), this means that an MSLA printer can be used to expose the PCB’s UV-sensitive photoresistive coating, effectively making the mask there insoluble during the etching step. This can be done with negative as well as positive photoresistive coatings, depending on the use case.

The obvious advantage of this approach is that you don’t need an additional UV source or any kind of separate mask, only an MSLA printer with a large enough work area to fit the PCB you wish to expose. One limitation of [Andrew]’s project at this point is that it can only convert Gerbers to PWMS (Photon Mono) files, but this can presumably be fairly easily extended to support more MSLA printers.

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