A fast and cheap method to produce high-quality PCBs is interesting for many institutions. Also Fablabs and Makerspaces need the possibility for prototyping PCBs because electronics are a crucial part of many DIY projects which are carried out there.
"The classical method to make PCBs is etching, but this is not suited well for the maker community because of the dangerous chemicals" says Andreas Kahler, chairman of the Fablab Munich. "Affordable services have a delivery time of over a week, we need much faster iteration times"
A clean and fast method is laser structuring, where the copper layer is ablated by a focused laser beam. Industrial-grade devices are available but "the price overcomes the budget by a multiple" Kahler describes the situation.
The goal of the recently started research project "LASER4DIY" is the development of a cost-effective solution to create PCB prototypes by laser structuring. This includes the laser source itself and other components, like the corresponding mechanics, the software and an adaequate protection housing for safe use.
For all parts of the projects the plans, howtos and technical details shall be published under Open-Source/-Hardware licence and made accessible to everybody. The goal is to realise a complete solution for making PCBs, which can be build for example in Fablabs and therefore only production methods and materials shall be used, which are in use there.
The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (german: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung [ BMBF ]) is funding the project for three years until end of April in 2019 as a part of the support project "Open Photonik". Goal of the program is to make new forms of cooperations between science and economy on the one side with citizens on the other possible and with this make new paths and potenial of innovation possible. This program runs as a part of the program "Photonik Forschung Deutschland", which is itself a part of the hightech strategy of the federal government.