Hi Upverter community, my name is Sitt Hein and today I want to share some of my PCB fabrication experience with you. I have been using Upverter to manufacture PCBs for some of my personal projects. Before Upverter, I used Eagle software but switched to Upverter for its simple interface and easy component creation. The schematic part of Upverter is straightforward; however, PCB layout can be tricky if you are designing non-rectangular panelized boards. Since there are not many tutorials about it online, I decided to share my experience about panelization with Upverter. Hope this will be helpful with your PCB manufacturing.
My PCB layout in Upverter
Fabricated PCB board
It is easier to manufacture each design separately but sometimes, you will have various reasons to panelize different boards into one large PCB. If you are doing so, you’ll have to stick with your manufacturer’s panelization guidelines. Here is panelization rule from Seeed studio and I chose them because they have great board quality, simple online quotation and affordable price. You can reach their website here if you are planning to make PCBs in future.
Example of multiple boards panelized together (Image: Seeedstudio)
To panelize, you will need shape of child boards in slots with bridges like above. This is to keep them connected during manufacturing process but still can be separated easily with a snap when necessary. First of all, create individual parts for all the boards including parent board like below so that their shapes can be modified, organized and moved easily. Another advantage of drawing boards in part level is that Line function can be utilized which is a necessary tool to draw slots and bridges. And just one component can be reused for repeating designs as well.
Left to right: Symbol of a sensor board and its footprint outlined with slot tool path
For board outlines, we cannot use standard rectangle or circle because they are only available for continuous shape. As mentioned before, Line function in “Mechanical” layer will be used instead to create connecting bridges. The way I get coordinates is by drawing PCB outlines in CAD software, Fusion 360 in my case and manually input every single point. One factor to consider is the offset for tool path. I choose 1mm drill and so you will see offset of 0.5mm in below GIF to get actual board size. The black dots are meant to mark coordinates for Upverter. With all the trials and errors, it took me about few days to complete.
Plotting coordinates in Fusion 360
Drawing PCB milling slots in Upverter
For those who are familiar with Upverter, you will know that any shape in Mechanical layer must be drawn in closed-loop shape in order to comply with design constraint. Since my project has a large number of boards, it is very time consuming to draw every single slots and making them closed-loop shape. To finish it faster, I took shortcut by leaving them open like left and top side of below picture and this reduced half of the points.
Open slots on left and top Vs. Closed slots on right and bottom
However, this gave me design rule error as expected and I couldn’t load the project. This is because Upverter is requesting all the outlines in Mechanical layer to be closed but I purposely left them open. In the event of browser cannot load your project due to design rule error like mine, you can solve it by adding ,skip_constraints=true to the end of your project number in URL. For example, https://upverter.com/eda/#tool=pcb,designId=xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx,skip_constraints=true should skip rule checking and will solve the issue. If not, you will need to contact Upverter support team. Thus, I don’t recommend to leave outlines open unless you really need to save a large number of coordinates. And I hope Upverter team can take a look into this design rule checking and make improvement for panelization in future updates.
So, this is how you design panelized boards with Upverter and thanks for reading. If you think my sharing is useful, please spread this to your Upverter friends or do share with me if there is a better way to panelize PCB. Cheers!