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Is there a product that acts like normal copper clad laminate, but the conductive layer is aluminum? I would like to try using one of these due to technical limitations in a laser system we have.

To my understanding the oxidation of the aluminum will also be a problem but is there a way to circumvent this this? Can it be tinned somehow so the oxidation does not occur? How do you handle this if at all?

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you don't want "aluminum core for heatsink", then the search term is "aluminum trace pcb" \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Voigt
    Jul 25, 2023 at 19:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ You can machine copper, if you want students to be able to make a PCB use a copper clad laminate. I built many PCB's as a student and it was helpful. LPKF makes a good machine that is usable by a student: lpkf.com/en/industries-technologies/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike
    Jul 25, 2023 at 19:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you did manufacture an 'aluminum' pcb, you could do so, you would not be able to easily attach components to said PCB \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike
    Jul 25, 2023 at 19:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ To expand on what @VoltageSpike just said, since you might not be aware: Soldering to aluminum requires special (read: expensive) zinc-based solders and aggressive (read: dangerous and hard to work with) fluxes. And even then it's really difficult to get a good joint. \$\endgroup\$
    – Hearth
    Jul 25, 2023 at 19:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @joojaa You've never mentioned a laser cutter before in this question. It helps a lot to understand why you want what you want. \$\endgroup\$
    – Hearth
    Jul 25, 2023 at 19:30

3 Answers 3

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To my knowledge, there are no manufacturer that offer such option. But, many are willing to work with their customers to find a solution. If not, your best chance is probably using a CNC (LPKF style) and making your own PCB.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah thats what we do. But if we could use non copper PCB's we could make 2 sided boards in 2-3 minutes. And if needed do a mask on top with say spraying once dry, use same laser for 10 seconds per side to take the mask off areas where we dont need it. No tool changes, no tool calibration, no dirlling, no holding. Punch board against pins, flip push against pins. If you need mask repeat after spraying. \$\endgroup\$
    – joojaa
    Jul 25, 2023 at 19:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ So you are searching for a supplier of bare PCB board to increase your prod efficiency? I'm not the right person to answer that, sorry! \$\endgroup\$
    – Julien
    Jul 25, 2023 at 19:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ No, not really. Time is not of essence. But teching 120 a students to operate a pcb milling machine is a bit complicated. And results in lots of broken milling heads and oher problems. The laser operation is much much easier to teach, since essentially there's only 2 things to consider. So i would save 2 months of contact teaching. \$\endgroup\$
    – joojaa
    Jul 25, 2023 at 19:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Although the speed does give the bonus that you can process a class of 40 students of in a days. \$\endgroup\$
    – joojaa
    Jul 25, 2023 at 19:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @joojaa The way my school handled this is having a handful of students trained on the milling machine and paying them (as student employees) to operate the machine for all the other students in the department, who would just send Gerber files like you would any other fab. \$\endgroup\$
    – Hearth
    Jul 25, 2023 at 19:23
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Apparently there is one process. It was developed for superconducting applications at mK temperatures, if that gives you any idea of how esoteric it is.

Aluminum Trace Printed Circuit Board: Case Study | Omni Circuit Boards

It's not even apparent whether they can make vias and multilayer boards, or soldered joints; though they do show soldering on their website (possibly by Cu interface layer?). Wire bonding I suppose is fine, but that's not much help if you aren't using superconducting chips.

It sounds like you may need a development team of a few dozen, from diverse backgrounds, to reproduce their process. The PCB mills are probably the better solution for the foreseeable future.

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You can get copper on aluminum, which is more of a common process because of LED lighting. https://www.pcbway.com/pcb_prototype/General_introduction_of_Aluminum_PCB.html

You can machine copper, I did that as a student https://www.lpkf.com/en/industries-technologies/research-in-house-pcb-prototyping/products/lpkf-protomat-e44

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, we have several milling machines. But the thing is i need to process 120 students in a semester that have no engineering background. \$\endgroup\$
    – joojaa
    Jul 25, 2023 at 19:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can also get small bits here: precisebits.com/applications/pcbtools.htm \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike
    Jul 25, 2023 at 19:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I know where to get bits, i do buy more of them nearly every second week \$\endgroup\$
    – joojaa
    Jul 25, 2023 at 19:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @joojaa A much better time spent would be on automating the PCB milling production line. Load the boards on the left, get milled boards on the right, machines in-between. Everything under covers, no touching of any mechanical parts during a production run. Tool changers, exhaust, etc. That's the only feasible way to do it, given how hard it is to dispose of plating waste products. Large up front investment for automating the line, then it'll be cheap to run. Students should upload Gerbers to a control computer and that's where their involvement (and yours) mostly should end I think. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 25, 2023 at 19:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @joojaa Before doing any plating or other aqueous chemistry with metals - read up on what it takes to dispose of the stuff. It may be more trouble than is worth. Also talk to someone has plating research lab background - they'll actually know how feasible it'd be in your circumstances. A lot of that stuff is easy on paper but surprisingly annoying in reality. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 25, 2023 at 19:41

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