Need help importing my PDF to SVG PCB pic for carving

I am trying to import an SVG for carvey to cut out of PCB at school. I made the PCB in Express PCB and printed to PDF, I have Black for everything I want to cut and White for everything I want to not cut. I have 2 pics in pdf and turned them both to SVG using Inkscape.

the problem: all traces have become incredibly fine lines (I have designed for 80 mills wide as it carries 2+ amps at times). All text becomes illegible (not fine enough) and I can’t seem to get a lot of shapes properly to show.

I don’t know what to do or how to address this. I can upload files if that helps (PDF original print or inkscape as well).

If I can learn this from you guys and develop a smooth easy prototyping approach from pic to Carvey I’ll pass it around at the that I do my stuff at so all the kids can use it : )

EDIT: when we try to run it as is with the messed up text, tiny traces and so on, it takes forever to caalculate carving time and then reports over 100 hours for carving, this is for a 2.8x3.4 inch board, single sided and not even the drill holes

It would. :grinning:

I haven’t attempted any PCB milling on my machine, but as an electrical engineer I have looked into it and would like to give it a go some day. Digressing… :stuck_out_tongue:

Given the capabilities of the X-Carve, you don’t necessarily want to mill out all the non-trace parts of your board. Rather, just outlining the traces is probably the best (and definitely the fastest) way to go. Not having pictures to work with, you may already be incorporating this strategy. However, with your stated extremely long work time, I’m guessing this may be one thing you can change to help.

There’s at least one free utility floating around that will take Gerber files and turn them directly into Gcode. Unfortunately, without actually purchasing the boards you design in ExpressPCB through ExpressPCB, I’m pretty sure they won’t supply you with the Gerbers. There are a couple of free PCB layout utilities that will spit out Gerbers - DesignSpark is the best, in my opinion. It might be able to import your ExpressPCB layout… Even if you have to re-design your board in a different application, it’s another avenue to consider.

My best guess is that you just need to tweak things as you’re converting from *.pdf to *.svg. Posting both files for review will help us diagnose and assist. :slight_smile:

I’m curious, are you working with FR1 or FR4? FR1 is extremely difficult to source, but doesn’t have the disadvantage of creating clouds of finely ground glass dust.

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@JospehPizzolatto Are you just tracing the PDF in inkscape. Can you export in any other format from express pcb. In my experience, also with pcbs on the Carvey, PDFs are not the easiest to work with. As @cg49me stated, it’s always helpful to post your files.

Inventables sells them.

True, but only in a small-ish size. I’d like to find more, especially larger size options.

Now I’m curious as to what you’re making.

DeathBot 5000, Destroyer of Worlds™.

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I am currently working with FR1, probably half ounce copper not more than ounce it’s thin, but this is for testing. Once I get functional results I intend to redo this with 3 ounce FR4 that I have some 2 sq.ft. sheets lying around.

This is the PDF i initially generated
Top Copper Photo Etch.pdf (10.2 KB)

This is an attempt in Inkscape but with ‘plain SVG’ format (vice native inkscape format)
Traces 002

Same as above but the places I then want to drill all the way through
Through Holes 002

I am only exporting in PDF because I’m printing to “Microsoft Print to PDF”, perhaps there is a better “Printing to Software” approach I can/should use?

The purpose is to be the driver for a simple lamp, the lamp is to be used by the ‘special needs’ testing center at school (this is my hope). They are paranoid about flicker and so it must be flicker free. This is where there is no mos-fet PWM control over the current regulator. It’s simply an LM317t (actually it’s LM338 which is simply a 5amp LM317) in current regulator mode driven off of an old thinkpad power supply. A few switches can bypass some of the sense resistors that main drive current must pass through in order to adjust output (as I can’t use PWM and still have it considered).

I hope to produce one with some nice lovely half inch wood, and I want the whole thing to be easily repeatable so that after I make on if they say they will accept it other students can make these themselves (or I can just crank out 6 or 8 and put one in every testing room). This will help get students ‘involved’ and let them make something that works and can benefit the special needs guys as well and it’s nice for students to be part of helping that happen. I will not be paying for the parts if we make 6 or 8 more and I’m probably going to keep the first one myself (and have a high mode with like 3,000 lumens or so). Maximum drive current is a little over 2 amps at about 12 volts or so, maybe a bit more so the 3oz copper and the fat 80 mill power traces are not a bad thing.

*Note, it’s not actually an X-carve, it’s the lesser but sealed Carvey. We have a set of PCB milling bits (from 30 deg with .1mm top to 90 deg with .2mm tip) and a set of ‘PCB bits’, both of these bit sets are from inventables. The FR1 we are using is from same source but one I get a good working method down and share it I will probably donate a lot of my FR4 for student use (I am also a student but an older one than most). I find the FR1 they offer to be… really ‘cheap’.

I have tried different formatting with inksccape but I’m a total noob with it and don’t really ‘know’ what I’m doing. So far this is the ‘best’ result I’ve gotten from carvey:

Personally I think you might simply be asking too much from your Carvey.

Your *.svg files look fine. The tolerances in your design are extremely tight for what your machine is capable of, though - if you’re using that 30° bit (which, for this design, you’d basically have to) your mounting surface has to be PERFECTLY flat, and your board stock PREFECTLY down against it, as any miniscule difference in Z height of your board stock is going to result in differences in your X/Y cut size (because the bit will be slightly deeper/shallower for the same spindle Z). For the text especially, alot of those line widths are well under 0.1 mm, so even using the 30° bit you’re not going to be capable of cutting them.

Your paths in Easel look like they need help, too… First off, it looks like you’re milling the white parts of your design, not the black - that’s “backwards”, right? Your pads look like they’re getting an outline cut, which is approximately correct. I think if you told Easel to just outline all of the white parts of your *.svg, you’d end up with what you want (or at least as close as Easel is going to get). You’d have to follow-up with a second plunge/bore operation for the drills.

I think if you go back to your original board design and increase your feature sizes, you can still end up with a produceable version of your design, though most likely you’re not going to be able to cram all the text you want onto it.

@JospehPizzolatto The problem you’re having with the svg might be that the traces are stroked paths. A path has no thickness. you’ll need to create objects from the strokes. It’s a bit confusing with the way things are named, but you can “stroke to path”.
And, i’d keep the text as a separate Easel workpiece.

I have removed almost all text, left remaining text about 2-3 times as large. I have reimported the pdf pic into inkscape and when I select the white parts or even a single selectable part and try to “Stroke to Path” I get the error message “No Stroked Paths in the Selection”. Not sure what I’m doing wrong. Perhaps I can select all the white stuff as ‘do not etch’ and the rest I can hit with a 1/32" bit? or round the corners in inkscape if I have to instead of Easel (Easel will automatically do this sometimes it seems, simply limit what is actually done to what the bit can do, leaving more material rather than cutting deeper)?
I appreciate all the advice and feedback guys : )

This is accurate.

At this point you probably just need to figure out the right steps in Inkscape to get the *.svg you want. Can you share your current *.svg?

Sure, I did so before as well I am still trying various things in inkscape.Traces 002

When you select the path, what does it say is selected? You’ll find that at the very bottom when you select something. I’d guess it’s grouped. Ungroup everything. I’m not by a computer now or I’d look at it.
How did you get that SVG? Was that from the PDF or directly from Express PCB? What are your export options from Express PCB?

Top-Copper-Photo-Etch.pdf (65.4 KB) (65.5 KB)

@B.F Trace width matters. I think the OP is looking for a workflow/procedure rather than a file. Also I would think that most that use inkscape don’t have illustrator.

I meant can you share your updated *.svg with less text and larger feature sizes.

This might help

Express PCB can only “Print”, I simply tell it to print to “Microsoft Print to PDF” (perhaps I should print to some other soft printer to get a picture with less information in it). The SVG comes from inkscape when I import the pdf, page one only, then tell inkscape to save as SVG (I usually use ‘plain SVG format’ instead of ‘inkscape SVG format’.

I am now working with this version (this is the PDF I generated from the software printer “Microsoft Print to PDF”.
11-01-2018 Simplified.pdf (4.4 KB)

When I leave “Embed Images” selected upon inkscape import I get this version of SVG output:
11-01-2018 Simplified Plain SVG format, do embed images
in this version I can select specific parts of the image (such as the traces being a lot of separate things, while in this version with “Embed Images” deselected upon import I get a single ‘image’, nothing seems to be separately selectable:
11-01-2018 Simplified Plain SVG format, do not embed images

When I use the embed images version and I select a single trace or square solder pad, at the bottom or when I select a block of solder pad or an image it says: “Group of one object in layer 11-01-2018 Simplified” I can select more than one at a time and the message alters slightly to: “3 objects selected of type Group in layer 11-01-2018 Simplified”.

If I uncheck the “Embed Images” tic box upon import I am unable to select any of these things directly and can only select the whole image or nothing at all. It seems that the PDF files is not just a bunch of raster pics or something, (if I understand this properly that means a limited information image as what we see). I can see that the separate lines and trace paths and such are somehow being preserved in the “Microsoft Print to PDF” (this is a good thing?).

Yeah I don’t have Illustrator but I need to check at school and see if they have it. The school has stuff for free or special price sometimes because it’s a school. I definitely want a ‘work flow’ if I understand that properly. I want something I can teach others to use well and effectively without too much trouble. When I’m done at this school I want the other students to have a method of doing this that works and can keep working.

I have always used a little etch tank, cupric chloride and laser-toner for my etch resist. This method is pretty effective but messy, time consuming and involves lots of little MSDS and such that I don’t want to have to have the students deal with (cupric chloride, high strength hydrogen peroxide, HCl, protective gear, etc). They are willing to use that in the club but it would be a barrier for the students to do this in that way. The club is really just for students to (for ‘free’, tuition being paid already) come in and use the printers and carvey and sewing machine and whatever else to do creative things, to feel ‘free’ to do what they want comfortable and easily. The etch tank and materials I brought and have always used would help that some but making their carvey machine able to do this would be better overall and long term in so many ways so I want to make that happen and then immediately pass on my understanding to a couple of staff members of the club so they can be the one who ‘know this’ and pass it around. Then the club will have this capability and independent of my or any one person.

Guys, you are all SO helpful, I mean WOW! :smiley:
thanks you all so very much for all your assistance and willingness to help, it’s really cool and I’d not figure this out on my own. I’ll be sure to tell everyone I show this method to that I got the solution from the forums here, encourage them to “ask for help damnit!” : ) Asking for help is useful so I’ll be sending them here for future problem they need to figure out

I think this is resluting in definite progress, I get two images, the background and the paths when I import this to Easel. I seperate them, raise the paths lower the background and get THIS image appearance!

11-01-2018 Simplified Plain SVG format, do not embed images

I mean… I think this might be it!
I’m going to try and do this with a 1/8 then 1/32 bit
at least simulate
I’ll let you guys know how it turns out