The LPKF USA technical team is here to answer all your in-house PCB prototyping questions

While we’ve pulled together answers to many of your most common questions about PCB prototyping machines here at, we realize there are many subtleties that make your potential installation unique. Please send us any questions you still have nd we’ll get back to you right away.

Frequently asked questions

Which PCB substrate materials will I be able to process in-house?

Single-sided, double-sided and multilayer circuit boards can be structured with the ProtoMat PCB milling and ProtoLaser options on a wide range of PCB substrate materials.

Traditional FR4, G10, woven RF-based materials and PTFE-based microwave circuit boards can be milled, drilled and cut with the LPKF ProtoMat mechanical PCB milling systems.

The ProtoLaser models allow for smaller traces and spacing on these substrates with faster completion. The ProtoLaser systems also add the capability to structure and laser-etch fired ceramics/Alumina (Al2)3), green and fired LTCC. The ProtoLaser S4 and U4 can create double-sided flex boards on DuPont Pyralux TK material and allow for drilling, cutting, controlled laser depth engraving and surface skiving (removal of protective masks) stopping at a copper layer.

Pocket milling and controlled depth engraving in plastics and aluminum is a standard function of the ProtoMat S63 and S103 models with an included 2.5D milling feature. The ProtoLaser U4 and R enable microchannel engraving in plastic materials, thermoset plastics, LTCC, carbon fiber and even fired ceramics with cut widths as small as 20µm and 15µm

How many layers of my PCBs am I limited to if I want to produce prototypes in-house?

Using the LPKF MultiPress S and Contac S4 copper plating along with a ProtoMat and/or ProtoLaser, LPKF rapid prototyping systems can generate up to eight (8)-layer boards in-house. The LPKF ProConduct silver plating option is ideal for up to four (4)-layer boards.

What’s the relative cost and capability difference between a PCB Milling Machine and PCB Laser Etching Machine?

With an average lifespan of 8-10 years+, the return on investment for a ProtoMat mechanical PCB milling system may be realized within 6-18 months depending on project volume, complexity and current outsourcing costs with continued savings on time and project costs. The ProtoLaser models allow for production on-demand processing and can achieve applications that may not be offered or are much higher in costs through a service center with traditional resist and etch processes. This will often enable a purchase justification, making new products possible that were previously beyond development limitations or feasible price points.

The ProtoMat models can achieve 4 mil traces and spacing as well as drill, cut and engrave FR4, Rogers and similar PTFE woven or ceramic filled substrates creating single or double-sided designs with high resolution. Costs of tooling/materials are often well below even “quick-turn” board house pricing for a one-off design.

The ProtoLaser systems allow for more challenging trace/space requirements below 4 mil and processing of materials that do not allow for mechanical milling with fired ceramics, flex Pyralux TK. Traces as small as 1 mil (25µm) are possible with Alumina fired ceramics and 2 or 3 mil traces (ProtoLaser U4 and S4, respectively) on laminated FR4, Rogers and similar PTFE woven or ceramic filled substrates.

Which Electronic Design Automation (EDA) and Computer Aided Design (CAD) software tools do you integrate with?

LPKF CircuitPro software is included with each new ProtoMat and ProtoLaser model allowing Gerber Standard (RS-274-D), Extended Gerber (RS-274-X), Excellon NC Drill (Version 1 and 2), Sieb & Meier NC Drill, HP-GL™, DPF, Auto-CAD™ DXF, IGES, LMD and STEP design import from major CAD programs. CircuitPro then calculates the required tooling or laser paths with advanced algorithms, which saves time on the project and reduces tooling and material costs.

How can I make a business case for the purchase of an in-house prototyping machine?

Your goal with the business case is to detail how the capital equipment can save your company money. The best way to do this is to write a business case with four main parts: the executive summary, the situational analysis, the financial justification, and the peripheral benefits.

Define and solve a problem in the executive summary and situational analysis to seize management’s attention. Back up your claims with measures of value in the financial justification and peripheral benefits sections, and decision makers will see your case was not built on sand. Together, all four elements provide a basis as to “why” an investment is worth the risk.

Our blog, How to Write and Pitch an Effective Business Case For Purchasing a Rapid PCB Prototyping Machine, provides a complete rundown and you can download template doc here.

Do you offer leasing programs on your PCB Prototyping Machines?

LPKF is happy to work with a financial institution on a leasing program and we have contacts available that can assist with these options.

Still have questions?

International inquiries click here.
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