What is PCB cloning? How to copy a PCB?

18/06/2021 Seektronics

PCB Cloning is known as PCB Copy or PCB duplication. It is a reversely researching technology based on existing physical PCB boards, to obtain a good electronic product PCB design circuit, as well as the circuit schematic diagram and BOM table. It is the integrated tasks of PCB reverse engineering, IC unlock (also referred das IC crack), PCB prototype and debug, then re-production.



PCB cloning basic steps


1. When you get a PCB, first record on paper the type, parameters and position of all the components, especially the diodes, the direction of the triplet and the direction of the IC gap. It is best to use a digital camera to take two photos of the location of the components. Nowadays, the PCB circuit board more and more advanced above the diode triode some do not pay attention to do not see.


2. Remove all components and remove the tin from the PAD hole. Clean the empty PCB board with ultrasonic wave, and then put it into the scanner. Note that the PCB must be placed horizontally and straight in the scanner, otherwise the scanned image will not be able to be used. Then open Photoshop and input the scanner. Let's say it's 600DPI. Screen printing surface with color sweep, and save the name of custom out, the bottom screen printing method is the same.


3. Slightly polish the TOP LAYER and BOTTOM LAYER with water yarn paper until the copper film shines. Put it into the scanner, start Photoshop, sweep the two layers in color and save. Note: PCB must be placed horizontally and straight in the scanner.


4. Adjust the contrast, lightness and darkness of the canvas so that there is a strong contrast between the parts with copper film and the parts without, then turn the secondary image to black and white, check if the lines are clear, if not, repeat this step. If it is clear, save the image as black and white BMP files TOP. If there is any problem with the image, you can also use Photoshop to repair and correct it.


5. Transform the two BMP files into Protel files respectively. Enter two layers in Protel. If the position of PAD and VIA through the two layers is the same, it shows that the previous steps have been done well. Therefore, PCB board copying is a work that requires great patience, because a little problem will affect the quality and the matching degree after board copying.


6. Convert the BMP of the TOP layer to the TOP.PCB, note to the SILK layer, which is the yellow layer, then you trace the line in the TOP layer and place the device according to the drawing in step 2. Delete the SILK layer after drawing. Repeat until all the layers are drawn.


7. PCB and BOT.PCB into PROTEL and combine them into one diagram.


8. Use a laser printer to print the TOP LAYER and BOTTOM LAYER on transparent film (1:1 ratio), place the film on that PCB, compare if there is any error, if there is, you are done.


A copy of the original board was born, but that was only half done. A test has to be carried out to see if the electronic performance of the copy is the same as the original. If it is, then it is really complete.




Double-sided copy board method


1. Scan the top and bottom surface of the circuit board and save two BMP images.


2. Open Quickpcb2005, click "File" and "Open Base" to open a scanned picture. Use PageUp to zoom in on the screen, see the pad, press PP to place a pad, see the line according to PT...... Just like a child drawing, draw it all over in this software and click "save" to create a B2P file.


3. Click "File" and "Open Base" to open another layer of the scanned color image.


4. Click "File" and "Open" again to open the previously saved B2P file. We see the board just copied, stacked on top of this picture -- the same PCB board with holes in the same position, but with different wiring connections. So we press "Options" -- "Layer Settings", and here we close the wiring and screen printing of the display top layer, leaving only multiple layers of holes.


5. The hole on the top layer is in the same position as the hole on the bottom layer. Now we can trace the line on the bottom layer just as we did in childhood. Click "Save" again -- the B2P file now has the top and bottom layers of data.


6. Click "File" and "Export to PCB File", then you can get a PCB file with two layers of data, which can be modified or re-issued schematic diagram or directly sent to PCB plate-making factory for production.




Multi-layer board copy method


In fact, four layers copy two double panels, six layers copy three double panels...... ", the multilevel is intimidating because we can't see the wiring inside. How do we see the inner layers of a precise multilayer board? - Layering.


Now there are Multi-layer methods, such as potion corrosion, tool stripping, etc., but it is easy to over-delaminate the layers and lose information. Experience has taught us that sandpaper sanding is the most accurate.


 When we finish copying the top and bottom of the PCB, we generally use sandpaper to sand the surface layer to show the inner layer; sandpaper is the ordinary sandpaper sold in hardware shops, generally lay the PCB flat, then hold the sandpaper and rub it evenly on the PCB (if the board is small, you can also lay the sandpaper flat and use a finger to hold the PCB on the sandpaper to rub it). The important point is to lay it flat so that it can be abraded evenly.


The silkscreen and green oil usually come off with a wipe, the copper wires and copper skin need a few good wipes. Generally speaking, the Bluetooth board can be wiped in a few minutes, the memory stick will take about ten minutes; of course, if you are strong, it will take less time; if you are weak, it will take a little more time.


Grinding is currently the most common solution for layering, and is also the most economical. We can find a piece of discarded PCB to try, grinding board nothing technically difficult, just a little tedious, to spend a little effort, do not worry at all will wear the board grinding to fingertips.


During the PCB layout process, after the system has been laid out, the PCB drawing is reviewed to see if the layout of the system is reasonable and optimal.


Generally, it can be examined from the following aspects:


1. Whether the system layout ensures the reasonable or optimal wiring, whether the wiring can be reliably carried out, and whether the reliability of the circuit can be ensured. In the layout of the time need to signal direction and power and ground network to have an overall understanding and planning.


2. Whether the size of the printed board is consistent with the size of the processing drawings, whether it meets the requirements of PCB manufacturing process, and whether there are behavior marks. This needs to pay special attention to, many PCB board circuit layout and wiring are designed very beautifully, reasonable, but the oversight of the positioning connector precise positioning, resulting in the design of the circuit can not be connected with other circuits.


3. There is no conflict between components in 2D and 3D space. Pay attention to the actual size of the device, especially the height of the device. In the welding of the free layout of the element device, the height generally cannot exceed 3mm.


4. Whether the layout of components is orderly and well-arranged, and whether all the cloth is finished. In the layout of components, not only the direction of the signal, the type of the signal, the place that needs attention or protection, but also the overall density of the device layout should be considered to achieve uniform density.


5. Whether the components that need to be replaced frequently can be easily replaced and whether the plug-in board can be easily inserted into the equipment. Convenient and reliable replacement and interconnection of frequently changed components shall be ensured.