A tool that converts an image into multiple PCB layers:
Loads an image.
Copies it to multiple ‘sub-images’.
Runs a Threshold filter on each ‘sub-layer’ with ascending values.
Composes PCB layers using bitwise operations.
Converts the PCB layers to rectangles using a Quadtree algorithm (threaded).
Exports them into an Eagle .brd file.
As a Designer by trade I like to jump head-first into new disciplines which I know nothing about, learn to control the terminology and try to mess around in unexpected ways. I am also lucky to share studio space with Arkadi Rafalovich, A talented engineer and omni-potentialite, who inspires and guides me through learning the basics of electronics and Eagle PCB design.
While diving into the subject I was constantly visualizing and thinking about the tools that are missing for me, the tools I need for implementing my art and design.
PCB’s are usually designed functionally without any visual attention, A very boring rectangle. Sure, they have their digital charm with mazes of tracing running along the board, but as a user, I prefer my PCB’s when they're inside my products. Covered in a well designed injection-moulded shell.
I use the word ‘usually’ because sometimes you get boards like the Defcon badge - which can masterfully merge function and design to create a fun user experience.
So, what’s different in business cards and convention badges? These are where the engineer isn't working for a client, he relaxes a bit and has fun with the design tools. He’s not just a cog in the product development process. When he has no restrictions.
Sadly, even then, the board designer dare only to use the tools given. Drawing only in the ‘Silk’/’Copper’ layers or slightly shaping the board’s outline in the ‘Dimension’ layer.
4. All the layers!
Some of my past Design projects deal with layered/laminated materials and the smart use of the different layer properties:
Those were opaque materials. What intrigued me with PCB design-wise, was the ability to play with material’s opacity and the light transfer through the board. Artistically I thought I can convey a more complete message and user experience by having graphics that support and integrate with the board’s functionality.
Check out PCBmodE.
It's basically a tool that allows you to jump back and forth between a rudimentary script and Inkscape, and then finally exporting the gerbers. Many of the boards created in it are exactly what you're talking about - art pieces first, and possibly functioning PCBs second.