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37532 Views 30 Replies Latest reply: Jun 14, 2014 4:58 PM by WiNorthOutdoors RSS
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Oct 31, 2013 9:30 PM

How can I make my own printed circuit boards?

Hi, I want to start making my own printed circuit boards to build some of the great projects I want from a popular tech magazine. I know it involves photo resist, a scanner, and some kind of transfer sheet, but I really don't know how the procedure works. Any ideas for a beginner to succeed at actually producing a working board? Thanks

  • dpaul Novice 1 posts since
    Nov 4, 2013
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 4, 2013 10:34 PM (in response to ITTgrad2001)
    How can I make my own printed circuit boards?

    Copying an image from a magazine and trying to make a PCB from it is not that easy.  Been a long time since I've done that, but its messy, tedious, and prone to errors on your first projects. Anyhow, to partially answer your question, Digikey sells PCB prototyping materials & kits. from MG Chemicals.  If you go to their website, they may have a "How-To" article or 2; http://www.mgchemicals.com/

     

    My prefered method is going with www.ExpressPCB.com or http://www.sunstone.com/  Both sites have free PCB software that lets you create a schematic & then rout it out onto a PCB.  You then submit your design back to them and they send you PCBs back.  I've mainly stuck with the ExpressPCB software & PWBs.  I've done many boards thru them and I've no complaints.  You will end up with a better final project and can esily modify stuff from the magazines for size & features.

  • Mteo2188 Novice 79 posts since
    Mar 11, 2013
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 11, 2013 2:08 PM (in response to ITTgrad2001)
    How can I make my own printed circuit boards?

    Here's one way to do it at home. I'll link the source when it's finished uploading.

     

     

    In short, the required steps are to print, clean, cut, paste, iron, brush, etch, and clean. But before we get started, make sure to procure the following items: a magazine, advertising brochure, or any other similar glossy paper, a laser printer, a clothing iron, copper clad laminate board, one liter of etching solution (ferric chloride solution), steel wool, acetone, and adhesive tape.

     

    Designing the PCB guarantees ensure
    Any PCB design program will suffice, but for those seeking a user-friendly and open-source design program, consider Fritzing. The freeware allows you to design circuits on a virtual breadboard before automatically producing a schematic representation of the whole system and converting it into an actual PCB layout. Components are available in a large crowd-sourced database, so chances are you’ll not run lack anything.

     

    Paper selection
    After successfully transferring the design on to a PCB layout, equip your laser printer with either old magazine paper, mail advertising or any paper that is glossy, thin and cheap. You’ll know you’ve selected the correct paper thickness if added water disintegrates it into a pulpy residue.

     

    Now that the paper’s been fed, it’s time to use the laser printer and print the design. I specify laser printer because of its reliance on plastic toner to replicate images rather than ink. Recall that plastic is resistant to the ferric chloride we use for etching; this is why the circuit design is left behind on the board once we’ve etched away the surface copper. It is imperative that the PCB layout is printed as a mirror image of itself or it will appear reversed once transferred to the copper board.

     

    Cleaning
    Before transferring the plastic toner onto the copper-clad board, spotlessly clean the copper surface using steel wool to remove any oxide. Now that the surface has been completely smoothened, it’s time to don a pair of latex gloves and clean off finger residue. The goal is to create a completely pristine board to allow perfect bonding with the plastic toner from the magazine paper.

     

    Cut and paste.
    When the copper board is ready, it’s time to cut out the design. Leaving an extra margin on one side makes it easier to correctly align the paper later in the process.

     

    Any household iron is suitable for transferring the toner onto the board so long as it’s set to maximum heat in the cotton position with absolutely no steam. Once you’ve set the iron to its respective temperature, prepare the paper and board as the iron is heating up. First, find a level surface to work with. Ironing boards are not suitable for this task because of their soft surface. Whatever surface you decide to use, be it kitchen table or not, place a flat, heat-resistant material underneath the board. Ensure copper surface of the board is facing upward in preparation for contact with the PCB cut out.

     

    Next, place the PCB cut out on top of the copper board with the toner side facing the copper. Once the correct aligned is established, use tape on the lengthier margin to secure the paper in place. Only tape one side of the print out as the paper will subsequently be flipped to allow us to preheat the copper surface for 30 seconds.

     

    Flip the PCB print out back into position the minute the pre-heating is complete. This is a tricky process because the copper’s already been heated, however the careful positioning prior to locking the paper with tape, permits it to fall into place correctly.  After setting the paper in place, cover it with a second sheet of blank paper to more evenly distribute heat. Now press down with the iron for eight to ten minutes and evenly distribute heat as best you can. Too short of an exposure will not attach the toner to the copper surface.

     

    Dunk and brush
    As soon as the iron is removed, submerge the copper board in room temperature water for about one minute or until the paper becomes transparent. At this point the paper can be gently removed by scrubbing with your fingertips – remember that pulpy paper we talked about? Any stubborn pieces should be carefully brushed off with a toothbrush.

     

    Etch the copper off the board
    Etching is how we remove all non-masked copper from the board to give us those beautiful sharp lines. Recall that the toner we just bonded to the board is resistant to Ferric Chloride, so anything not covered with plastic toner will be melted away by the etchant until the underlying plastic is exposed. When a circuit is converted into a PCB print out, the conductive pathway of the circuit is covered in plastic toner; this is why PCB print outs are analogous to photo-negatives of circuit boards.

     

    The most common solution used for etching is Ferric Chloride, although some use Ammonium Persulfate. Ferric Chloride is cheap, reusable, doesn’t necessarily require heating, and is available in either liquid or powder form. The substance can perform adequately at room temperature, although the etching process is expedited when the chemical is exposed to heat and agitation.

     

    Place the Ferric Chloride in an old plastic freezer container and microwave it for 40 seconds until the container is hot enough to be uncomfortable to hold, and then slosh it around to get it nice and angry. Be careful not to overheat the etchant otherwise it will start producing hydrochloric acid fumes. As a safety precaution, use plastic or latex gloves when handling Ferric Chloride; it stains everything it contacts and irritates skin. Use lots of running water if ever disposing FC or it will corrode your drain pipes.

     

    How long do I etch?
    Etching takes between ten to fifteen minutes to complete; because the process gradually reduces the amount of copper through corrosion, nothing may appear to happen for the first ten minutes. Once you’ve noticed the first evidence of plastic, begin to periodically stir and check, as there isn’t much copper left. Stop approximately 30 seconds after you see any copper leftover in larger spaces.

     

    The final touch
    The final step is to rinse the board in water until all traces of FC are removed and then proceed to remove the toner. This is accomplished with over the counter acetone or nail polish remover applied to a cotton ball and light pressure. The toner will come right off and leave you with a beautiful set of copper tracks that is your circuit path. That’s the advantage of the laser printer and magazine paper combo: It leaves with perfectly accurate tracks

  • LeeLeduc Novice 4 posts since
    Nov 14, 2013
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 14, 2013 10:48 AM (in response to ITTgrad2001)
    How can I make my own printed circuit boards?

    Check out the Homebrew PCB's group on Yahoo. It contains a lot of info om making your own PCB's.

     

    http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Homebrew_PCBs/info

      • LeeLeduc Novice 4 posts since
        Nov 14, 2013
        Currently Being Moderated
        Nov 27, 2013 11:20 AM (in response to ITTgrad2001)
        Review of the yahoo link

        In the past I've been active in this group. Unfortunately, Yahoo changed the format of the groups and now they're very hard to navigate. A lot of users are not happy about the change. You can search the conversation for keywords. Also, select the "Conversations" and then below that select the "topics". This will at least group the messages into topic headings that you can click on and follow the message thread. Yahoo really screwed up the groups with the "new look".

  • WolfmanSpike Novice 1 posts since
    Nov 14, 2013
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 14, 2013 4:35 PM (in response to ITTgrad2001)
    How can I make my own printed circuit boards?

    So much has been said about this topic and almost everyone makes a big deal about it.

     

    Making PCBs at home is very simple and it is easy and not nearly as much of a mess as it has been made out to be.

     

    http://www.lupinesystems.com/pcboards


    I have had this article up for nearly 10 years with hundreds of thousands of hits.  It is a comprehensive explanation on how this is done, even in a college dorm room!


    WolfmanSpike

    Lupine Systems

  • laserdude Novice 4 posts since
    Nov 14, 2013
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 14, 2013 5:19 PM (in response to ITTgrad2001)
    My two cents worth

    ...lots of good answers here.  'might as well throw in my two cents worth.  My prefered method is to order from PCBFabExpress.  They are the cheapest I've found.  Just send them your gerber files for each layer and drill and tool files.  The toner transfer method mentioned above is good too though it's kind of hard to align for double sided boards.  There are several things that I've found make this method more likely to produce good results:

     

    -Use Press & Peel Blue (a powder coated tranparency sheet that releases the toner better.)

     

    -Pre-etch the copper rather than using steel wool or scuff pads.  (Dip the board in etchant until all the copper has turned from gold to pink then rinse with distilled -or deionized- water.  Don't use tap or spring water.  Don't touch the copper with your bare fingers.)

     

    -After ironing on the image, throw the board - toner - backing sandwich right into the freezer and leave it alone until cold.

     

    -After peeling off the backing use a sewing pin or needle to clean any powder out from the pad holes before etching.

     

    -I prefer using amonium persulfate as it is -or al least starts out- completely clear and transparent.  Ferric chloride is dark brown.

     

    -An aquarium heater, air pump and bubble stones will significantly speed up the etching process but are not necessary.

     

    Best of luck and have fun.

  • LeeLeduc Novice 4 posts since
    Nov 14, 2013
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 28, 2013 11:14 AM (in response to ITTgrad2001)
    How can I make my own printed circuit boards?

    Here's a site with 4 videos documenting the toner transfer method.

     

    http://getlofi.com/how-we-make-circuit-boards-video/

  • Mteo2188 Novice 79 posts since
    Mar 11, 2013
    Currently Being Moderated
    Dec 2, 2013 9:08 AM (in response to ITTgrad2001)
    Review of the yahoo link

    Hey ITTgrad,

     

    This may also be of use to you (http://www.pcbweb.com/). It's a free browser-based CAD application for designing and manufacturing electronics hardware.

  • nyccooper Novice 1 posts since
    Apr 11, 2014
    Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 11, 2014 6:16 PM (in response to ITTgrad2001)
    How can I make my own printed circuit boards?

    I know this thread is a little old but since this is something I am doing right now I thought I would throw this out there. I have been documenting my efforts at making a pcb. check it out. Hope its helpful.

    http://randomactsoftech.com/blog/second-post.html

    • papalyle Novice 55 posts since
      Apr 6, 2014
      Currently Being Moderated
      Apr 11, 2014 10:49 PM (in response to nyccooper)
      How can I make my own printed circuit boards?

      there used to be such a thig as photo-resist pens a long time ago. check that out.

       

      papalyle

  • papalyle Novice 55 posts since
    Apr 6, 2014
    Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 13, 2014 8:46 PM (in response to ITTgrad2001)
    How can I make my own printed circuit boards?

    Dear Sir,

     

    yea, the photo-resist pens are current. google "PRINTED CIRCUIT BOARD SUPPLIES"  good luck.  You have inspired me to work on this in more detail, but it's going to be proprietary.

     

    papalyle

  • papalyle Novice 55 posts since
    Apr 6, 2014
    Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 13, 2014 9:09 PM (in response to ITTgrad2001)
    How can I make my own printed circuit boards?

    Dear Sir,

     

    Jameco is the name of the company, they got lots of pc board stuff.

     

    papalyle

  • matheww Novice 4 posts since
    Apr 28, 2014
    Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 28, 2014 4:02 AM (in response to ITTgrad2001)
    Re: How can I make my own printed circuit boards?

    pcbmaking.com would be the best option for printed circuit board. It designs professional PCB at cheaper price. You can place your order instantly and get free shipping. Its easy way to get your job done! Good luck!

  • nsayer Novice 4 posts since
    Mar 22, 2014
    Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 28, 2014 4:39 PM (in response to ITTgrad2001)
    Re: How can I make my own printed circuit boards?

    I sort of agree with mattheww - Unless you're in a really, really big hurry, etching your own PCBs is really, really not the best solution. OSHPark.com is my vendor-of-choice. 3 boards in around two weeks at $5/in^2.

     

    I tried to etch my own boards once. The etching wasn't a problem. The thing that completely wilted my salad was drilling all the holes. I was unable to get them lined up well enough for DIP placement - and I had a drill press. You also won't get through-plating, so you'd need to insert and solder jumpers in all your vias. Last, but not least, there won't be a soldermask, so reflow with SMD parts is a non-starter.

  • WiNorthOutdoors Novice 2 posts since
    Jun 14, 2014
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jun 14, 2014 4:58 PM (in response to ITTgrad2001)
    How can I make my own printed circuit boards?

    Some very interesting options on Instructables

    http://www.instructables.com/howto/pcb/

    Some great options for etchants too.

     

    Most recent I read was parchment paper for the laser toner release, but haven't tried it yet.

    Had OK luck with photo paper for thru hole feature board.

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