Instructables

DIY PCB Bubble Etch Tank

How to make a home made bubble etch tank for under a tenner!

Bubbly goodness!
First you need

1 tub (pound shop)
1 plastic bin (pound shop)
1 fish bubble pump (£7 inc postage off ebay)
Some rubber tubing (hanging around - or could come with pump)
2 Cable ties
Hot glue gun
Red tape (blue might also do.... yellow may do but have problems - white tape cannot be used :-)
screw driver
Lighter
1 hour of spare time
1 sunny after noon in the conservatory (optional)
got all that stuff? lets bubble!
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Make the hole for the bubble tube

Warm up the bottom (thats right mindy - the bottom) of the container as this is where we will insert the tube. Were going to put it here because of pressure issues... namely.. we dont want any!

Heat the bottom with the lighter and make a hole this way: i have tried drilling this type of plastic before and it's pretty brittle... this is the safest... but the tubs are only a quid so knock yourself out.

Don't let the plastic burn though as it stinks and will make the hole too large.
When it is ply-able, stick a screw driver through the plastic to make a small hole (roughly the size of the tube). Be careful not to make it too big otherwise it'll be a lot of hassle trying to seal again!

The reason we are going through the bottom and not poking the pipe through the gaping hole at the top of the container, is so that the top can be sealed off with the container lid - for easier storage and transport - plus.. water tight sealing the bottom isnt that hard.
terezi4 years ago
You can also use this chemical etching method to etch metal for jewelry making purposes (designs on the metal that look like shallow engraving), or for knives, swords, etc. types of fine decorative metalwork.
(I found this page in the first place while Googling for info on metal etching for jewelry).
whats that and what do you use it for
Dandymon (author)  Expertmurderboy0074 years ago
In electronics, you make circuit boards to hold the components and circuits together. These are called PCBs or printed circuit boards, where the copper track appears to be printed on the board. In real life the board is clad with copper on a side and you use a chemical etch to remove certain areas. This tank holds an etchant liquid and uses bubbles to agitate the solution, allowingany copper board to be etched (quickly)
thanks
evanwehrer5 years ago
I think this could work better if you used a small fish tank and an air pump that can take in air and push it out .(They have them in those little laser levels with the suction thing.) Then you can use a heater. Some fish tanks have a place where you can run a tube down and it will make bubbles go up everywhere. You could also put in a v shaped thing and use plastic grabbing tools to pull it out.
rh3876 years ago
One thing that you could try is get an airstone for an aquarium. It will produce a lot of small bubbles, although I have only seen their operation in water. They are cheap enough to give it a shot though.
Hiya! I built a similar, but slimmer tank a year ago. I used an aquarium airstone first but after about a week in ferric chloride it completely dissolved! I now use small bore plastic pipe with hundreds of pinholes (made with a sewing needle). This works really well and gives a very even etch. When I build my next tank I think I'll have 2 rows of the perforated plastic pipes, which will mean even more bubbles!
japala7 years ago
Did something similar in 2002.
http://metku.net/index.html?path=mods/bubbles/index_eng

In the next version I pumped the air in from the top of the tank and ran the line down to the bottom from there. This way I didn't have to drill any holes below the waterline thus making it more leak proof.
I was just wondering: could the etchant damage or mutilate the materials used in either of these designs?
royalestel7 years ago
Definitely think you ought to explain what this is used for in the introduction. I had no idea myself when I first read it.
even a 12-13 year-old geek knows what it is
Well, I didn't.
Likely if you've gotten this far with PCB's, you probably understand what this is :P.
Dandymon (author) 7 years ago
Right so why did i put the tube in the bottom.... mostly for aesthetics; but very largely so that the top could be screwed on and transported with the liquid in. The liquid is not necessarily safer for you (apologies if i made it sound like it was) but it is much less of a stainer! It is a mild irritant so don't worry about getting it on your hands. As always, never dispose of ANY chemical in the sewerage system as it could harm aquatic life or damage pipes! Pour the waste into screw bottle and dispose normally in the trash is safer. (or evaporate it if you're really concerned). Thanks for all your praise! Hope your projects go well
btw (UK)pound store = (US)$ store
Great stuff, I too like the board holder, inspired. A couple of points, the most important thing for an etch tank is a heavy base, knocking one over is a nightmare. So I would agree it would be better to put your bubble pipe in from the top then add some form of stand or weight. Lets not forget what might happen to your hot glue when you add the heater. Secondly if you can get a tub that is rectangular rather than round and relatively thin then you need less etchant for a given size of board, this is cheaper and safer. lastly although the clear etchant might not stain as much it is not safer as such.
Spokehedz7 years ago
Again, the small issue of going in through the bottom/leaks would be resolved if you just put the hole in the side of the tank near the top. Then run the tube down the side and then to your bubbler. There. No more leaks (no fluid anywhere near the hole) and there is no chance of drainage (no tube below the line of fluid). Also, I would put a hole someplace on the lid just to be sure that air can escape someplace. I know you made holes on your PCB holder, but i'd make a smallish one (same diameter as your tube would be okay) just to be safe. That way the incoming air has someplace to escape. A heater may melt the plastic... but there are small small fishtanks up at the pet supply place near me... hmm...
Aeshir7 years ago
I don't get it. What does this do? It looks cool with the bubbles coming out in streams anyways.
it's for agitating pc board etchant
Huh?
Ohm Aeshir7 years ago
Normally you would agitate the PCB echant by hand which is tiring after about 10 mins. which is why this is freakin sweet. If you want to see how to make a pcb by hand I made an instructable about a week ago titled "Making a Hand drawn PCB"
Hand Drawn PCB Instrucable
armindilo7 years ago
I don't like the hole being in the bottom so much, but the board holder is sweet! Good work, nice instructable!
RadBear7 years ago
You could add an aquarium check valve to the tubing in order to prevent fluid/etchant from reaching the pump in case of back flow. They're pretty cheap. Here in the US they are two bucks at WalMart.
kenturamon7 years ago
Nice. I'm itching for some etching now.
Pro

Get More Out of Instructables

Already have an Account?

close

PDF Downloads
As a Pro member, you will gain access to download any Instructable in the PDF format. You also have the ability to customize your PDF download.

Upgrade to Pro today!