Introduction: Laser Printed PCB's, Perfect and Easy.

Picture of Laser Printed PCB's, Perfect and Easy.

There is probably nothing new here, but I wanted to share the way I print not so simple PCB's always perfect without a single failure.

Step 1: Circuit Design.

Picture of Circuit Design.

I always model the circuit in a breadboard to make sure everything works as expected. I will use the same components for the final circuit.

Step 2: Modelling.

Picture of Modelling.

In order to design the PCB, I first model the circuit in Proteus, and once everything is properly connected, launch ARES for track design, making sure the tracks are as wide as possible. Manual tweaking of the tracks is useful for this purpose and sometimes rerouting is also needed. Don't stick with the automatic design.

Step 3: Printing the Circuit Layout.

Picture of Printing the Circuit Layout.

It is critical to laser print the circuit on a thin glossy magazine paper (the normal paper for most newsstand magazines). Normally this kind of paper is too thin for the laser printer to handle, so I tape it to a regular sheet of paper, that way it works fine. Be careful NOT to print the track design mirrored and just print the copper side artwork.

Step 4: PCB Preparation.

Picture of PCB Preparation.

Cut the board to the desired size, as well as the printed layout. Try not to touch the printed surface with the fingers, handle the paper by the edges. Clean the copper side of the board throughly using ultra fine sand paper or metal wool and rub with pure acetone. Now you can put together the printed paper and the board.

Step 5: Layout Transfer.

Picture of Layout Transfer.

Place a cold regular clothing iron in top of the paper side. The iron temperature SHOULD be set at around 120 Celsius not too much colder or hotter (in my iron it is the SILK setting, or between the NYLON and POLYESTER settings). The idea is only to make the toner in the print soft and sticky, but not to melt it down. With the iron in place turn it on and, without moving, just apply pressure till it reaches the temperature setting. I then start moving the iron in circles applying gentle pressure for three to five minutes. At the end you will notice the circuit design through the paper. Turn off the iron and let the PCB cool down for a while.

Step 6: Finishing the Transfer.

Picture of Finishing the Transfer.

Once cool, place the PCB in a tray with water. After just a few minutes you will notice that the paper turns loose and the toner has transfered completely to the copper. There is no need to rub the paper to remove it. The PCB is then ready for the chemical treatment.

Step 7: PCB Finishing.

Picture of PCB Finishing.

The PCB con be treated chemically for copper removal by your preferred method. I use ferric chloride but a mixture of muriatic acid and oxy-water also works. Once the etching process finishes (between 20 and 30 minutes), remove the toner with acetone. I use a 0.8 mm drill bit for all the holes and then a 1 mm bit for the larger electronic components. This way the finished circuit works perfect without the need to rework the tracks in any way.


Southerner (author)2017-04-03

Have you looked into using one of the cheap Pantum P2500 series black and white laser printers for direct printing the board?

Raj wadia (author)2016-12-07

can i print the layout on the normal printing paper?

KirillA (author)2016-10-04

Peroxide from pharmacy and baker's citric acid powder works like a charm for me. 100 ml 3% H2O2 + 30g citric acid + 5g NaCl (salt), mix thoroughly, don't drink. And surely make use of it while it's fresh and warm.

HerbertD1 (author)KirillA2016-10-05

How fast is it with 3% Peroxide? I have seen it on you tube only with concentration like CharlyeZ and 36% HCl?

The maximum in Germany is 10% H2O2, above is restricted like HNO3(Terrorism etc)

KISELIN (author)HerbertD12016-11-22

Hi! Me (Finland), an old-timer making them PCB’s. I have made ”hundreds (100’s) of them, thus today still using the ”old golden system” 1+2+3 methode
of 1= HCL (36%), 2= Hydroperoxid (25%), 3=Water (100%).

The numbers in ( ) are the concentration of the stuff.

For the developeing of the photoresistive I use NaHO, (Natrium Hydroxide).

Make a trip to Finland, (it is within the EU), and make your purchase of them needed chemical's here, them "Custom's" will just wonder "What the f***" is this" and you just reply: " It's for scientyfic purposes"... "Hmm... OKAY"

KirillA (author)HerbertD12016-10-06

Yep, with fresh peroxide in warm water it takes less than 20 mins for small pcb's. No dangerous HCl needed. The chemistry behind is
Cu+ H3Cit +H2O2→ H[CuCit] +2H2O

sbkenn (author)KirillA2016-10-09

Copper is quite toxic too.

KISELIN (author)HerbertD12016-10-09

Me , in Finland. In a pharrmacy (apotek) I can buy HCL 36%, (they maybee.... ask you what it's for...) and the ????-Super- Hydroxid with a concetration of about 25%. There's your formula for etching 1+2+3 The 3 parts is H20=Water from your tap.

KISELIN (author)KirillA2016-11-22

Hi! Me an old-timer making them PCB’s. I have made ”hundreds (100’s) of them, thus today still using the ”old golden system” 1+2+3 methode
of 1= HCL (36%), 2= Hydroperoxid (25%), 3=Water (100%). The numbers in ( ) are the concentration of the stuff.

For the developeing of the photoresistive I use NaHO, (Natrium Hydroxide).

CharlyeZ (author)KirillA2016-10-04

using the similar mix, but 60%HCl+30%H2O2+10%H2O.

Works faster than ferric chloride.


HCl - 36%

H2O2 - 26% - technical

H2O 100% - (do not use heavy water from nuclear power plant ..... :-)) )

KISELIN (author)CharlyeZ2016-10-04

Hi. Just allmost the same here. I use a ”thumb-formula” 1+2+3
but the other way around of your’s: 1 part of HCL, (acid 35%, 10ml),
2 part of H2O2 (60%) , (Hyd.. superOxid, 20ml), and 3 parts of H2O 30ml of water, (about 100%) from the tap or from the sky. Works like a charm, CARE: You need to follow the process because it goes FAST & getting warmer during that. USE GLOVES ALL THE WAY
Take a breath of a HCL (35%), and survive. At least, (if you survive, you’ll remember that smell for the rest of your life), you’ll understand the necceserity of using gloves.
I missed once with a spill of few drops on my stainless sink. The marks of them spill’s will stay there ”forewer”. I’ve etched PCB’s with both methodes ”FeCl” and ”HCL” , to me: I prefer the HCL-methode => fast & clear, (during the process you can whenewer pick up your PCB and rince it under running water and study the result, (as well with the Fe), and if not good => back into the bath). Check me what I’ve complissed at:

sbkenn (author)2016-10-09

I am actually way past even double sided PCBs anyway. Did that back in
the 70s, quite successfully. Electronics and computers are of little
interest beyond tools to get other things done. A lot of what I would
have done, can be done with an Arduino these days. My next substantial
project requires multiple, high efficiency multiphase, isolated Buck
converters. That will need 4 layers.

KISELIN (author)sbkenn2016-11-22

Hi! Me allso an old-timer making them PCB’s. I have made ”hundreds (100’s)" of them, thus today still using the ”old golden system” 1+2+3 methode
of 1= HCL (36%), 2= Hydroperoxid (25%), 3=Water (100%). The numbers in ( ) are the concentration of the stuff.

For the developeing of the photoresistive I use NaHO, (Natrium Hydroxide).
You still take the price, thus making them 4-layers… guess you order them from a manufacturer??

sbkenn (author)2016-10-04

I have an old pen plotter. i wonder if a UV led with an optic fibre could be used to draw directly on a photo sensitive board. The resist is available in positive rather than the usual negative

jwzumwalt (author)sbkenn2016-11-17

Yes, this technique is often used on very thin circuit boards. You can also buy electrcical conductive ink and "draw" the circuit with a pin plotter. I do something similar by laser printing directly to very thin circuit boards I got off ebay. I tape them to paper and run the whole thing through the the laser printer. I make cheap quick proof of concept test circuits this way.

KISELIN (author)sbkenn2016-10-09

I guess you could? My PCB-layout program asks me "if I do want it positive or negative?" . You having this penplotter? " Gee.. does it require a PS-, (Post Script) and to be set them pen's?" Throw it away. get some 2000's stuff for free.

sbkenn (author)KISELIN2016-10-09

Not PS. HPGL. Drawing a negative would be good if the CAD app could draw track outlines. If not, then a positive would be better.

KISELIN (author)sbkenn2016-10-09

Still, are you running kind'of a "old" PCB-CAD evulution? if you do, skip it. There are several "for free" developement programs. (You need to search them link's for yourself),

My begist apollige, (don't know if the word "apoliige" is the right word , that I'm a bit "off" your agenda with producing of them PCB-'s)

KISELIN made it! (author)sbkenn2016-10-09

Me using, (still), a PCB-cad program from them early 90's. It produces layout's with, in those days, a magnificiant resolution of 300 DPI, (for newbees, DPI is Dot's / Per / Inch, nowadays ewen them cheaper printers can give say1200DPI), That said, I have a modern PCB-cad to whitch I transfer my layout's, reason to this transform is that my "old program" can't produce them of manufacturor's required form of them Gerber files, some examples attached

dmwatkins (author)sbkenn2016-10-08

Very interesting idea...

bpark1000 (author)2016-11-08

CAUTION! If you choose to use acid/hydrogen peroxide mix for etching, be sure you COMPLETELY rinse it off with running water, then dry COMPLETELY, before applying the acetone. If you don't, you can accidentally end up with acetone peroxide, which is EXPLOSIVE!

NEVER allow acetone to mix with hydrochloric acid and hydrogen peroxide!

AhmedA27 (author)2016-10-14

So you print on a a newsstand paper.
But the ink on the newsstands will not transfer also when you apply heat ?

MarcinKnd made it! (author)2016-10-13

Thanks for advice with transfer temp. This is first time when I have that Good efect.

TimothyR45 (author)2016-10-04

The usual commercial process for etching the copper on printed wiring boards (as they are properly called, since there are no circuits until the components are soldered on) is an alkaline ammonia with chloride solution.

sbkenn (author)TimothyR452016-10-09

You can etch capacitors, inductors, antennae and resistors, so not true.

KISELIN (author)sbkenn2016-10-09

WHAT?? Go and pick up Your Nobel-price, because if You invented the production of caps, inds, antennas, res, by simply print them on a copper-laminated fiber-glass board... You'll be a bllion-zillion-quad-zillionarer

Suraj Bhawal (author)KISELIN2016-10-10

Not sure about capacitors or resistors, but inductors and antennae can be printed directly on the PCB and they're quite common.

KISELIN (author)Suraj Bhawal2016-10-10

Suraj, OK You’r right about making them antennas and resistors right printed on the PCB.
BUT, keep in mind the ”wery…wery…” complicated calculatioin formula when doin’g that.
Antenna: (there’s a ton of litterature on that subject), act’s as a transmitter or as a receiver or them both at the same time. In all cases You have a net of capacitance + resistanse that creats inductance. This can be measured either, (or many), as a differential behaveior of electrons flow from source to drain. You can make this antenna on a PCB if you follow the next: the thicknes of your copper layer (including the concideration of the purity of the copper, it can wary some of 29% to99%), x the depth of You’r copperlayer, ( it warys ??/ ounches) x the lenght of your trace, (mils, or thou’s), Calculate THAT at first, and you get some resistance. And then calculate the capacitance of the same. And then calculate the total impedance. And then evaluate a formula of it all. Excel could do that for you if you tell it the right formula.
Good luck

Jake Maverick (author)2016-10-04

All useful to know, thanks! But it is beyond the means of us mere mortals who they really have the need to make something like this....I would have thought there would be a business somewhere by now where you can send a design and they'll post it back to you for reasonably cheap price?

What I really been looking into at the moment is a circuit board for a breathing/ fade up/ fade down LED or LEDs, but tiny as possible as well running off 3 volts....I'm just posting here in case anybody knows how I can just order one?

But this is awesome work, thanks for posting!

dmwatkins (author)Jake Maverick2016-10-04

OSH Park has decent prices for getting a single PCB made. But etching your own really is for mere mortals :)

Jake Maverick (author)dmwatkins2016-10-04

thanks! i just dnt have easy access to a laser printer though and it's those chemicals as well....dunno on cost but very ltd space and dog and small kids charging about, recipe for disaster- i know it's doable at a push but for my needs i think it also be lot cheaper to get somebody else to do it ;-)

OSH sounds good...but i dnt think i need a 2 layer board...+ I'm UK also.... so gotta keep looking! ;-)

rduarte15 (author)Jake Maverick2016-10-04

There is no way it will be cheaper to have someone else do it. The alternative to ferric chloride is really inexpensive: Muriatic Acid can be had at Home Depot (or local DIY shop) and Hydrogen Peroxide is <$1 at any grocery store. Magazines/catalogs are free and when I used to use this method back in grad school, I just found the cheapest laser printer on craigslist and bought it just for this purpose (I think it was $10). OSH Park is great, but if it's for a single 1-sided board, it's much better to at least take a stab at doing it yourself.

rduarte15 (author)rduarte152016-10-04

Or skip the laser printing altogether and just draw the traces on the PCB blank with an industrial Sharpie or nail polish before etching!

KISELIN (author)rduarte152016-10-09

I've made dozen's of print's of PCB layoutfilms with a inkjet-printer on to them suitable "ower-head transparent film", thus needed to use double or ewen triple of them on each-other to confirm the result of "no" exposure to UV-light.

Then "GOD" , (or some Japanese company like Canon), invented the Laser-printer, (huge $$$$$$$$$$ then), still, had to buy the print's from them who had of these $$ machines. Still, had to make them layoutprint's at least double. Today having a DELL, (no advertaising here), Colourprinter bought to a price under 100,- Euros.

I really.... (can't find that word in english right now...?) recommend eweryone to try to make their own PCB's at least once as in the instr. here above

Jake Maverick (author)rduarte152016-10-06

laser printers still very pricey this sound of the pond though! u can get plenty cheap enough that aren't working, probably cuz they run out of toner...but it's the toner that is real pricey! i do actually need a colour one for aa different project, but there u go. and Hydrogen peroxide? dnt the PTB try to fit u up as some kind of freedom fighter/ terrorist if u try and buy that stuff now....? :-( i think i need to learn more about how to build custom circuits before spending any money for sure....

KISELIN (author)Jake Maverick2016-10-04

Newer.. ewer.. let Your dog's or You'r wifes "ewen come close" to your project, (No affence to the female side af a human, but we MEN are "just" men... please you women, have a little understanding with us)

CristianD1 (author)KISELIN2016-10-08

No need to offend every woman, maybe your wife is stupid.

KISELIN (author)CristianD12016-10-08

I "really" "really" don't mean to offend women, they are the most God blessed on earth, (actually the children are more..)

theboz1419 (author)dmwatkins2016-10-04

I 2nd OSH Park awesome customer service. They will often times upgrade you if they have room on their super swift service. I buy from them on a monthly basis and never had an issue, in about 3 years buying from them

RichardB30 (author)theboz14192016-10-06

OSH - great service and quality boards. It makes no sense to me to not use them. $23.30 got me 3 of my prototype boards in less than a week (they pushed up my order in priority to get a full panel). Small features a little fuzzy but still very usable for small surface mount parts.

theboz1419 (author)RichardB302016-10-06

I make a K-thermocouple board for a Bbq controller and 3 of my boards cost $7.50 that includes shipping. They are smd parts and I have had no problems. It cost alot more if I were to make them at home. Of course, I do sale them for $30 each populated.

KISELIN (author)theboz14192016-10-04

I've hear & read about this service, (sure it's a good service), but anyway,

I place my PCB-'s order's to i-Tead in china, (no, just a comment of my use)

You do not tell us where you are but in Germany we have services for this and I am sure you will find them in the USA as well and I have seen ads from people in the UK. An Internet search should find a service near you. On a broader scale, I have seen offers of such service from China which might be slow to deliver unless you order high cost shipping. ebay carries at least one listing for this but I suspect serious effort will find you more. You must supply the design in some standard format as produced by common and often free (for small PCBs and non-commercial applications) software. The company in China sells at quite moderate prices and the other suppliers I have looked at sell at acceptable prices with some valuable options like plated-through holes and gold plating where you need these features (you can do them at home but they are much harder than just etching a PCB). On account of a certain amount of risk of an unexpected risk of a mistake, DIY solutions do go faster if you can master them. Design it today and etch it tomorrow morning and stuff it in the afternoon". If you depend on USPS I doubt you can equal that timing with a commercial supplier.

KISELIN (author)Usually Baffled2016-10-09

What are You crying of? Not this, Not that, Not fast delievery, Too expencive….
OK. YOU have an IDEA that should be made & delievered to YOUR homestep within 48hour’s.

Usually Baffled (author)KISELIN2016-10-09

To KISELIN explicitly;

I am baffled again; I am not complaining about anything. One previous comment was from someone who wished to be able to order a PCB and I was offering help to that person and any others who thought ordering made more sense than the effort and chemical problems of a "do it yourself" method. That is a reasonable choice in various kinds of situations, for instance, a lack of total time so pay rather than devote a few hours to the production and clean-up of a DIY job. Also, there are situations in which quality of the DIY method is a bit inadequate, such as very accurate traces for microwave jobs or very closely placed traces when using tiny SMD components. As an example, I consider a commercial supplier because I plan a job at 20 GHz where some gold-plated pads are needed for wire-bonded parts. The investment in DIY makes no sense although I am making my own PCBs when no gold is demanded, including with SMD parts. It is a matter of choosing the optimum solution for the specific circumstances plus trying to help others achieve their choice of solution.

KISELIN (author)Usually Baffled2016-10-09

I'm "really" sorry didn't meant to offend, (my, what is that word in English when I'm ..?? sorry) .Me too wanna help them DIY's making their own PCB's, without them stumblings I've made.

yeah I'm UK- did have a good hunt around couple of years back but could not find anyone. on ebay there are sellers from china that will sell exactly what i need for 99p....but that's for a 12volt supply and i need them to run off 3 volts....and i dnt know enough about electronics to change that....although i suspect the circuit board itself would do the job....just be a case of tinkering with the components...but i just dnt know enough! :-( they never taught me anything useful at school- i'm just self taught basically on what i do know! but i just looked on ebay again and there is somebody in the uk now who does do custom i've dropped them a line, see what they say...cheerZ!

KISELIN (author)Jake Maverick2016-10-05

Go to them "Arduino" page & sign in. There's at least a couple of them "heart & breath" solutions

Jake Maverick (author)KISELIN2016-10-06

i have looked at arduino before but quite expensive for all the bits and i need a very tiny board to do this's for a resin sculpture...other projects in mind, but not a lot of space to where i can mount the board.....and with the cost of arduino it's just not worth it anyway, thanks

KISELIN (author)Jake Maverick2016-10-09

There’s a flexible copperlayer to be etched on, I bought some, ( can’t find a link to it right now), anyway, it’s about a fraction of a mm, (millimeter) to thicknes, & flexible

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