Instructables

Modified laminator for PCB Toner transfer

Picture of Modified laminator for PCB Toner transfer
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If you use the toner transfer method for your PCB, this hack is for you.

Toner transfer is my favorite method for rapid PCB prototyping down to 10 mil traces. The basic steps are already described thoroughly, you can find some good tutorials on the net :

  1. Laser print the drawings on an appropriate paper (inkjet printing on a very glossy paper then spraying toner powder on wet traces and dusting off excess toner is a method I’ve tested with success too, very convenient since it works with any home inkjet)
  2. Iron the paper on PCB’s copper faces
  3. Soak in water to remove the paper
  4. Etch

Step 2 may be very frustrating using an iron. I’ve tried it many times but even with clever tricks like toner transfer with dowel , my success rate is rather low.  With a laminator, results are much much more reproducible but you have to laminate the PCB several times to fuse the toner solidly on the copper, « several » meaning « until you’re sick and tired » (15 to 20 passes).


 
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Step 1: Principle

Picture of Principle
So I decided to hack the laminator by slowing down its rolls’ motor using a triac controller. Instead of laminating the PCB in 10, even 20 passes, the motor is switched on 1/2 second then off 10 seconds (off-times of 3s  & 6 s can also be selected). That’s about the right amount of heat for the toner to fuse and stick to the copper. So you can feed once and attend to something else until the transfer is finished, the result will be consistent and perfect.

This method gives great results; thank you for this excellent Instructable. I am using the Harbor Freight laminator (part number 92499). I accomplished the pulsed power to the motor with an Arduino and a mechanical relay instead of a PIC and a triac.  I got the Arduino and the relay from Vetco Electronics in Bellevue, WA.

Did you do a thermostat mod to it to make the temperature higher?

dvo411 months ago
Thanks so much for this! I can't say enough how awesome this works me. I made a small pcb to fit inside the Harbor Freight laminator. I'm on 120v 60Hz for those wondering if it works or not. Finally, successful pcb and top silkscreen EVERY time now!!!!
HarveyH442 years ago
I usually only pass my boards through twice, different model though. Worked great from the start, no modifications needed.

Look for a laminator, that will handle thick pouches. Use thinner PCB material. Unless you are doing some high power boards, with large, heavy parts, you really don't need the thick stuff. You'll most likely find a case for you project eventually.

Another bonus point with thin board, it's easier to cut (paper cutter), and drill.
hobby16 (author)  HarveyH442 years ago
@Harvey,
You must have a higher temperature laminator.
I initially tried the temperature hack (shorcut the internal thermostat and use an external regulator for testing) but since the machine started to smell bad, I didn't try further.
Where do you buy thin PCB ?
http://www.goldmine-elec-products.com/products.asp?dept=1034 - their scissor-cut copper clad is very thin, no thicker than photo paper.
dvo41 year ago
Anyone have the schematic and hex file for this project? Really like to built it but download aren't available anymore
hobby16 (author)  dvo41 year ago
@dvo4
Problem with the provider htaccess file, fixed now. Links are ok again.
Hello Hobby16:
I am very interested in your laminator project PCB , I think it's great!
I have a laminator (Chinese) cheaper than buy, bring two rolls with resistance, the motor and the control- board.
By removing the original control- card, left the resistance (wires 4),
motor (wires 2) and AC- cord (wires 2). No internal thermostat!!!.

My question is: how to connect the cables of all these parts to your control board?, Excuse me, but you make connections to the control circuit in the tutorial are not very clear to me. Please, I need a more clear schematic.
My e-mali: jepalacios44@yahoo.com. Thanks,
JAIME
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