Instructables
Picture of New Life for Old Printed Circuit Boards.
This intro tells why I did this. If you don't want to be bored by my story please skip to step 1

Hello, my name is Nic. I'm in grade 10 and I have an interest in electronics. But I have a lot of restrictions. I live in Canada in a town where there is no electronics shop other than "The Source" (Radioshack was bought out by The Source) which sells overpriced components that aren't the greatest quality, I'm far away from A1 Electronics which is a brilliant store in missisauga. And There is no Electronics course in my high school. But this hasn't stopped me.

I scavenge for parts from broken electronics I find around the house or that are given to me from friends, I am self taught thanks to books I've bought and Make:'s "Make: presents" series. But my biggest problem has been circuit boards,

The source does sell perf board (protoboard, or hole board, same thing) but it has a tendency to burn and it is a bit expensive compared to the A1 perf board, and the source doesn't sell copper clad board or etchin. So I was looking at the piles of PCBs I had acquired from Electronics I had taken apart and I thought "could I make them into my own circuits by taking advantage of the board somehow".

And so I figured out that I could help Reduce E-Waste and solve my circuit board problem at the same time.

 
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Step 1: Gather your Tools

For recycling PCBs you will need

1) An old PCB
2) A soldering Iron
3) A desoldering pump, or desoldering iron
4) Rubbing Alcohol and a rag
5) A Dremel or rotary tool with a sanding disc
6) Some very small drill bits
7) Exacto knives and a utility knife
8) Solder to Tin your iron
9)A continuity tester
10) a Sharpie marker.
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DanielB725 days ago

Nic,

By now, if you pursued your interest in electronics, you are probably in some sort electronics course. But for those that might see your article and be in the same position as you were, a great source for electronics parts and information will always be Amateur radio also known as Ham radio. I am a ham here in the US, and most of the hams I know are either in the electronics industry, or engineers of some sort. In fact our club recently decided that a phone line on our local repeater no longer needed( read that cheaper), so they have decided to build a device to keep control through a radio link.

sirus20x63 years ago
wow do you have a laser printer? the toner method of making pcbs is actually super cheap. like 10 bucks for the acid which will last you years, and a few dollars for a package of a couple blank boards. Very inventive though. I tried to scavenge a lot of things when i was younger, but my parents hated technology and would always through out my stuff
OMG, Same thing here. My stepdad would throw out my so called "junk" that I was messing around with. It was very annoying, but now that I moved to my father's house, I've got an accumulation of boards, and components. I also live in Canada, Also in high school, with no way to obtain protoboards, components, etc. Btw, Very nice :)
I'm sure you meant "and would always throw out my stuff.
You seem to have missed the author's comments about where he lives. In many places in Canada it is very close to impossible to find the supplies you need for electronics, without mail ordering parts from the states. Which would be difficult for a grade 10 student to do
This is not 100% true.

I live in Canada as well - same story as this guy; nothing good nearby.

I order copper clad and toner transfer from: http://www.dipmicro.com

They are located in Canada and shipping is super fast and cheap. Copper clad is insanely cheap! Maybe $3 for an 8x10" board? Depends on the copper weight. I think that's even cheaper than most places in the states, and shipping is fast and cheap.

A1parts is pretty bad. I tend not to order from them, as their website is terrible and their support/prices/shipping rates are awful.

Even if you're in Grade 10, you have parents, right? Ask them to use their credit card to order things for you, and pay them the cash. If a parent won't do that for their kid who wants to learn electronics...well, then they shouldn't be parents.
True enough. I'm not into electronics myself, but I have heard of the "internet", through you could pretty much order the Moon itself if you wanted. Maybe the issue is just that he doesn't have a credit card of his own yet :)
Read the last paragraph of my comment :P Surely he has parents - he could ask 'em to order stuff for him if he pays for it (using their credit card).

Also, Paypal does NOT require you to have a credit card to use it to pay for things. You're supposed to be 18, but there is no birth date verification.

I was ordering things with Paypal from my bank account when I was the same age. Someone crafty enough for electronics should be crafty enough to figure out how to set up a bank account with Paypal for use!

While the original idea is good - the amount of time invested surely is not worth it when copper clad and etching materials are so cheap. If you're smart enough to figure out electronics theory, you deserve more than minimum wage for your efforts, is how I see it :)

I'm fairly sure you're trying to help and not just insisting your way is best? Let's assume you are trying to be helpful.

First, the young man explained quite well why he is resourcing old parts. And stating he "surely has parents"? That my friend is quite a leap to make in this day and age. Many single parents around with not even enough money for food let alone a few bucks for bread boards or copper clad and etching materials. So we don't want to make any assumptions. I know I help out two local families and their kids flip when I let them have scrap wood and an old hammer and nails, string, rope wire etc.

As far as setting up illicit Paypal accounts? Perhaps you are not aware but it isn't just a rule to be 18 to do so, it is the law. And perhaps he is not comfortable breaking the law. Paypal itself can get in huge trouble for allowing minors to set up accounts and make purchases. And so can you as well as anyone selling to you.

But what I see best of all is re-use of old parts! Yes, it is time consuming, but when you have more time than money all the better! And by all means it is worth it! And keeping these used parts out of the trash is the biggest bonus of all! Plus learning to be resourceful is something that will stick with him the rest of his life!

So although you also are resourceful, we tend to not encourage illegal activities as a way to build something, and personally it looks to me like a lot of us older folks are very happy to see the young man re-using old material..
I didn't say "surely he has parents" with the implications that they would buy it FOR him. I was saying if he has money, they can ORDER stuff, and he can pay them cash. That solves the problem of him having no credit card :)

Where does it say that it's against the law for a non minor to use Paypal with their LEGAL bank account? Why do they allow it then and not force an age check like many other 18 year old required internet services? I'm pretty sure it's just a preference on Paypal's part. I wouldn't suggest something that I thought could get someone in serious trouble. If that's truly the case, then don't do it. I still suggested a better method anyways...just find someone with a credit card that cares about you. If they're not willing to spend 30 seconds of their life ordering you a shopping cart you've constructed with your money, then they don't care about you very much.

I think you're taking me the wrong way here. I'm trying to help Dipmicro out - a place that is competing with huge retailers like Digikey, and crappy commercial giants like Radio Shack and The Source. I had no clue they existed until I found them on eBay, so I'm spreading the love to fellow Canadians.

I also really, really discourage buying stuff new. You seem to think I am against scavenging, and that's simply not the case at all. It's actually a HUGE part of my life, as I upcycle completely stripped circuit boards into new products for cash while I'm in school full time.

I have probably close to 400 pounds of scrap electronics in my laboratory. I scavenge stuff like no tomorrow. I haven't bought wire in an eternity, and salvage many many IC's, capacitors and oodles of other components for projects.

But, given the EXTREME DANGER of cutting fiberglass PCB without a respirator (which was done here - he just used a dust mask. Not safe at all!) I would HIGHLY suggest making boards yourself as a safer alternative.

Time isn't really of concern if you're going to die from inhaling fiberglass anyways - I rest my case.
Yeah, I am only going to give a minor reply here as I am in no way looking to argue with you. First and this will be the last time I say it, the author was quite clear about why he was re-using material. Parents with or without a credit card aside.
Second, do not read anything into what I said. I by no means indicated you were for or against scavaging.

You indeed indicated signing up for a Paypal account as a minor. I am not going to look up the rules for you, and I won't get into what Paypal does or does not require. The laws have been in place since I was a minor nearly 30 years ago. And Paypal's rules are quite clearly laid out when you sign up for the account. Unfortunately most people skip reading the fine print.

And finally, As for the safety factor, I said nothing about it, and you already made your point in another post. Repeating it to me is of limited value as is your negative tone.
Two thumbs up!
BadMaxx - if instructables had a "Like" button, I'd have clicked it on your response.
Wow. thanks this site looks pretty darned good. If I'd known about this earlier I'd have made quite a bit more than I have managed so far
Dipmicro is great! I snagged an h-bridge off their ebay page and loved the service I got.

If you're in Canada, Dipmicro should be pretty speedy. If you're willing to wait, check out Sure Electronics (They also have an ebay store), I managed to get 1000 resistors for about $10. LEDs and super cheap too: I bought a 100 pack of bright white LEDs for under $5. Here's a link to their ebay page: http://stores.ebay.ca/sureelectronics

I would really suggest looking at Sureelectronics or Dipmicro before buying any electronic component from The Source, the stuff they sell is garbage and overpriced.
ebay is such a great resource as long as you're willing to wait. you can pretty much type in any component and there will be something for you.
no i didnt miss that part. i order cheap boards from china on ebay for my first few prototypes of a boarr before i move onto the good stuff. how expensive would it be to send a small package to canada? ive heard customs charges for canada are high but i dont know the details
This is what I used to do when I was about the same age - before the internet existed! You seem to do it much better though. One tip I would like to give you from my own recent experience - since you have a dremel or similar, use it with a small milling bit to cut the copper traces - much easier, quicker and safer than doing it with a knife!
Machine2 years ago
I've often saved broken electronics and stripped them for parts. Although most parts don't get used, I haven't had to buy any electronic parts for years.

Printers are good, laser printers are nice as they have heaters, high voltage components, lasers with optics and usually two or three motors.

Cameras are good too as there is a flash tube, high voltage source (2 kv), iris, lens, batteries and a small motor..

Analog TVs are good too for power transistors, coils, transformers, heat sinks, connectors, yoke and plenty of higher voltage caps (40 volts to 400 volts).


Robot Lover2 years ago
I like this! This is a great way to save some money on proto board! A tip for de-soldering components, you can blast the solder side of the pcb with a heat gun and some of the components will just fall out!
Cyborg20043 years ago
Nice tut. But isn't it better to take off the protection on places where you want to solder? This way you prevent your PCB from corroding. Here is a picture of a temporary keyboard I made for my ZX Spectrum.
Spectrum-023.JPG
when you said exacto knives, i got really really excited! i love those things!
I just cut my finger bad with one today. Cant wait til i get to use them again.
TheRafMan3 years ago
Hey Nic,
Just wanted to say you have great ingenuity. There is an old saying that says 'Necessity is the mother of invention' and it definitely applies here. Nicely presented too and I smiled when I saw your nickname (I have a dog that should be called that :) It is also nice to see the amount of offers from everyone, and next time I do a cleanup I will let you know too.

Keep up the good attitude.
electronics and computers have been my one hobby most of my life, and i find the sucker to be more efficient than the braid. especially for the larger stuff, however the braid is best (my opinion) for the smaller stuff like surface mount, small zeners, 1/8 w resisters and the like.
viligeidiot3 years ago
Hey there... I live in toronto (near the Beaches) and you would not BELIEVE the stuff that gets tossed on garbage day!! VCR's, DVD players, old comps, TV's, you name it..... if you can make it down here sometime with your parents, and have a request, I can probably find some things for you. I have a ghetto blaster just gathering dust right now as well as a VCR, post a reply if you're interested....
i want them!!!!!! but live in nc :(
sirus20x63 years ago
Anyone have an answer for my question about the cost of shipping to canada with customs and all the fees? I live in chicago, maybe we can put together a box with a few bucks worth of parts in the name of education for our canadian friend here
WOW! There are a lot of comments. That is a sign that you have touched on a hot topic.

Kudos to your resourcefulness. I have thought about recycling old pcb's the way you are doing but, like mentioned other places here, thought it would be too time consuming. Given your remote location, it might be your best resource. Make sure you take care when you do any electronics work as there are a lot of hazardous substances with which you end up touching. I even wear a tight fitting glove on my left hand when I solder to keep from constantly touching those chemicals. I also use a small extractor fan to keep from breathing in most of the fumes; they are not very expensive for one that is approximately 8" x 8" (12 cm x 12 cm).

Do be careful with the removal of solder mask and copper pads from the pcb's. Dust of any kind finds its way into spaces of which you would never think.

With the web being so much a part of out lives these days, electronics parts suppliers are becoming easier to access and cheaper than you might believe. Once you find a good supplier, make sure you keep the information (bookmark) on how to access them. There are a lot of suppliers out there and some are better than others for one product or another. Some you should avoid for certain products.

Desoldering pump vs solder wick vs applied heat:

I found the desoldering pumps with the extended column to be very effective at desoldering. Do a search for . You still have to be careful with any desoldering method to make sure you do not lift a pad or damage the component.

Applied heat: Somewhere along the way I read of somebody using a hot air gun to melt solder on pcb's and lettting the components fall from the board. I have yet to try this method but it seems like it might be a little less touchy than the small butane torch. Cleanup might be necessary once the components are out.

I really want to state before I get into the sites provided below; I have no affiliation with any of the sites and am not trying to promote them. I have simply come across some good deals with them.

Here are some of the suppliers (and suggested components) I have used in the past in no particular order:

http://www.abra-electronics.com/ - passive components
http://www.digikey.ca/ - quite competitive for many items although sometimes it can take a long time to find what you need at a good price - so remember what you purchased - I have yet to try the lowest price feature.
Digikey Canada is very fast in delivering their in stock orders - very fast (in my experience - to Nova Scotia).
http://www.hvwtech.com/ - good for decently priced mcu's and related modules and a good priced RS232-to-USB converter from Parallax
http://www.solarbotics.com/ - good super low priced Arduino board - the Ardweeny
http://www.robotshop.ca/home.html - they have a wide variety of robotic parts at competitve prices

A search for electronics parts or components Canada should provide you with a number of hits for suppliers in Canada. However, I have not seen some mentioned here before - another good reason to read the comments here.

Here are some sites that I have yet to try but look like they have some very competively priced items:

>Mouser Canada - check out the Texas Instruments 16-bit mcu: MSP-EXP430G2 - $4-5 depending upon the site - FOR A WHOLE DEVELOPMENT BOARD!
>dipmicro - mentioned before in the comments - check out the DIP sockets
>CanaKit - lots of electronics kits
Oh yeah, I forgot to plug our local electronics club. Check out PCEC, the Pictou County Electronics Club:

http://www.pcecconnect.com
CapraRoyale3 years ago
Excellent Instructable man!
I lived on a small island when I was where the only store available was the Shack.
Props to you for being inventive and not letting a lack of accesible resources get in your way.
Keep up the good work!
manuelink643 years ago
great instructable!
i love the looong stories! ;-)

in my country, the electronics components are very(obscene) expensive

thanks for posting yours adventures here!

regards!!

ps. I am a "junkraider"! ;-)
ii_awesum3 years ago
A simple way of getting scrap electronics - just post a want ad in your area on Kijiji and Craigslist asking for junk electronics or specific items. Everyone has something broken that hasn't found it's way to the curb or they just don't know how to dispose of. They'll leave it on their front porch for you to simply pick up. Everyone's happy!

I did that a couple of times looking for printers/scanners/power tools (for the motors & controllers) and filled my pickup twice!! I even netted perfectly good equipment like stereos, laser printers and ink jet printers which I still use daily. Just have a plan as to how to dispose of all the carcasses, cause you just inherited that responsibility.

Someone's junk is another's treasure :)

Mike
freecycle is also amazing. I've got all manner of scanners and printers which provide you with a wealth of stepper motors, cfl lights, and hardened steel rods.
Yep, forgot to mention Freecycle, got a lot of cool stuff including a working Parallax BS-2 powered sumo-bot!
ii_awesum3 years ago
Besides solder wick and vacuum pullers, I also use a propane torch (actually a butane pencil torch style lighter) to remove components. I've had great luck removing IC's this way and about any other components outside of SMD types. Overheating is a concern but you can get good at it with some practice and find your parts bin grow with lots of good stuff.

What you need:
Do this in the garage or somewhere with good ventilation to the outside - a small computer fan blowing across the work will stop toxic fumes from going in your face. Make sure you vent these fumes away and outside!!

A metal vice to hold the board - fix the vice so that it's not going budge as you work components off. Adjust the vice so that you can easily see both sides of the board.

Have suitable tools for grasping components, I use pocket flat blade to pry, IC puller, dental style tools for hooking under odd things etc., and locking forceps (use heat shrink tubing on the gripping tips so as not to damage the more delicate stuff.)

With component firmly in hold or ready to lever out, apply pencil torch to the solder areas, the blue cone of flame should just touch the solder. Move the heat back and forth in a steady motion to evenly heat all the leads that need to be pulled. The solder will melt pretty quick and your component should pull out with little or no effort. Sometimes the leads are bent over and you will have to work it a bit, but go quickly otherwise the part will overheat. You should end up with a 90% or better success rate, and for the more important parts you need to salvage you can always use the wick or pump method.

Don't know where you live but you should plan for a supply trip to Toronto, check out Sayal Electronics (3 locations) www.sayal.com. They have an enormous selection of hobby parts, proto boards etc, and at relatively reasonable prices. Electrosonic no longer has a walk-in order desk and forget Active Components, their stock variety is dwindling like the Source and prices are astronomical by comparason.

Better if you go knowing what you need, sometimes I never get out of Sayal without spending $100 in hard to find goodies for future projects!

Also worth mention and a visit, some surplus shops in Mississauga on Matheson Blvd. just West of Dixie Road, RTC Electronics is one of them.

Have fun!

My experience with all desoldering products

Wick: DAMN IT! WHY WON'T THIS WORK? IT'S LIKE RESISTING THE SOLDER, NOT ABSORBING IT!

Desoldering iron: DAMN IT! THIS DOESN'T GET HOT ENOUGH AND IT DOESN'T PRODUCE ENOUGH SUCTION, WHAT THE HELL THIS THING IS USELESS

Suction Tube Things: DAMN IT THIS THING DOESN'T WORK AT ALL, SCREW THIS I'LL JUST DESOLDER THIS WITH MY SOLDERING IRON BY ROCKING IT BACK AND FORTH UNTIL IT'S OFF.


This is why I have lost all faith in any products that are designed to do such.
@hellstudios - You sound frustrated. Been there, done that! It's all about the technique and tool used for the application.

First of all, desoldering wick is fine if you are removing a toasted part, it requires a LOT of heat to use, and that alone can kill a good component (my experience). I bought 4 tiny rolls of wick in varying widths and they've lasted me 30+ years so there's the amount I use it in my hobbies. Repair people go through much more since they are "replacing" the part and need the solder pad cleaned up for the new one. Wick also helps dissipate/control the heat around the pad and less likely to unbond the copper from the board.

You need a hotter iron if the one you have isn't cutting the mustard. I have a Weller 60W heat regulated soldering station with interchangeable tips and never had a problem unless I'm trying to desolder metal brackets or otherwise have to tackle a huge mass of solder on a heat sink. That's where the micro torch really saves the day.

Suction tubes work fine assuming you get the solder hot enough to puddle and you have the correct suction tool for the job - those little pocket ones aren't the greatest outside of the tiniest parts, get the big blue Weller one with the long pump rod that pops out the top (I have a Soldapullt DS 017). Get spare tips, they will wear fast if you do a lot of salvaging. Technique is also important, you will have better luck if you can position the vacuum where the hole has the largest gap. That will get the most solder pulled up and at often you just need to take a small precision screwdriver to pry the wire lead away. Sometimes it just gets stubborn getting heat all the way thru to the other side of the board, so you have to resolder the darn thing and start over. Hole size matters too, if the lead is in a hole that "just fits", which becomes the case in higher density/multi layer boards, then simply melting solder while pulling the part out is sufficient. If the wire lead has been folded flat, you should puddle the solder and straighten the lead somewhat then let the part cool. That way the next time you go for the "pull", there will be less physical resistance to complicate the task.

Another point to note, most boards are doule sided and holes plated through, which means the wire leads need to get hot enough to melt solder right thru to the opposite side, so just getting the solder to puddle on the bottom doesn't necessarily mean the other side has reached melting temperature. Using an iron with insufficient heat capacity; i.e. a 35W iron might not stay hot enough to do it, and "ripping" the part out will be your best result. Often you will damage it the part this way. Having the right tool for the job is key to getting things done and sparing your sanity. A lot of patience and willingness to try different approaches is also mandatory if you want to succeed and even have fun with it.

Mike
I figured that was the reason for the desoldering wick, However all i can afford right now is a cheap wal-mart soldering iron, The first two things i tried when someone brought their laptop to me to have a power jack replaced, I couldn't properly desolder the jack, so I told him to take the two parts back and buy a new jack board (thankfully his laptop model had the jack seperated from the motherboard)

I made my own method of melting one side, rock it back, then melting the other side, and rocking it forth, And i repeat the process until The component is out, it works great for all things two pronged.


woooo, long comment.
fatcharlie3 years ago
Well done you! Some of the guys are trying to be helpful and suggesting ways you can get new stuff to make your crcuits - which is nice of them to try to help. And i guess that if it were easier for you, and you could afford it, you would probably not have had to be so reourceful. That said, I have to congratulate you on said resourcefulness. It's such a simple idea to just ue the old stuff. Very environmentally friendly as well - I see this in so many of my niece and nephews. Well done and I think we're all looking forward to your next instrutable!
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