PCB Agitator From an Old CD ROM





Introduction: PCB Agitator From an Old CD ROM

PCB making it's a really exciting thing, but when you need to etch, it will be boring if you use ferric chloride (in average it takes 20-30 minutes to be ready). During this time you need to agitate it to speed up the process a bit, but you also need to take care that the ferric chloride didn't spill out.

In this instructable I will present how to build an automatic agitator from an old CD ROM drive quite simply and low cost.

Step 1: The Old CD ROM Disassembly

First, you need an old CD ROM drive which you need to disassemble carefully, not to break anything.

Step 2: Assembling the Controller Board

You need some basic electronic components and an IC:

7x 4.7 kiloohm resistor
4x BC337 transistor or other similar
2x 100 nanofarad capacitor
1x 2 way pin header and socket
1x 3 way pin header and socket
1x 2 pin terminal block (PCB mountable)
1x small size (6x5cm) prototyping board
1x 4017 decade counter IC
1x socket for the IC
Some wires

Note: put the IC in the IC socket to avoid damaging by thermal shocks.


When the device is turned on, the IC Q0 output will be active, and the motor starts to spin to a direction. If the limit switch is pressed by the tray, the IC receives a pulse on its CLK pin and the Q1 output will be activated. The motor changes its direction and it keep this direction until the tray reaches the other limit switch. This switch sends a reset pulse to the IC and the Q0 output will be activated again and the motor changes its turning direction again. This cycle is repeated until the agitator is turned on.

Step 3: First Power Up

To power up the device you need a power supply. I used a wall adapter for this purpose. This has two advantages: it’s really cheap and you can change the voltage easily.
With the voltage changer switch you can control the agitation speed.
Before connecting the power supply to your controller board check the polarity twice.
Set the voltage to 3V and plug in the wall adapter. If your agitator seems to be stuck, reverse the motor polarity and move the tray a bit by hand.
If the problem persists, you should check the connections between the components again.

The test video:



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    1 reply

    Sorry for the delayed reply.

    You have to mount the limit switches at the end positions of the tray.
    I can not show you on the picture, because may vary what kind of CD drive are you using.

    Can you show me a picture of your CD drive?

    Simple and clever project!
    Thank You for sharing!

    Okay, I misread it I thought it said "alligator".


    Pls could you tell me why you have R1 and R2 in parrallel on the clock input ?
    I have built this and struggling to get it working

    Thanks Iain

    1 reply

    I wrote this instructable almost two years ago, and I don't remember the exact cause of the two parallel resistors. I checked my project, and the schematic is the same as the circuit, that I built. It should work.
    Two suggestions: check your IC datasheet for pin out, and try to put a big(at least 1000uF) filter capacitor on power input.
    If you have any questions, please ask me.

    Thank you!

    I tried to present something useful and easy to build.

    Maybe mzsolt is same person that Mike Nathan. Otherwise, that is plagiary!

    No, I'm not the same person with Mike Nathan, my real name is Molnár Zsolt: "Instructables user [mzsolt] ...".

    So, sorry. The dates (your response to kill-a-watt) clarify the issue...

    Never mind. It was only a misunderstanding.

    mzsolt created the instructable on July 16th

    Mike Nathan covered mzsolt's instructable in a post, saying it was a neat project. That's like the 2011 version of being slashdotted circa 1997.

    I clicked on the link in the blog story over at hack-a-day and came here.

    When  I said that he "made hackaday", I meant that he "was featured on the front page of hack-a-day".

    So sorry for the misunderstanding.

    So sorry, I didn't speak English as a native language, and I didn't knew this meaning of this word.

    I didn't made Hack-a-day. Just check the publication date of my instructable. It's July 16th and the Hack-a-day article was published on July 17th.

    Hi try to make an PCB agitator out of an old CD ROM diive,but couldn't make it work,the tray would come out but not go back in again,try anorther CD ROM diive same thing happen, must to do with the switches or is the circuit right ?maybe it's a race between the cp0 and the reset,any thoughts please.

    1 reply

    Hi! You have a bidirectional limit switch or two normal limit switches? You can try to reverse the motor polarity. If it doesn't work, try the H-bridge without the IC.

    Nice! And very ecologically responsible. I got to build me one of these!

    If I could add a bubble etch system to this and a temperature control and heater system, it would etch even faster!

    Where are my crayons so that I can get to designin'?

    Inspired, my friend, truly inspired!