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Toner transfer no-soak, high-quality, double sided PCBs at home

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Warning: There are hot surfaces, chemicals and possibly ill advised actions like you would expect in many Instructables here. You will also be running tape and un-approved paper through a laser printer. There is a very real danger of messing up your printer. If you do wreck a printer please comment so we can all learn a valuable lesson.

There are some good Instructables on using toner transfer, but after doing my own for a while I have some refinements on the process that I want to share. You should be able to create high-quality, well aligned double sided boards every time.

If you are just dealing with a basic board for 0.1" pitch through hole components this is probably overkill. A good instructable for those kinds of boards this one by pinomelean.

I have made excellent boards with 8 mill pads and 12 mill clearances.

There are a few secrets. 1. a laser printer. 2. a hot laminator. 3. (The big  secret) Parchment cooking paper. 4. Careful and diligent cleaning of the board.

If you follow my directions to the letter you can get great results.
 
 
 
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Step 1: Gather supplies and materials

Picture of Gather supplies and materials
Ecthing supplies 1.JPG
wire eater.jpg
Tools
  • Laminator. Digikey part number 182-1031-ND. $114 at time of writing.
    • MCUman says "Harbor Freight sells a 9" laminator for 30 bucks. I've had mine for a couple of years now, I use it often, and it works GREAT! Item number 92499."
  • Laser printer. Mine is an HP LaserJet P1102w.
    • dasclown says a Dell 5100 cn laserjet did not work.
    • If you know of one that does/does not work, comment please.
  • Scissors
  • Scotch Bright sponge
  • etching "tank"
  • Leather gloves for handling the hot board (or a towel, or your shirt. It's not that hot.)
  • Multi-meter
  • Sewing needles
  • Alligator clip wires
  • Drill press or dremel and tiny drill bits needed for your design. Harbor Freight sells a cheap multi pack of tiny bits.
Supplies
  • Glass cook top cleaner
  • Acetone
  • Tarn-X tarnish remover
  • Parchment paper from the grocery store
  • heavy duty zip top bags
  • Kapton tape (1/4" is best) - no substitutions!
  • 1/2oz x 1/16th" copper board
  • Stranded copper wire. Something with fairly thin strands. Jumper wires the cat chewed in half work good. (See photo 3)
Recommended Etching Supplies
  • Rubber gloves
  • Muratic Acid (or Acid Magic from Ace Hardware)
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • glass measuring vessel
  • plastic/wood utensils
  • ecthing "tank" - Pyrex dish
  • rinsing tank
dasclown1 year ago
Nice instructable. I'm always looking for a better way for toner transfer. I've had little success with other methods.
One question though. I have the same parchment paper you are using and I am using a dell 5100 cn laserjet. I run the paper through and it seems none of the toner will stick to the parchment. I have to run a couple sheets of paper through to get the toner cleaned up from the roller.

Any Ideas? I'll probably need to hunt down a different printer to try it on.
I have been looking at my laser printer which is a Dell 1320cn, I didn't have any parchment at home but tried with greaseproof paper I found out a couple of things, Dell supply toner which has a lower melting point than conventional cheaper toners. There is a setting in the printer for non Dell toners which increases the temperature of the fuser it is also possible to select toner temperature increase or decrease on a paper type basis. Putting plain paper and parchment through together may just make you fuser to cool to melt the toner to the paper. I hope this is of help, when I have bought some parchment I will experiment a bit more.
dustinandrews (author)  dasclown1 year ago
I also added your printer info to the gather supplies step. Thanks for the report. I love it when the internet makes us collectively smarter.
dustinandrews (author)  dasclown1 year ago
I suspect it is just the printer. Please consider trying some others out and letting us know what you find.
Ok so im back once again - lol !

Just wanted to say a great many thanks once again for this instructable, i now cannot live without parchment paper for all my homebrew PCB needs - AND NO SOAKING ANYMORE !!!! !!!! !!!!

Just made an SMD version of a Through-Hole PCB i made a good while back (a Low-Battery-Indicator!) where i had traces of about 1.2mm thick ( about 47 mils ) but in the SMD PCB i had made only a few traces as thin as 0.5mm Thick for testing ( about 19.6 mils !!! ) - Very Cool !

NO-WAY would i had been able to do that with the rough handling of the soak method rubbing the paper off of the board etc but i have had my 1st ATMEGA328P-AU SMD Microcontroller through today, a 32-Pin TQFP Package, so will be making another PCB with all thin traces just to see how far i can go !

Here's a few photo's !

& Once again thanks for a GREAT instrucable !!!
Low Battery Indicator 002.JPGLow Battery Indicator 006.JPGLow Battery Indicator 008.JPGLow Battery Indicator 009.JPG
dustinandrews (author)  offtherails20101 year ago
I've done chips as small as TSSOP successfully. Love to see your board with the TQFN.
NinjaCrow1 year ago
It is quite possible that I am the only one who finds it amusing that the Parchment paper states on the box "& More" and this clearly falls into the "& More " category. Arguably the best category EVER!

I've been putting off quite a few projects that need etching because I could never find a good medium for toner transfer that wasn't unnecessarily expensive. So I'll definitely be giving this a try and hope it gives my projects the kick in the pants they so desperately require :)
MCUman1 year ago
Harbor Freight sells a 9" laminator for 30 bucks. I've had mine for a couple of years now, I use it often, and it works GREAT! Item number 92499.

This is a very well done Instructable. Kudos for the insight to use a laminator vs the standard iron. Well Done!
dustinandrews (author)  MCUman1 year ago
Excellent information! I'll add it to the Instructable.
rocketman221 made it!1 month ago

I just make my first board today using this method. It came out pretty good. I used 24 mil traces, but it would have probably worked fine with 10 mil traces.

I used a brother hl-2140 printer with a merax toner cartridge and a 4" gbc laminator.
I just cleaned the board with alcohol and steel wool, the toner stuck on just fine.

pcb2.jpgpcb1.jpg
rocketman2212 months ago

I tried this with a brother dcp-7065 and it will not print on the parchment. Most of the toner ended up on the fusor roller and took it me 20 minutes to clean it all off.

I also tried my brother hl-2140, which it printed good and transfered to the pcb on the first pass in the laminator. I am almost out of toner on the hl-2140 so it was too light. I will try this again when I get more toner. I am using generic toner, I hear that brother toner does not transfer well.

veeDubbah1 year ago
I have the same printer and the same parchment paper as you. I am using the laminator that MCUman suggested and when I am done running it through the laminator all the traces look cracked. A bit like dried salt deserts. Any suggestions on how I can get all the toner to transfer?
dustinandrews (author)  veeDubbah1 year ago
90% of the time when i get a poor transfer it's due to not doing a good job of cleaning the board first. It's got to be super-duper clean. The other 10% of the time my laminator hadn't had time to get hot enough. Make sure to pre-heat it for at least 20 min.

I have been looking at various Instructables for PCB production as I am about to make some boards for several projects upon which I have been working. Here is a method where you can eliminate the pre-heating of the laminator. If you slow the roller in effect you are warming the roller thus getting a better transfer of the artwork. Here is a link for modifying the laminator. The project uses PIC chips however, if you use Arduino the control circuit is easy enough to modify to accept Arduino chips. Hope this helps. http://www.instructables.com/id/Modified-laminator-for-PCB-Toner-transfer/

mbeeby7 months ago
I've not tried parchment paper but I use the same kind of methodology but with self adhesive vinyl. Once cool, this peels off cleanly with 100% toner release. offtherails also uses vinyl now, after we discussed all manner of improvements during experimentation, so I can only assume it gives better results than parchment for toner transfer. I'm now moving on to photoresist as it gives muxh finer and consistent results, cutting production times drastically, although I still use laminator methods for applying photoresist dry film, dry film soldermask and silkscreen. I also tin boards and convery final tonet silkscreen to white. The finished boards (so far using toner transfer not UV photoresist) are virtually indistinguishable from ones from a fab house.
pmcquain8 months ago
I noticed a new crop of ~$100 monochrome laser printers from HP, Brother, Cannon, and Samsung at WalMart last weekend. Has anyone had any experience with these?
pmcquain1 year ago
Regarding giving the parchment paper a spritz of isopropyl, do you let it dry before trying to print, or run it through freshly spritzed?
Really cool. I used to use the toner transfer method, but ended up switching to the photo resist method. Gets excellent quality, and the stencil can be reused. This is the first time I have seen parchment paper used for toner transfer, so Ill definitely give it a shot. Thanks for the instructable.
I have tried different kinds of parchment paper, also backing papers from different kinds of self-adhesive materials, and all of those failed, as printer is unable to apply toner to them good enough. Printing comes out of printer already smeared-off, with dark trail of a toner on the remainder of a sheet.
dustinandrews (author)  foxxtrotalpha1 year ago
Thanks! My experiments with photoresist have gone poorly. I had an absolutely gorgeous looking board on one side but the other side was over developed. When etched it, random bits of the photoresist just floated off! I was using Muratic Acid + Hydrogen Peroxide. I also need a better exposure light and to dial in the timing better.
barthie1 year ago
great instructable! i have the same parchment paper. my printer is an hp laserjet 1022n. i tried printing using paper types of plain, transparency and vellum with print qualities of prores 1200 and 600 dpi. they all came out smeared. has anyone had success with this printer?
terramir1 year ago
Tried this method with my brother hl-5240 (mind you I have a generic cartridge so it works with photo paper but somehow I can't get the prints to come out right with the parchment paper go figure :S
what printer do you use? that actually works?
terramir
dustinandrews (author)  terramir1 year ago
Mine is an HP LaserJet P1102w. HP CP1025nw is known to work on "transparency setting". Other laser printers are said to work but I don't have model numbers.
pmcquain1 year ago
What's the purpose of the TarnX step if its already been cleaned well with the stovetop cleaner?
dustinandrews (author)  pmcquain1 year ago
I found the toner to adhere better when I did this step than when I didn't.
brycetron1 year ago
Parchment paper with Samsung ML-1740 has issues (toner not sticking to parchment paper). The manual states that you can open the door in the back to provide a straight paper path. This may work, if the parchment paper is taped to another piece of paper.

I will give this a try!

Currently I am trying to use laser transparencies (with some success), main problem being to much heat/pressure applied and transparency sticking :-( I've already hacked my laminator, so I think I just need to mess around with temp/timings.

P.S.
Great instuctable!
dustinandrews (author)  brycetron1 year ago
Have you tried cleaning the parchment paper with denatured alcohol first? If you are doing transparencies, have you tried photoresist?
Just today I am trying a new brand of parchment with mixed results. I think the laminator wasn't hot enough.
ollopa1 year ago
FUUUUUU!U!UU!!!!!!!

I need a cat for this!
Tur0k1 year ago
Printer comment:

I have an HP CP1025nw color laser printer. It smeared my board layouts pretty badly on default settings, but taping the parchment down well and using "transparency printing" settings gives great results.
dustinandrews (author)  Tur0k1 year ago
Excellent information. Thank you very much for sharing.
I put soldering flux on the board and use tin with clothes iron on top of the PCB after etching, but before drilling. The board is completely thinned.
You can see the process here and the next photos:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/24143380@N08/7448711054/in/photostream
dustinandrews (author)  AlexHenrique1 year ago
Consider taking some photos and make an Instructable. :)
I would also like to know what process of tinning you are talking of... it sounds rather interesting!
What sort of tin?
You mean tinned, right? Can you elaborate?
Instead of the isopropyl alcohol, has anyone used denatured alcohol? I use that to clean copper all the time but want to also use it on the parchment paper. Anyone? Thanks!
shazan-11 year ago
great way
i made pcb with the soaking and is pain in the a*s

there is out the a way to make it with inkjet printer?!
vary nice
Thanks Joey. Let me know if you try it out.
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