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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.
Follow @dustin1970

UPDATE:

Sad because this won't work with your Brother brand printer? fmarquis to the rescue with a PCB's flamethrower style Instructable.

UPDATE #2:

mosaicmerc:
Some brands of Parchment must be cleaned with 99% isopropyl alcohol for the toner to stick when printing. My HP1102W needs this or else the toner flakes.

 
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dasclown2 years 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)  dasclown2 years 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)  dasclown2 years 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)  offtherails20102 years ago
I've done chips as small as TSSOP successfully. Love to see your board with the TQFN.
NinjaCrow2 years 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 :)
MCUman2 years 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)  MCUman2 years ago
Excellent information! I'll add it to the Instructable.

I've been having good results using those magazine/booklet things you can get from the car dealership. like the ones advertising new model vehicles. granted you can't see through them like the parchment paper, but the toner seems to adhere to it "just right" for me. the only thing i'm having to look out for is anything that may of been scraped off when the toner was fresh while the printer seems to want to just throw it into the tray while raking it across something as it comes out.

ls12446782 years ago
Did the toner transfer to the board completely? I use Pulsar Toner transfer paper and it works great but cost about $1.50 per page. Success rate close to 100%. I am very happy with it except for double side. I have to use pin to line up the board and have to etch the board 1 side at a time. If this work it will be great for 2 sider.

Also please look into Pulsar's Green TRF. That is the stuff that bonds to the toner after it transferred to the copper and it really cover the toner pit. And the board look great after etch.

Some brands of Parchment must be cleaned with 99% isopropyl alcohol for the toner to stick when printing. My HP1102W needs this or else the toner flakes. I have done a Single Pass Toner transfer mod for the Apache AL13P laminator with the temp set @ 300F. Works for 1/16", 1/32" and scissors cut material. 10 mil features. Have a look at the kit..

http://www.clubjameco.com/index.php/projects/project_brief/24/21353/laminator_mod-_pcb_toner_transfer_from_parchment

dustinandrews (author)  ls12446782 years ago
I always get great transfer, you can tell because nothing is left on the paper. My printer just "cheats" with bigger areas of black. It looks good on paper but you can see when you hold it up to the light.

I've had bad luck with the green TRF on these detailed boards. It fills in the small pads on the TSOP (FTDI) and some even on the TQFP (Atmega368) footprints. I'm getting outstanding results without it. Filling in the big pads with a marker is a lot less hassle than running the TRF through the laminator as well.
I got to try it this weekend. I always have success with green TRF. I don't do it as it directed. I put a piece of paper on top and use an iron first. Then run it thru the laminator for 2 or 3 more time. I never try FTDI or TQFP. It is too easy to screw up. I did a lot of SOIC with great success. I guess when it get down to that small the TRF just too coarse. I don't much 2 sides because of the hassle of lining it up after 1 side. I end up make the board a lot bigger and use a lot of jumper. Thanks for this big discovery. If I can repeat you feast then I can graduate to double sides.
dustinandrews (author)  ls12446782 years ago
I also experimented with the blue paper. It worked pretty well, but it was much harder to register double sided designs. Consistent cleaning seems to be the key to getting good adhesion with either kind of paper. If you scrub well, rinse, Tarn-X, rinse and finally dry the toner seems to stick well every time.
Jan_Henrik1 month ago

whoa, nice techniqe!

I have tried this method using siliconized parchment paper or the backing paper. from Avery labels. In both cases printout looks good and transfer is excellent

However, the toner traces on copper are full of small holes. The translucency of parchment paper allows to add a second layer of toner, but the alignment precision is gone while toner holes.persist

I am using OKI B410d printer and the laminator is set to 150-160 Celsius, slow speed. What am I doing wrong?

jbattat3 months ago

For reference, I have used this AmazonBasics Thermal laminator from amazon ($22 at the time of writing). I was able to send through 1/16" thick PCB, no problem.

http://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-PL9-US-Thermal-...

I did have trouble getting the toner to stick onto the parchment paper though. So although the toner transfer doesn't look great (first image below), all of the toner that was on the parchment paper did actually make it onto the pcb. You can see that the toner was spotty though, and I spent a lot of time filling in the gaps with a black sharpie (extra fine point). First photo below shows raw toner transfer for right half of image and sharpie-augmented on the left half. You'll notice that there are some errant sharpie marks in the photo. I simply scraped those away with fine-pointed tweezers.

The etch went well (~5 minutes in ferric chloride), and the board has passed continuity testing (holes not yet drilled).

preEtch.JPGpostEtch.JPG
jbattat made it!3 months ago

For reference, I have used this AmazonBasics Thermal laminator from amazon ($22 at the time of writing). I was able to send through 1/16" thick PCB, no problem.

http://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-PL9-US-Thermal-...

I did have trouble getting the toner to stick onto the parchment paper though. So although the toner transfer doesn't look great (below), all of the toner that was on the parchment paper did actually make it onto the pcb. You can see that the toner was spotty though, and I spent a lot of time filling in the gaps with a black sharpie (extra fine point). I found it useful to scrape away some errant sharpie marks with fine-pointed tweezers.

The etch went well (~5 minutes in ferric chloride), and the board has passed continuity testing (holes not yet drilled).

preEtch.JPGpostEtch.JPG
jbattat3 months ago

For reference, I have used this AmazonBasics Thermal laminator from amazon ($22 at the time of writing). I was able to send through 1/16" thick PCB, no problem.

http://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-PL9-US-Thermal-Laminator/dp/B00BUI5QWS/ref=cm_cd_ql_qh_dp_t

rocketman2219 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.

Yes rocket, i have DCP 7065DN too , same happening here but not always. there has to be way out. im disappointed :(

That printer refuses to print on anything with a glossy surface. It would probably work with dextrin based transfer paper though.

sottinger5 months ago

I have an hp 4100 which is very similar to the hp 5100, they use the same actual toner in them. The biggest problem I had found was there is a difference between Parchment and Wax paper. Wax paper the toner would not stick to the one side. Parchment it stuck to fine. I did not know this. Also the Harbor Freight lamination works pretty well. I have not done a start to finish with the lamination and this printer, however it looks like it will work with HP 4100, 4000, 5000, and the 5100. I used to have a 5100 and filled my own toner cartridges, and they said the toner was the same. Hope this helps.

LeumasYrrep made it!6 months ago

Thanks for the great Instructable! I tried the toner transfer method a day ago with glossy paper and it was not fun. But today I tried this method and it was super easy and quick.

I did have one issue. It seems that my parchment paper is not smooth and caused my etching to have missing lines. As a side note has anyone tried to use vellum paper?

2014-05-29 21.12.18.jpg
JSuparman7 months ago

@guerroloco: thanks for the clear explanation. Someday I will try this.

rocketman221 made it!9 months 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
veeDubbah2 years 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/

mbeeby1 year 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.
pmcquain1 year 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)  foxxtrotalpha2 years 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?
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