Picture of Two sided PCB using toner method
This describes an easy method to make professional looking two-sided printed circuit boards at home.

Step 1: Get ready

Picture of Get ready
This instructable assumes that you know how to generate a layout file using Eagle PCB or similar layout program. I use the toner transfer method of making PCB's (printed circuit boards) much like many others. The basic idea is to use a glossy paper, print the PCB design on the paper using a laser printer, and to use a hot iron to transfer the toner to the copper. I use the glossy paper that they have behind the counter at Kinko's. Go to Kinko's and ask for some sheets of their glossy laser paper, which is really cheap (about 5 cents a sheet). Some people advocate using glossy inkjet photo paper, but I think this is a waste and the cheap glossy laser paper comes off easier.

Anyway, once you have your design and paper, you will need to print the design. The key here is to mirror the top layer so that it will come out correct once transferred to the copper board. It can also help to include alignment marks (the T shaped things in the pic) beyond the edge of your PCB to help you align the two layers. See below.

adamhca6 months ago
Hi Bowtie41,

Print your schematics, go to Photocopy Shop / Copy and Printing Services Shop nearest and you bring your own Inkjet Printer or clean used Calender Paper... Give it to them... Cheap ±$0.05 USD services...
adamhca adamhca6 months ago
*Print your schematics to standard / blank / white or colored paper...
Bowtie416 months ago

I have a inkjet but want to make my own PCBs so I've been looking at used laserjets.I need some info before I buy one please?Are there any known brands of printers and/or toners that WON"T work?Also,does the toner image have to be black ink?I found a nice used Dell 3000cn that was low on black and yellow,but comes with 5 new cyan cartridges!Thank You for any input you can provide!

jmengel (author)  Bowtie416 months ago
My understanding is that it is the "fusing" of the toner to the PCB that is important to the PCB etching. So color should not impact performance and cyan should work. I have not had any experience with a laser printer or toner that did not work, nor have I kept track of ones that did work, they all did, but YMMV. Good luck.
splud11 months ago

May I suggest that you take a hole puncher and punch a few holes in the un-printed perimeter of the "top" sheet (in the non-image area). Align over the other print as described over a window or lightbox, and when things are aligned, apply tape over the holes, which will hold the sheets together sufficiently for you to then tape a more durable seam (which can be made by setting both pieces of paper on a paper cutter, preferably a rotary type

An alternative is to just print the two masks alongside one another with alignment marks on the "outboard" sides of each and a centreline between them -- then gently fold while over a lightbox/window, get the alignments right and smooth out and flatten the loop of paper to fold, which should crease right along your centreline. Look ma, no tape.

I print my transfers on small pieces of transfer paper taped down to a carrier sheet, which is passed through the printer once as plain paper, then I tape working size pieces of transfer paper down and print it a second time. This conserves the (slightly) more expensive transfer paper.

Owing to slight variations in the paper feed, the transfer sheets may not precisely align to the original prints -- it's easy enough to then fold the original paper as above, and re-position the transfers over the sheet using the lightbox.

jmengel (author)  splud11 months ago
Great ideas. Thanks!
See the images.
You can get good result easy.
Just use FAIRY (dishes cleaner) and a kitchen sponge with a abrazive green part
to clean well the copper board. after that just dry well with paper towels and
put your pice of paper from the printer. use the iron, mine is PHILIPS AZURE 2400W(cheap one, normal one).Press with iron for 5 to 10 minutes(moving and pressing), after that pull the paper, soak in water for 10 min or so.
start rubbing with your finger and with toothbrush until traces clean withouth paper.
then use feric cloride to etch.
that's it.
sory my bad english.
want to know more just send private message.
or also leave here a message.

Wow, those look beautiful! I just purchased a high resolution laser printer. I will have to try to find the same paper you used. It came out so nice!

achand81 year ago

How did you add the alignment marks in Eagle?

jmengel (author)  achand81 year ago

I made a dummy part with the desired shape, but since it is also nice to have the alignment marks outside the PCB area so you can verify the layers are still aligned after inserting I've had to add marks manually to the PDF. This is due to the size limits placed on the free version of Eagle. If your PCB is small you can add marks in Eagle directly. In the pictured PCB I am fairly sure I had to do it manually. So I'd export the PS/PDF and open it in a drawing program (such as inkscape or illustrator) and add the marks manually.

gentry2 years ago
Don't flush ferric chloride down the toilet. You can easily save it in a jar for later reuse! I use glass baking style pans for etching, and just snap a cover on, and I'm ready for the next etch later.

A) Unless you have all-plastic pipes, it's not good for them, B) it's a strong acid, and even if you neutralize it with baking soda or lye, C) it contains copper after you're done, and copper is difficult to remove at the treatment plant, and toxic to marine life, and D) it's illegal in many places in the U.S. As someone else mentioned, if you have a septic system instead of a public wastewater system, you might create a multi-thousand dollar problem for yourself.

I don't know a good thing to do with used up ferric chloride, but mine lasts a really long time, partly because I fill my designs with big areas of ground/power plane so I don't need to etch away much copper. For the couple of batches I've eventually disposed of, I neutralize it with baking soda, evaporate it, and take the residue to our local hazardous waste disposal along with batteries, paint and fluorescent lights.
achand8 gentry1 year ago

Nice of you to do that. Why not use HCL and H2O2, its really effective and fast.

gentry achand81 year ago

That is a great idea, and exactly what I do now! I used up my last batch of ferric chloride and started following this instructable: http://www.instructables.com/id/Stop-using-Ferric-...

You still eventually end up with some (very toxic to marine life) copper-containing waste, but it takes a lot longer, and you could probably even extract pure copper from the solution yourself if you were dedicated. http://www.docbrown.info/page04/Mextractc.htm#Puri...

lee3219872 years ago
Just a tip...
I have successfully used an ultra fine point Sharpie to draw traces that were scrubbed off or didn't stick.
I don't recall, but i may have applied more than one layer of sharpie ink.
(my etchant was was muriatic acid)
nodoubtman3 years ago
J:\Électronique Marc\PIC\A faire
it's cool
I made a board for STM32F103C8T6 ARM CORTEX-M3
48 pins, TQFP.
Just post comment if you want to know what paper and iron to use.
I get good boards like this in half hour.

Just check the fingerprint for that microcontroler, to see how small shoult be.
Always get good result.
I can't let the mail here because I will receive a lot spam in it.
So just leave message here.
I don't need money or anything!
See the photos for what I use.
The iron is PHILIPS AZURE 2400 WATT( normal one).

also get the board for the STM(NOT THE ONE I USE, AN OLD DESIGN ONE BUT GOOD), just for testing.
OK. Now you have it all!

but the most important is cleaning the surface of the board.
with FAIRY(yes dishes cleaning for kitchen and a sponge with a green abrasive face. use the green abrasive face)
I use the Paint from windows to draw!

OK. if some of you think I should put a tutorial just send me messages.
rayshobby3 years ago
Consider using a laminator instead of a hot iron. I've used hot iron before and it's a pain. As soon as I tried laminator, I never want to use a hot iron again. For example, a GBC pouch laminator from amazon works just fine.
jmengel (author)  rayshobby3 years ago
Good tip. Thanks.
qwertyboy4 years ago
For cleaning, I just use some fine steel wool. It takes the toner off quickly, removes any tiny shorts, and shines everything up. After that, I usually wipe the board off with some acetone to get rid of any oils or other nasties and spray a light coat of clear onto the board. It keeps everything shiny and kind of acts as a flux.
jmengel (author)  qwertyboy4 years ago
When you say clear, do you mean clear coat spray paint? It doesn't interfere with soldering at all? I've had some of the boards I've made get pretty corroded after being in use for a long time in my basement (high humidity). No failures but the corrosion is ugly. Thanks!
Yes, clear coat spray paint. As far as I can tell, it doesn't interfere with soldering.
clabrecque4 years ago
I did this and it worked great..I get digikey catalogs and the paper out of them works well.glossy and dissolves in water.HA now i have a use for all them stacked up! and this instruction is great..i never thought of binding the tow sides together first then sliding my bored in between..brilliant...Thanks
jmengel (author)  clabrecque4 years ago
Glad to hear it worked for you. Enjoy!
teche4 years ago
its called pad2pad...... i think? Download it here http://www.pad2pad.com/download/index.htm
to do that click the download button :-)
INELEC4 years ago
lee3219874 years ago
I just did my first board. I had my design printed by Fedex Office (formally "Kinko's") on their laser printer.
Acetone (Klean-Strip brand from Home Depot) removed all the toner with VERY minimal effort.

I can't comment much on the Fedex Office paper/printer/toner because I have nothing to compare it to.
AJC8944 years ago
How did you get the alignment marks in Eagle CAD
jmengel (author)  AJC8944 years ago
I just drew it in using the drawing tools (line, circle, poly, etc.) Make a copy of whatever you draw on the top and bottom layers and you are good to go.
You know, I did a few of these PCB boards, one or two sided, and I was never happy when compared with the “professional” ones. The latest one I’ve tried to do (better) was using the “hot iron” technique. So, I had this glossy paper (I’ve even used those transparent plastic sheets made special for this purpose), I’ve printed my design on and, with a hot iron (as recommended) I pressed.
Well, if not hold enough, the ink will not melt and nothing will be achieved. If hold too long, then the ink melts but the strait, clean lines become smudged. And as each board is different in size and number of lines, it is almost impossible to extrapolate a “good” timing for all the other ones. And you cannot experiment with 20 for only one.
Any suggestion?
jmengel (author)  dan mihalciuc4 years ago
Certainly these methods do not match professionally made boards. They are useful for one-off type quick and dirty boards though. If you need more than one, and want them to look good, I would suggest using the bare-bones service at www.4pcb.com. It is cheap and quick, and will get you a double sided PCB with tin plating, no silkscreen, no solder mask. Works great for me, both on the hotplate and hand soldered.

saone4 years ago
can this work if i use an injekt printer...NOT A LASER ONE?thanks...
jmengel (author)  saone4 years ago
No. The laser toner is a solid that can be transferred as described. This is not possible with the ink printed from an inkjet.
saone jmengel4 years ago
ok!thank you! by the way....great instructable!
hintss saone4 years ago
you can have kinkos copy it onto the glossy paper, though.
saone hintss4 years ago
kinkos is a print shop or something?
hintss saone4 years ago
pretty much
MrSillyGuns4 years ago
ok im lost
hondaman9005 years ago
I found the best way to clean off toner is to use non-acetone (acetate) nail polish remover. Wet a wad of paper towel the same size as your PCB with the acetate, and leave it to soak on the board for about 5 minutes. It should then wipe off easily with that piece of paper towel or another wetted with the acetate.

Bigger question for homemade double-sided boards is how to solder the pins under sockets and relays on the component side of the board without a bunch of extra vias to keep the component pad connections all to the bottom layer?
This is my solution: http://DiyPcbVias.com
jmengel (author)  hondaman9005 years ago
The answer is more heat and more solder.  Or you can cheat the components up from the board enough to get an iron underneath.  I prefer the first method.
Foxtrot705 years ago
Excellent Instructable!  One word of caution.  I live in a rural area and have a Septic System for my house.  To protect the system ( in particular the the bacteria in the septic tank, the bacteria break down the toilet paper and solid matter or the #2 stuff) pour your chemicals into separate containers and take them to a Hazardous Waste Facility for disposal.  There is nothing more unpleasant than spending thousands for a Septic System repair or the smell.  Just thought you should know. 
jmengel (author)  Foxtrot705 years ago
Good tip!
shimniok5 years ago
Thanks for the fantastic instructable!!  I guess ironing correctly is the real trick... I have the hardest time figuring out when to stop ironing. Too much and the traces and pads smudge.  I can't seem to get the resolution you are getting... :(  I can do through hole, but until I get the ironing figured out SMT is a lost cause. :(  Any tips welcome.  Meanwhile, being able to do 2-sided would be awesome.
jmengel (author)  shimniok5 years ago
Fine pitch SMT can be a challenge.  The key is to clean the board well, using a scotchbrite and some solvent or similar.  Getting good iron pressure without smearing is also important.  I find that using the smooth "magazine" type paper is critical for fine pitch SMT while regular printer paper is adequate for through-hole.  Even so, when scrubbing off the paper, you need to be careful not to scrub too hard.  Leaving some of the smooth paper residue behind is OK on the bigger features, and on the fine SMT pads and traces I will scrape between the pads with an X-acto knife to ensure that they will not short after the etch.  This can be a pain if you have a lot of high pin count SMT ICs, but if that is the case you should be using a commercial solution like "4PCB.com".  Their bare-bones 2-sided board service works great and is pretty cheap.

For toner two-sided, the key is to have the paper sheets larger than the PCB and to tape them together in alignment outside the edge of the PCB so that the iron doesn't have any bumps to go over or will melt the tape.  Holding the two sheets up to a window will allow you to align them, but don't expect super tight tolerances for your vias.  I'd say make your vias pretty big (at least 1mm) since you will have to drill them yourself and small via pads tear off the board pretty easily during drilling.  Also, be sure and DO NOT fill the vias in Eagle or similar since the drill bit will skitter off the copper via or pad when drilling if there isn't a center mark from the etch process.
Good luck.

sarubin6 years ago
Great idea and good instructions. I have one suggestion with respect to improving the "alignment marks." For circuits that include small components, like ICs, it is very important to have exact alignment of the two sides of the circuit. I aided this alignment by punching small holes (pin holes actually made with a pin or needle) in some of the pads on the laser print. I made these holes around both the periphery of the circuit and particularly included a small number of holes inside the pads of the ICs (required very precise alignment because the pins were only 2 mm apart in my circuit). Then, when the two facing laser prints are held up to a window (or, in my case, I have a backlit illuminated table) the light shining through the pin holes of one side of the circuit really helps precisely align the circuit printed on the facing page.
Sound like a great way to line them up.  Old thread, I know, but I found it trying to figure out vias-- awesome advice re: fluxing the pads and lead!  Off to get flux in a few minutes and try...

I've had good 2-sided transfering results with this simple method:
  • I put both sides of the board (one flipped) into a single pattern image, with a space between them for the thickness of the board, printing from Photoshop with "crop marks" turned on.
  • I gently curl the paper over (with no creasing) to align the crop marks, then tape those edges together and press the paper together to get a soft fold.
  • Then I insert a blank pcb strip at the fold, pressing it in to get a square crease to hold the edge of the final pcb.
  • Folding it again at its end, perpendicular to the first fold, I end up with a nice corner pocket to drop my pcb blank into.
To laminate, I put the blank into the pocket and feed it through my laminator.  After one pass, I cut off the folded over side of the pocket (to keep the peper thickness even) and laminate another ten times or so.  I've been getting very nicely aligned layers.
stuart575 years ago
This has been an absolute education for me and i cannot wait to give this a bash. I do however need to know where I can purchase all of the needed equipment  mentioned, As I live in London,England the small village across the pond.  
            Hope you can help? Many thanks Stuart and Emma
krusty8 years ago
I never had much luck with the iron-on toner with regular paper :( The few goes I had at it, I ended up with 50% of the board with no toner. I've now used the Press-N-Peel blue with great results. I did find, however, that to get a really good result I had to iron the design for a little over 10 minutes (the packet says 1 to 4 minutes). Thanks for the great instructable! I've always been a little hesitant to try double sided boards, but the big registration marks do look like a good idea!!! Super!!
funlw65 krusty8 years ago
What I did wrong ?
krusty funlw658 years ago
Hi, it looks like you've printed into the glossy side of the press-n-peel. The way I do it is to print the artwork onto a plain sheet of paper, cut my p-n-p to be slightly larger than the artwork i'm printing, stick the p-n-p down at the leading edge (the edge that's going to feed into the printer first) matt side up with a little 3M magic tape right over the top of the artwork. I then use the manual feed tray on my printer & re-print the artwork. Make sure you allow 1/2" around the artwork area in case the paper doesn't line up the same way 2nd print through. Once printed, I then trim down the p-n-p so there is only a little edge around the artwork. Oh, I have also found that putting a thick black border around any artwork I print improves the outcome of the final board - you can always trim off the edges if you don't want/need them there. Hope this helps :)
funlw65 krusty8 years ago
Thank you krusty, I printed on both sides (I put a picture for each). I used LACO KL 40 GlueStick . This method is better than with glossy paper? What about transparencies? This was my first atempt.... After that, I tried with normal paper, another failure (the "result" is stil on copper, I must buy acetone).
FYI, I've used transparency paper a few times. Just print the PCB artwork directly onto regular paper first. Then put your transparency film into a Xerox machine and copy your printed image onto the transparency film (using the darkest setting possible to get the most amount of toner). Then iron your artwork onto your copper - one side at a time. The transparency paper comes right off - no residue. Then drill a few holes, so that you can align the image on the other side. ...If you use transparency film, make sure you iron for 5 to 10 minutes!!! Transparency film is kind of "iffy"; sometimes the complete image transfers, sometimes it doesn't. In case it doesn't, just use a fine-point Sharpie to fill in the missing artwork. ...This is just FYI. I personally am going back to laser-jet on glossy paper! :) And I've never tried this Press-N-Peel. I might have to try that too. Also, if you're tired of buying expensive Ferric Chloride in small quantities, try making your own etchant! That's what I do. Just go to Lowe's and pick up a $5 gallon of Muriatic Acid (pool cleaner). Mix it 2:1 with Hydrogen Peroxide (2 parts Muriatic Acid / 1 part Hydrogen Peroxide). And you've got a cheap alternative to Ferric Chloride! When it eats the copper, it turns emerald green - that's how you know it's working! And after a few etches when it starts to lose its etching power, just add a little Acid or Peroxide. You'll get the hang of it; and it's a much better solution!
Thank you Mr. Samuel, I'm using transparencies with success. Look here when you have time: My project
You're very welcome! :) Glad I could help. By the way, I checked out your project page. Looks nice, but what is it? And where did you get that PCB that's white on one side??? I like it! Thanks!
Is a ICSP serial programmer, for Microchip microcontrollers. I am from Romania and that PCB is imported from China. I don't know how good is. The project is from a romanian site... his link is in my page. Is compatible with JDM programmer. The author made that project with SMD components and I can't deal with that. So, I made it with "classic" components.
jmengel (author)  funlw657 years ago
SMD is the only way to go. Through-hole is dead as Ham Radio and Beta. You will be surprised how easy it is. I have made 500um pitch patterns in my kitchen. Etching and populating a board with SOIC chips and 1206 discretes is no problem at all and is easier than through-hole since you don't have to drill any holes or trim the leads after soldering.
Geosync jmengel7 years ago
ahem...there's a lot of SMT going on in the 'dead' area of ham radio. Did you know amateur radio is sanctioned by all but two world governments (Yemen and N Korea), and is the only legal way across the world to transmit non-professional, non-broadcast radio? Hams are vital as civil first-responders during natural disasters when all communciations (except radio, that is) are down due to severe earthquakes, a storm named Katrina, and other natural disasters. Hams handle emergency message traffic at these times. We also send data & TV via wireless, and their activities continue to extend various radio-related technology as well. Some activities we never get tired of is our access to communications satellites, skipping signals off the ionosphere, and bouncing signals off the moon in efforts to contact each other. The enlightened position is this: amateur radio will be around as long as there are electromagnetic waves to manipulate and control. But, I agree that BetaMax is gone.
Thank you Geosync! People do not realize how important it is to keep ham alive. Cruising boaters also use ham as their main lifeline to other people when they are in the middle of the ocean. It id FAR from dead in that arena. Plus, not one bit of morse code is required to get any class of amateur radio license. That means that anyone that spends the slightest bit of time here on Instructables, could probably pass the technical test without much studying at all. Btw, I like through hole. BetaMax, VHS and DVD are all dead, long live Blu-ray. (I still liked HD-DVD better though...)
Instead of acetone, why not use one of those metal scourers to clean plates and stuff to get the toner off - it works great for me, even though a little elbow grease is required
common rubbing alchohol should be almost as effective as acetone but more common and cheaper hopefully
jmengel (author)  raykholo6 years ago
IPA (isopropyl alcohol) has not worked for me in removing the toner, but your mileage may vary.
daenris krusty8 years ago
I've done toner transfer two times. Each time I got some glossy paper to use, and couldn't convince my damn printer to actually feed the glossy through without jamming for some reason. So the first time, I ended up using the back of some blank Music Certificates that my fiance had for her class. It was slightly glossy and ended up working perfectly. The second time after not being able to get real glossy paper through my printer, I gave up completely and tried it with 100% regular paper. To my surprise it actually worked.
Magazine paper should work, as it is thinner than normal paper.
lsymms7 years ago
Question and a tip. question: I've tried acetone and it's a bear. Mostly because it evaporates so fast. Is brake cleaner easier to work with? additional tip: use avery label backs. After removing the labels, print on the glossy side of the backing. Iron as per instructable, and leave it to cool until it gets to room temp. The backing should come off leaving perfect toner traces with no residue. I've just thrown out the labels or hand written on them before using the backs but I think you should be able to print on the lables and use backs. Buy the full sheet or half sheet labels as the smaller sized ones put perferation lines in the backing.
lsymms lsymms6 years ago
UPDATE 2: different toners react differently to acetone. My Samsung's toner comes off in one wipe with toner.
Just pour a cap full or two of acetone on the board and let it sit about 10-20 seconds first. Then just wipe. All toner will be removed. If some residue still remains, do it again.
Good suggestion! I'll try that next time I have problems.
lsymms lsymms6 years ago
UPDATE: Avery changed their backing on their labels from the last time I used them. Now they have angled slices along the backing to aid in automated label affixers, which means this won't work at all (there goes $12). I'll be trying the kinkos paper on very small traces and will report back.
jmengel (author)  lsymms7 years ago
The avery back thing sounds interesting I will have to give it a try. Brake cleaner also evaporates quickly, but it was the only hard core solvent I had handy that could remove the toner.
raykholo6 years ago
so.. will it work with an inkjet printer though? nice idea and if it does i will definitely use it...
jmengel (author)  raykholo6 years ago
It will not work with an inkjet, but will with a photocopy of an inkjet print. The key is the heat fused toner, which is why inkjet will not work. To sum up, if it uses a powdered heat fused toner then you can transfer it using the described method.
So does this laser photocopy need to be "fresh"? I don 't have a laser printer but getting a copy made somewhere will work at home later?
thats pretty much the idea i had i definitely think that a fresh one is better because oils and other dirt will interfere with good transfer i would just print it out and put it in a sheet protector, like the plastic ones for binders might help...
jmengel (author)  raykholo6 years ago
That seems like a good idea. I typically print at work and bring it home in my laptop bag. No special protection, I just keep it from getting all beat up.
well somewhat clean seems to work for you then... great
jmengel (author)  GTechno136 years ago
No. The copy does not need to be hot off the press.
JaNsRex6 years ago
Yeah i cleaned it well...also the the iron was hot enough and i push it better too.......T.Y.
JaNsRex6 years ago
SO not all toner is heat fusible?...am i ryt?..hmmm maybe...:-)....coz i.tried to print my layout using toner in my laser printer and it won't work at all..the toner won't stick...
jmengel (author)  JaNsRex6 years ago
No, all toner is heat fusible, hence the "fuser" included in all laser printers. At least all the ones I have ever heard of or used. Have you cleaned the board with a solvent and steel wool? Iron hot enough? Push hard enough?
JaNsRex6 years ago
halu guys....what kind of toner do i use for my laserjet printer?....coz i want to use a toner transfer method...............anyone know the toner to use?...help me plzzz.......tnx
jmengel (author)  JaNsRex6 years ago
As long as the printer uses toner rather than a liquid ink, you should be fine. The key is the heat fusible nature of the toner.
LordSTITH8 years ago
How did you bridge together the vias from each side of the board?
jmengel (author)  LordSTITH8 years ago
I usually use leads from a through hole part. Solder on the resistor/cap, trim the leads and use the leads for vias soldered on both sides. If there are no through hole parts then I use some 22 gauge solid wire with the insulation stripped.
jmengel (author)  jmengel8 years ago
With a good flush-cutter you can get these vias so flat that you can put them underneath IC's. Enjoy.
yes, but how do i make a via with, say an led above the hole (like, the via IS the hole)? i want the led flush to the board, so would putting flux on both sides of the board prior to placement actually attract the solder through?
jmengel (author)  jamwaffles6 years ago
It sounds like you are asking how to put a through hole part (LED) in the via, while soldering the LED to both the front and back sides of the board. In that case it is best to have the via to one side of the part and have a separate hole for the LED since you cannot guarantee connection on the top and bottom copper if you want the LED flush. You can probably get away with it but you may cook the LED. I use flux core solder so never add additional flux, but it might help to add some underneath the LED in your case and apply extra solder and heat to try and get both top and bottom connections. Good luck.
thanks very much for the tip. i might make a test board and solder led after led into some vias and see what i can do. ill post feedback on here so other people can get some help
russosv jmengel7 years ago
Jon -- great instructable!!! Could you please elaborate on your method of creating vias? I've had a hard time with vias-- when one side is soldered on, and I try to do the second side, the first side melts. Could you also tell us what kind of flush cutter you use?! I'd definitely be interested in creating vias that I could put under an IC!!! Thanks! Steve
jmengel (author)  russosv7 years ago
The method I use for creating vias is to drill a hole in the board through a top layer pad to a bottom layer pad and then to insert a small wire through this hole and solder it to both top and bottom layer pads. The wire I use is often the legs cut off from through-hole resistors and capacitors. I cut the wire off with a pair of flush cutters, and yes if done carefully you can cut almost flush to the board so that an IC can mount over the via without touching it. The trick is to cut through the solder "pile" around the via wire as close to the board as possible. The flush cutters I use are pretty crappy, available at the link below.


I will post some more pics sometime in the future detailing this since there seems to be a lot of interest in this.

russosv jmengel7 years ago
Thanks Jon! I'm looking forward to seeing some pics. Steve
jmengel (author)  russosv7 years ago
OK so I totally flaked on putting up more pics of vias. I guess I just wasn't motivated and thought that the process was self explanatory. I made some half-assed Sketch-Up drawings, but the topic seemed so mundane. So here it is again. Drill a hole in the board. Insert a piece of wire and solder it on both sides of the board to a copper trace. If needed, use a high quality flush cutter to snip the wire via and solder flush with the board. Repeat as needed.
2 tips to make it much easier: Leave the lead or wire longer so you have something to hold to while soldering, this will make it work whether or not you use flux because if the solder melts it won't fall out and the solder will reharden with you pin still in place, and also to make it a touch easir-put a light amount of flux-very light-on the pads on both sides you want solder to flow and a layer on the lead. The solder will flow through and solder both sides at the same time. Make sure enough flows through that you get a good connection.
kudoskun8 years ago
This is a very cool low-tech way of doing the etch. Ive been looking at getting into the solder game and this is way helpful. Where would I be able to find the copper board? At a home depot perhaps?
lsymms kudoskun6 years ago
Partsexpress might get it to you cheaper if that's all you're getting. Digikey has exorbitant shipping cost for small quantities.
jmengel (author)  kudoskun8 years ago
As Crash2108 says, you can get the copper clad PCB from Digikey. Locally you can get boards at Radio Shack, but their PCB is crap IMHO. Too thick and brittle to cut with a scissors. If you get the 1/32" thick stuff from Digikey (part# PC46-ND) you can cut it with your scissors at home.
Digikey or Jameco.
mappum7 years ago
did you make this for a reprap or some other stepper motor thing? probably not, just wondering
jmengel (author)  mappum7 years ago
Nope, I made this to control the pan and tilt axes on a surplus surveillance camera. It has since been used for a number of applications. I have been looking at building a RepRap however, but I probably am going to follow the orthodox path and use the existing boards and components.
mappum jmengel7 years ago
right now i am trying to start making a reprap, and i might be the first person to make a real reprap instructable (for specifically darwin)
Thornburg7 years ago
Great Job on covering a confusing subject. I am getting started on mine once I stop by Radioshack. Thanks, added to favorites.
leebryuk7 years ago
The brake cleaners that are chlorinated are more aggressive and will eat through rubber and polymers at a quicker rate. The non-chlorinated cleaners go easier on the rubber/polymer parts of a car. That's all.
cashsale8 years ago
After probably hundreds of toner-based PCBs from home, I have found one simple and quick step to assure a good toner transfer regardless of the paper used: clean the board with acetone and/or alcohol then dip a paper towel in some of your etchant and rub the surface of the board. After the surface is a dark brown, clean the surface again, then proceed with the usual transfer method. The microscopic pits in the surface from this step will grab the toner better than any other surface treatment I have used. After using this method, I cannot recall a single failed board even with a variety of glossy papers.
krusty cashsale8 years ago
Hey, great tip, thanks! I've always cleaned the board using soap & water then 000 grade steel wool & water then acetone. Will try doing a wipeover with etchant now, too! I have most troubles with the edges of the artwork not adhearing to the board, this may be the answer :) Cheers!!
russosv krusty7 years ago
Yes- the most important part of doing the toner transfer is getting the board really clean. I first use steel wool, then alcohol, and then using a liberal amount (lots) of soap and water with a rough plastic scouring pad (like a "scrunge" or "chore boy"), I scrub the copper as if I'm washing dirty dishes. I've found-- that is, until I discovered cashsale's method-- that this gives me the best toner transfer.
Amazing! I have done a couple dozen PCBs using press and peel and this was the most incredible enhancement to the process that I have found yet... I just tried this, and although the board alignment was messed up (I'm learning how to do double-sided boards), the toner transfer came out great! It's hard to see in the pictures, especially because I drilled some holes through the back to the front that were misaligned, but this method seems to work quite well. Thanks cashsale!
Picture 019.jpgPicture 022.jpg
vnqsmiles7 years ago
Hi, Could you tell me how about the hole that you drill to connect two pads in top and bottom layer, are you sure that electric will flow through these two layer via that hole ? Sorry about my poor English ! Thanks
jmengel (author)  vnqsmiles7 years ago
I usually use leads from a through hole part. Solder on the resistor/cap, trim the leads and use the leads for vias soldered on both sides. If there are no through hole parts then I use some 22 gauge solid wire with the insulation stripped.
so you use lead through that hole, but if that hole contain a pin of one chip ... I ask this case and a person told me that it is very hard to solder, how do you think about it, caused that the connection is quite small quite soldering tool is not small ? Thanks !!!
deadwhale8 years ago
I haven't tried it on two sided boards before, but acetone works just as good as an iron for transferring the toner from the paper to the copper. Well, maybe not quite as good, sometimes the edges of lines can get just a little fuzzy, but it works good until the lines get really really thin. i just put the pattern down & get the paper wet with a cotton ball & acetone...
You can give me more details? You don't using iron at all?
Acetone eh? My wife uses Xylene to transfer toner from regular paper to other objects. This is what comes in a "blender pen" at an art supply store, but she now buys it by the bucket. Does anyone know if that would be etch-proof way of doing it? (I really hate irons).
trebuchet038 years ago
Out of curiosity... What are you building?
If I had to guess, I'd say he's building a two axis stepper motor control board with embedded microcontroller. :P
Naw... that's what he's making :P I'm curious what it is he's building :P hehe
ok.......define "making" and "building"...pretty much the same thing.
in this reference... He's making a component He's building something else bigger than the component ;) Pretty much the same thing.... but last time my car was pretty much reliable - it was unreliable :p
thats what I thought you where trying to say.
jmengel (author) 8 years ago
Yes this is a two axis stepper motor drive and control board. Initially it will simply take speed and direction commands from a computer via serial port, with the sequencing performed by the microcontroller. I have a surplus 2-axis security camera mount laying around and want to control it. Once I have the basics down I will bypass the onboard microcontroller and build a more complex add-on board with position feedback to do some image tracking or possibly laser drawing. Basically I am messing around. -Jon
lol "messing around" most of us dont have a clue how to do that stuff. I know basic stuff but not anywhere near that. send me a message if you want to asnwer a bunch of electronic questions lol.
Gnaw8 years ago
Nice instructable. I chuckle when I think about all the fun things you could do with that 2-axis mount. When you finish your main project let us all know how it turned out. I'm in the process of building a controller myself, but for a 3-axis machine... I've said too much! ... you guys will have to wait for my next instructable!
Nutter8 years ago
Nice writeup! It sounds like the ferric chloride -vs- chrome sink and wife issue may have happened to you.. ;) I'd recommend a lid for that container then. With regards to your comments in steps 3 and 4 about fine pitched parts and problems with the pads/traces bleeding together, I believe this is due to your choice of the thinner, cheaper paper from Kinko's. Using the "standard" recommended Staples glossy inkjet paper, while quite painful to remove, I've been able to reliably produce entire double sided boards with nearly all traces (and 50%+ of pads) of 0.2mm (200 mils) without the need for going between any pads/traces with an X-Acto knife. The boards actually look surprisingly professional, with the obvious omission of solder mask. I haven't tried such fine detailed boards on any printers other than a Brother HL-5250DN (1200x1200 DPI), so results with other printers may vary since there are very few 'dots' to cover a 0.2mm trace at 600 DPI.