So along with vinyl stickers, I also decided to use a laminator to make PCBs.
Now this is probably optional as you should still be able to use an iron. But for me, it’s a lot easier to use a laminator.
The one I bought is an Apache AL9.
Mostly because it was the cheapest I could find.
I found three problems with this laminator:
This laminator will not take the more standard 0.062” thick copperclad.
(Copperclad is what they call the board with a thin layer of copper on it used to make PCBs.)
Well I happened to have some 0.031” and got it at a pretty good price.
For many people, this is not a good solution. I’ve read that some people have modified the rollers to take the thicker copperclad, but I don’t want to do this. Also, apparently, there are other laminators that will take the 0.062” copperclad.
This laminator will not get hot enough to toner transfer PCB traces.
This is pretty common for cheap laminators. Typically, there are two bimetallic thermal switches that control the temperature. See picture.
Now mine were pop riveted in so I had to drill them out. Some people suggest sticking a piece of copperclad between the switches and the aluminum plate. This will probably work. But I decided to replace the switches.
Most of the ‘experts’ on the Internet suggest the ideal temperature for vinyl toner transfer is 170C. Mine were originally 110C and 135C. I think there is a good reason for two different values but I replaced both with 165C. I chose 165C instead of 170C mainly because I could get them cheaper.
Apparently these are all labeled as KSD301s, so you can search on ebay for KSD301s and look for the temperature you want.
Many people said they had to replace the thermal fuse also to accommodate the higher temperatures. I didn’t have to. My fuse is rated at 192C.
This modification will run the laminator at hotter temperatures then it was designed for. I make no guarantees that this will work or how long it will last.
When toner transferring small pieces of copperclad, it is hard to feed and extract them through the laminator.
I decided to cut big slots in the feed and return side of the laminator top cover. See picture.
This makes it easier to work with small pieces of copperclad. It also allows the laminator to vent off some of the extra heat.