Introduction: Reusing Old PCB's

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What are PCB's?

PCB is an abbreviation for Printed Circuit Boards. A PCB mechanically supports and electrically connects electronic components using conductive tracks, pads and other features etched from copper sheets laminated onto a non-conductive substrate.


E-Waste or Electronic Waste is the left over PCB's,components, PVC or Plastic cases/body,etc of your old Electronic Appliances such as a TV, refrigederator, dish washer that you have thrown out. It is one of the fastest growing type of waste produced on the planet. Hence we must prevent it from becoming THE largest type of waste produced on our planet Earth. According to a report on E-Waste, By 2017, all of that year’s end-of-life refrigerators, TVs, mobile phones, computers, monitors, e-toys and other products with a battery or electrical cord worldwide could fill a line of 40-ton trucks end-to-end on a highway straddling three quarters of the Equator, the weight equivalent of 200 Empire State Buildings or 11 Great Pyramids of Giza. The US has the world’s highest figure of 9.4 million tons and China generated the second highest e-waste total of 7.3 million tons. The report also states that the total amount of E-Waste generated by 2017 will be a whooping 65.4 million metric tons.

What can we do to stop this?

Well, the simple answer is stop over-consumption. But that could take a long time to actually come into action. The next big thing is too start recycling every bit of those electronic appliances and gadgets that our leaving our house. How?- We can open up the case/ body of each of these appliances take out the PCB's and reuse the components, Hack the circuit board so that we can build a new circuit on top of it.

But what about the Plastic Cover/Body/Case? How do we recycle that?

Well, a 3D Printer called the EKOCYCLE Cube® has been developed, it can 3D Print like any other 3D Printer, the only difference is that the filament is made up of recycled Cola bottles. Scientists also have been working on 3D printers that use a filament made up of recycled plastic which has come from old electronic appliances.

This instructable is going to teach you, one of the most basic methods, one can use to reuse & recycle old PCB's and also the components. It may not make a difference now, but it certainly will make a change in the future. It's a start towards the REDUCTION IN PRODUCTION of E-Waste.

Step 1: Things You Will Need


  1. Header Pins
  2. Bench Vise.
  3. Soldering Iron & Solder Wire.
  4. Copper Wick.
  5. Pliers.
  6. Blade.
  7. Hand Drill.


  1. Old PCB
  2. Header Pins


  1. Bench Vise or Helping Hands.
  2. Soldering Iron and Holder.
  3. Solder Wire.
  4. Copper Wick.
  5. Desoldering Iron (Optional).
  6. Pliers
  7. HackSaw
  8. Blade.
  9. Hand Drill & Suitable Drill Bit.
  10. Permanent Marker Pen


30 minutes

Skill(s) Required


Step 2: Holding the PCB


  1. PCB in the Vise.
  2. PCB in the Vise.

Place the PCB in the Bench Vise or Helping Hands with the Component side facing you. If you are using the Vise, start turning the lever so that the Parallel jaws of the Vise hold the PCB in one place.

Step 3: Desoldering


  1. Soldering iron on PCB.
  2. Soldering iron and Copper Wick on PCB.
  3. Soldering iron and Copper Wick on PCB.
  4. Solder removed from Solder Pads on the PCB.
  5. Solder removed from Solder Pads on the PCB.

Choose the Components you would like to Reuse. And place the PCB vertically between the jaws of the vise with the solder pad side facing you. Outline the solder pads you wish to desolder with a permanent marker pen.This ensures you don't have to constantly refer to the other side of the PCB. Start applying the tip of the soldering iron to the solder pad for a few seconds and apply some solder wire to it. Now place the copper wick on to the solder pad and place the tip of the soldering iron on top of it. The solder should start to get removed from the solder pad and moves onto the copper wick. Once this is completed, there won't be any solder left on the solder pad & you will be able to see the leads of the component clearly. Do this for all the leads of that component.

Tip: Start Removing the Large Components first. This will make it easier to remove the smaller components such as resistors or even SMD/SMT components.

Hint: Solder Wick- Solder Wick is type of thread like material which is used to desolder. Being made out of copper it absorbs the solder from the solder pad.

Solder Pad- A Solder Pad is the part of the PCB where the solder is applied too.

SMD/SMT- Surface Mount Devices/ Surface Mount Technologies are the type of components which are generally soldered by machines. They are very small in size and hence can be fitted into small PCB's used in Mobile Phones, TV Remotes, etc

Step 4: Removing the Components


  1. Solder Pads without Component Leads.
  2. PCB with Relay Removed.
  3. PCB with Relay Removed.
  4. PCB with Relay Removed.
  5. Various Removed Large Sized Components.
  6. Smaller Sized Components.

Once all the solder is removed from the solder pad, turn the PCB so that the component side is facing you. Gently pull out the Component with a plier so that the component leads do not get twisted or bent. Do this for all the large components on the PCB. Once you have finished removing the large components of the PCB, you can start removing the smaller components like resistors, zener diodes etc.

Once Completed, you will have an Assortment of Large and small components, that you can use in your future projects and hacks.

Step 5: Breakout Boards- Downsizing and Cutting


  1. Circuit Board with All Components Removed.
  2. Cutting of the Circuit Board.

Once all the components have been removed, you can begin the process of making customised breakout boards or even customised circuit boards. Start by marking the board with a permannent marker pen. Cut the board to your requirement using a Hacksaw. E.G: I am making a relay breakout board. Hence I cut the board so that my relay fits on the downsized board. I also left some space to add header pins as it is a breakout board.

Tip: While cutting the board, make sure you leave some copper paths so that you can add header pins/ output pins to it.

Hint: Breakout Board- Its a circuit board which allows you to access or join pins of components or microchips

Step 6: Breakout Boards- Scrapping & Drlling


  1. Scrapping Breakout Board.
  2. Drilling Holes in Breakout Board.
  3. Breakout Board fixed in the Bench Vise.
  4. Breakout Board fixed in the Bench Vise.
  5. Breakout Board in Hand.

Once the breakout board has been cut to size, start scrapping the green layer which is printed on the copper paths with a blade. Once scrapped you will be able to see the copper path clearly. This will now become the solder pad to which the header pins or outpout pins will be soldered inorder to connect the breakout board. Start drilling holes into these new solder pads.

Step 7: Breakout Boards- Soldering Component & Header Pins


  1. Component Soldered to Breakout Board.

Once you have drilled the holes on your breakout board you can solder the component into its respective slot and also solder the header pins into their respective slots, thus completing your custom breakout board.

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