Single Sided PCB Home Fabrication (Presensitized PCB)

31,174

411

20

Introduction: Single Sided PCB Home Fabrication (Presensitized PCB)

About: Hi I'm Angelo (TechBulder)! I am an engineering major in BS-ECE at the DLSU. I use my course as an inspiration for making my current projects! I've been posting projects here ever since I was 10. I also run a …

Learn to fabricate Single Sided PCBs at home! Prototype PCB fabrication is one of the essential skills you must learn in electronics. Instead of using breadboards and perfboards, custom PCBs would make any project smaller and more compact! Presensitized PCBs Also Work With Inkjets!

PRESENSITIZED PCBs: Also known as photopositive PCBs or photoresist PCBs, are regular PCB copper clads, layered with a light sensitive paint or film. Once exposed to light, the paint would dissolve in the developing solution, while the unexposed areas would remain undissolved in the solution. This forms a Mask on the copper layer of the PCB. When the developed PCB is exposed to an etchant, the masked areas would remain in tact while the unmasked areas would dissolve on your etchant, thus forming a copy of your printed PCB artwork.

BETTER THAN TONER TRANSFER METHOD: Toner transfer method has been the number 1 go to in homebrew PCB fabcrication, next to the sharpie method. Toner transfer has its own limitations. One, is that you would need a toner printer, common inkjet printers simply wouldn't work. Second, as your line traces gets thinner, it would be more difficult to transfer the toner prints to the copper clad. Presensitized PCBs on the other hand creates the sharpest lines of all the homebrew fabrication methods. This is perfect for smaller circuits that involves SMT (Surface Mount) components. I use this method for building PCBs with line traces reaching down to 10mils (0.254mm). You can go as thin as 5mils (0.1275mm), but you would have to use inkjet friendly acetate.

↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓

WATCH MY FULL VIDEO TUTORIAL! :D

Step 1: Thing's You'll Need

Tools & Materials:

1.) Presensitized PCB Pack

- AliExpress: https://bit.ly/2WLOi0F

- Amazon: https://bit.ly/2WLOi0F

- E-Gizmo: https://bit.ly/2WLOi0F

2.) Ferric Chloride (Copper Etchant)

- Amazon: https://amzn.to/3cZu8pL

- Lazada: https://amzn.to/3cZu8pL

3.) Pure Acetone (Nail Polish Remover)

- Amazon: https://amzn.to/2zdVOIE

- Shopee: https://amzn.to/2zdVOIE

4.) Baby Oil

- Amazon: https://amzn.to/2ZrII54

- Lazada: https://amzn.to/2ZrII54

5.) Mini Drill

- AliExpress: https://bit.ly/2XaTJVX

- Amazon: https://bit.ly/2XaTJVX

- Lazada: https://bit.ly/2XaTJVX

6.) Drill Bits (0.8mm - 1.0mm)

- AliExpress: https://bit.ly/2WJNI3n

- Lazada: https://bit.ly/2WJNI3n

7.) LED/ CFL/ UV Lamp

- Amazon: https://amzn.to/3bOFoUq

- Lazada: https://amzn.to/3bOFoUq

8.) Cutter Knife

9.) Hack Saw

10.) Wooden Plank

11.) Plastic Containers

Step 2: Design or Acquire the PCB Layout

If you're planning to design your own PCB layouts, I recommend using softwares like Proteus, Eagle CAD or Altium. There are tons of YouTube tutorials on learning how to use these softwares. Out of preference, I usually use Proteus.

If you're building an existing project from the internet, chances are, the author has provided his or her PCB layout as a PDF file or as a JPEG. I really love PDFs since they are scaled formats of layouts. Just hit the print button and you're ready to go!

Step 3: Printer Settings

Recommended PDF Print Settings:

- Page Sizing: Actual Size

- Paper Type: Plain Papers

- Print Quality: High

Step 4: Cut and Transfer the Layout

After printing your layout, use a cutter and cut it from its boarders. You can use the layout as a stencil for cutting your PCBs later on.

Step 5: Collect & Select Your PCBs

Presensitized PCB usually come in tin foil packages. I usually store my boards in a plastic container, away from sunlight. These boards come in different shapes and sizes. I usually cut them down and keep all the leftover cutouts for smaller projects. I would usually select a board, closest to my PCB layout's footprint to avoid having leftover strips.

Step 6: Cut the PCB (Scoring Method)

There are plenty of ways cut a PCB. My favorite is the scoring method, the same method heavily used for cutting acrylic sheets. It's a clean and fast way for cutting Phenolic Based PCB boards. You can do this by using the blunt edge of your cutter blade and do several passes on the board (20-30 times). Then use a book to press it against the table. Finally bend the PCB till it breaks in half.

Step 7: Cut the PCB (Hacksaw Method)

If you're dealing with Fiberglass PCBs, the scoring method wouldn't work. The scoring method also wouldn't work with smaller or shorter strips. Use a hacksaw instead to solve this problem.

Step 8: Peel the Light Protective Film

Presensitized PCBs has a light protective film that prevents unintended light exposure from storage. You'll have to peel this film before you can proceed to the next steps.

Step 9: Apply Baby Oil (My Trick)

Most people would use Acetate or Parchment Paper for printing the PCB layout. Those types of paper are ideal for photo exposure since it allows more light to pass through. The disadvantage though, is that it's difficult to print on these types of papers using inkjet printers, since they blot more often.

Adding baby oil to your plain paper PCB layout would allow more light to pass through during the photo exposure process. It turns and plain paper into parchment paper.

Step 10: PCB Photo Exposure

You can use sunlight, a CFL Lamp, LED Lamp or a UV Lamp for photo exposure. It doesn't really matter which type of light you'd use, they all work. Although, take not that photo exposure duration would vary between the different types of lights.

My Recommended Exposure Times:

- CFL Lamps: 12 Minutes

- LED Lamps: 10 Minutes

- UV Lamps: 4-7 Minutes

CFL & LED Lamps: If you don't have an exposure box, you can sandwich your PCB and Layout between a piece of wood and glass. Point your lamp towards your PCB, make sure the light distribution is even, otherwise you'll have a vignetting effect.

Want to have more consistent photo exposures?

Watch my tutorial on building a DIY Digital LED/UV Light Exposure Box!

Step 11: Remove the Layout & Clean the PCB

Once you're done with the photo exposure, remove the PCB layout. You can use this as many times as you want. I recommend keeping it if you plan to build more boards with the same PCB footprint. I also recommend cleaning the board with soap to remove the oil. Leftover oils could affect the developing process in the next step, as the chemical developing solution would have a difficult time penetrating the oil to reach the photo-positive paint on the PCB.

Step 12: Prepare the PCB Developer

Presensitized PCB packs, usually come with developing solutions. Most often these solutions are packs of Sodium Hydroxide (a.k.a. Lye or Caustic Soda). You'll have to mix this with tap water in order for it to work. How's the ratio? Your PCB pack would usually come with mixing instructions. Most often you'll have to mix the granules with 500mL or 1L of water, depending on how much Lye is in the pack. Shake it well!

Step 13: Develop the Photo Exposed PCB

Pour your developing solution on a plastic container, then submerge your photo exposed PCB on the developing solution. The line traces should show up within a minute. If the lines show up too fast, quickly add water. Over-concentrated solutions can ruin your PCB traces. If the lines, take too long to show up, this means you'll have to add more developing granules as your solution may be over-concentrated.

Be sure to agitate the tray. You can remove the PCB from the solution once all the paint from the unmasked areas are dissolved. Leaving it too long would dissolved the masked traces as well. I suggest placing a container of tap water beside. Rinsing the board with water quickly stops the developing process.

The developing solution can be used for up to 10 times, but I did notice that the effectivity starts to degrade the moment you use it. Be sure to use only the amount you need.

CAUTION: Please wear latex gloves and wear protective goggles when dealing with these chemicals. For this video, I ran out of gloves at the moment due to the massive shortage of medical supplies due to the COVID19 pandemic. Lye (developing solution) can be corrosive to human tissue, for this project, the concentration of lye is quite low. I washed my hands thoroughly after getting exposed to it.

Step 14: Inspect the PCB for Scratches

Now, inspect your PCB for broken traces. You use a marker (sharpie) to retouch the broken traces. If there's paint left on areas there aren't supposed to be on, use a blade to scratch it off.

Step 15: Choose an Etchant

Before we get to the etching, there are two types of enchants commonly used for PCB fabrication. On the left is Ferric Chloride, it's the safer enchant for newbies to use as it is only corrosive to metals and not plastics or human tissue. Etching time is slow with this one.

On the right is a homebrew mixture of Hydrogen Peroxide and Muriatic acid. It's a really strong etchant, I wouldn't recommend this for first-timers as it is really dangerous to human skin. A fellow author here at instructables made a tutorial about this, check out "The Real Elliot's" tutorial on this homebrew etchant (Link: Stop Using Ferric Chloride Etchant!)

Step 16: Etch the PCB

Submerge your photo-developed PCB on the etching solution. Agitate your tray and observe it until the unmasked areas dissolve. I really hated this process since it takes up so much time, that's why I made a PCB Shaker, I'll post a tutorial about it on the near future. You can subscribe to my Instructables & YouTube channel for updates.

Step 17: Inspect Again

Once you've finished etching. Inspect your board again for shorted lines or broken lines. Shorted lines can be removed by scratching it with a blade. Broken lines on the other hand can be fixed by soldering a bridge of bare copper wire between the broken traces.

Step 18: Ways to Remove the Paint

Soldering with the paint still on would be difficult. You'll have to remove the paint. There are two ways to do this. One is by scratching it off using a fine grit sand paper, years later, I learned that this was a bad ide for boards with thin traces since tinier lines could get dislodged from the board. Use Paint Thinner or Pure Acetone instead! With a few drops, you can easily wipe of the paint using a tissue paper.

Step 19: Drill Holes

Grab your mini drill and drill the holes for your components. Recommended drill bits for THT PCB fabrication are 0.8mm (for thin lead discrete components) and 1.0mm bits (for large transistors and etc...).

Step 20: Solder the Components

A PCB layout usually comes with a Parts Placement diagram as well. Follow it for mounting your components, then solder your component's leads to the copper side of the PCB. Now you have a working circuit!

Step 21: Enjoy!

I hope you liked this project! Feel free to leave down some comments for feedbacks or questions.

1 Person Made This Project!

Recommendations

  • Fruit and Veggies Speed Challenge

    Fruit and Veggies Speed Challenge
  • Make it Fly Challenge

    Make it Fly Challenge
  • Maps Challenge

    Maps Challenge

20 Comments

0
TheSanti
TheSanti

11 months ago

Hi! I’ve been building PCBs with the presensitized method for several years and a translucid/acetate photolite ... worked very well for DIY circuits, better than toner transfer ( needs often a mask fix) I witnessed the printout on inkjet with acetate or translucent paper depends of the printer , the quality of ink and the quality of paper ... too many variables and need lots of try & error to get a clear and shaped photolithe ... HP original cartridges got me better results but now I’using an Epson that prints terrible on those acetate/translucent, however very well on plain paper. So the oil method you show is wonderful!!
Another tip, I’ve used the homebrew echtant but mixing too with one part of water , to get it less aggressive.
Thank you for your tips!

0
e5frog
e5frog

1 year ago

Great tip about the baby oil, I have used water which might not work as well. Tinning all traces like they did "back in the day" is a neat way to prevent oxidation.
As it requires a lot of time, effort and equipment I stopped making my own boards some years ago. You can get a lot of professionally made boards for the money you need to spend on these things.
Great tutorial if you want to make boards as a hobby, or can't wait for a delivery from a PCB manufacturer... or if you have secret projects. :D

0
n4mwd
n4mwd

1 year ago

I have a Canon color laser printer, but it has the same problem as inkjet printers when it comes to toner transfer. Even though it's toner it still won't transfer. I am going to try this baby oil process next time I make a circuit board. I can make transparencies, but I have to print two of them and then tape them together in order for it to work right. I've had other laser printers that worked with toner transfer with no problem, but the cannon seems to have a different toner formula.

0
gregvp
gregvp

Reply 1 year ago

Useful to know. Thanks!

1
throbscottle
throbscottle

1 year ago

Also consider using dry film photo resist with plain copperclad boards! (Need negative print)

1
Orngrimm
Orngrimm

Tip 1 year ago

back in my days as electronics apprentice we printed the layout for UV-exposure onto clear plastic-foils intended for projectors. Print normally in your laser-printer. If i remember correctly, we even mirrored the print, so the Toner was sitting directly on the PCB and the light didnt scatter thru the thickness of the foil. We made super small tracks like 3mil with no problems.

With the method here (Making normal paper more shine-thru with oil will lead to a certain degree scattering of UV while exposed and therefore less crisp and good edges.

0
preschau
preschau

Reply 1 year ago

Laminating pouches work well instead of acetate film, cheap and easily available.
They only work with laser printers tho.

0
AlyssonR2
AlyssonR2

Reply 1 year ago

Easy solution - reverse the image and use the oil. No scatter, but still the good UV penetration!

Laser acetate film is getting more difficult to find at a reasonable price.

0
myCircuitBoard
myCircuitBoard

Reply 1 year ago

Amazon sells transparency film sheets for inkjet and laser printers for screen printing. I bought a pack of transparency sheets a while back for my inkjet printer and used the sensitized boards from Jameco to make a circuit board. I printed a double (2 sheets) of the image to make sure the image would be plenty dark and exposed the image on the board with a compact fluorescent light.

0
AlyssonR2
AlyssonR2

Reply 1 year ago

That's great stuff. Thanks.

Mind you, my current projects all require double-sided boards with all the trimmings. Next time I'm on alpha prototypes, though.

0
ASCAS
ASCAS

Reply 1 year ago

Agree, I use Projector Acetate too, they give a lot crisper outputs. Whenever I run out of Acetate Films, I choose the oil method instead. I'd still choose Acetate over oiling the paper when Acetate is available.

2
preschau
preschau

1 year ago

Instead of rather nasty Caustic Soda as a developer I use Sodium Metasilicate.
100gms per Litre works well and lasts a long time. Development takes only a couple of minutes and doesn't rip your skin off or dissolve rubber gloves.
Brewers use it for bottle washing (Brewers Detergent) and you can get it from your local brew shop. 500gms will go a long way.

Acetone or thinners is a bit of an overkill for removing the mask (paint?), methylated spirits works just as well, a lot cheaper and more easily available.

Printers: I've found that some inkjet printers don't always print exactly to 1:1 scale, Canon inkjets seem to be OK but I had a lot of problems with Epson printers not printing exactly to 1:1 scale. There's nothing worse than starting to populate a board you have made and find that some of the components don't fit.

1
lorenkinzel
lorenkinzel

1 year ago

For small boards, a sandwich bag works really well when etching. You can use a very small amount of etchant & you can massage the etchant around for even etching.

0
ELECTRONFLYER1
ELECTRONFLYER1

1 year ago

HOW LONG FOR A NOON TIME CLEAR SKY SUN?

1
dresch
dresch

1 year ago

Excellent video tutorial. I will have to try the photosensitized PCB material! A while back I did a toner transfer Instructable:
https://www.instructables.com/id/Cheap-and-Easy-MP3-Shield-for-Arduino/
I use a really simple and cheap bubble etcher. Basically a cheap aquarium pump, a length of aquarium tubing (with some pin holes from a heated pin) and a thin chamber made from two sheets of plexiglas separated by about a 1/4 inch, so that the tubing can be looped low in the chamber. It uses very little ferric chloride and etches in 10 to 15 minutes.
For a UV exposure chamber (it appears the PCB material is made for exposure at 405nm, just like 3D printing resin), I use a stainless steel pot and a 60W UV lamp. I don't know if 60W is overkill for this, I use it for curing 3D resin prints.
Remove the handle from the lid (drill out/cut out the rivets), cut a rectangular hole in the lid to match the lamps LED area (a dremel with cut off discs works great) and drill 4 holes to match the lamps bezel mounting screws and then attach the lamp to the lid top with 4 screws that are slightly longer than the lamp's bezel screws. The pot prevents exposure to the UV light by outsiders and provides an lot of reflective surface internally. Plus you can use it with a 3D resin printer for print curing. Thanks again for the great Instructable.
Cheap SS pot with SS lid:
https://www.amazon.com/IMUSA-L300-40314-Stainless-8-Quart-Silver/dp/B0018KNC4C/ref=sr_1_12?crid=2RNBQA4P16BWJ&dchild=1&keywords=8+quart+stock+pot&qid=1590936873&sprefix=8+quart+st%2Caps%2C563&sr=8-12
UV lamp, 60W, 405nm:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B081YWCNDS/ref=sspa_dk_detail_2?psc=1&pd_rd_i=B081YWCNDS&pd_rd_w=0VsoD&pf_rd_p=48d372c1-f7e1-4b8b-9d02-4bd86f5158c5&pd_rd_wg=EcVNs&pf_rd_r=4KTKHT2A8GMFWFVEMDX9&pd_rd_r=c231c296-aa86-4295-aed5-c7231e3a2a54&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEzUVdCN1dQUDQzSFExJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwNDc5MjYwM1E1NkxKS1ZKRlNIVCZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUExMDIzNjk0MjFYQzNKRE9SU1QyNyZ3aWRnZXROYW1lPXNwX2RldGFpbCZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU=
Cutoff Wheels for Rotary tools:
https://www.amazon.com/Dremel-688-01-Piece-Rotary-Cut-Off/dp/B00005LEY1/ref=sr_1_4?crid=M7K29ZF70A5I&dchild=1&keywords=rotary+tool+cut+off+wheel&qid=1590938910&sprefix=rotary+tool+cut+off+%2Caps%2C180&sr=8-4

3
AlyssonR2
AlyssonR2

1 year ago

The baby oil trick is excellent.

Now I can give up using toner transfer - and trying to find laser safe acetates that don't cost a fortune!

0
rastersoft
rastersoft

1 year ago

You say to use a glass over the board if you don't have an exposure box. But, AFAIK, glass blocks UV...

1
evilgremlin8
evilgremlin8

1 year ago

I'll add another recipie, available in any rural village and dirt cheap:
100ml 5% hydrogen peroxide
30g citric acid
5g salt (NaCl, nothing fancy).
It's disposable, but very clean and you can bathe in it and wash it down the drain without worry.

2
Fall-Apart-Dave
Fall-Apart-Dave

1 year ago

I'd never thought of using baby oil. Great idea for when you don't have acetate! Thank you for that!!

1
thediylife
thediylife

1 year ago

This is a great way to make PCBs at home, thanks for sharing.