Introduction: Etching PCB's With Vinyl Mask

first i want to say i'm sorry about the quality of some of the pictures 

There are many ways to etch your PCBs from toner transfer to using a sharpie. I found this method by accident one day while I was etching a board. I hope it is nice enough to win the UP! Contest, though I may also enter it in a few others :)

Step 1: Materials

You will need:
Copper Clad board
hacksaw blade to cut the board
Ferric chloride
An etching container
Vinyl tape and
A razor knife.

I personally use a glass peanut jar since most of my boards are small enough to fit in it and the jar holds approx. 32 oz of fluid.

Step 2: Trim the Board

First using a hacksaw blade and the razor I cut a section off my board. Use the razor to score first I normally use the back side of the hacksaw blade as a straight edge. Then going slowly I saw thorough the board using the scored line to guide me.

Step 3: Prep the Board

Next place the vinyl tape over the board. You can sometimes get scraps of vinyl tape from sign shops, I got mine from a place I used to work the used it to mark walk zones on the floors. I haven’t tried it yet but Electrical tape is vinyl and easily accessible and its usually around 50 cents a roll.

Step 4: Design

After covering the board I use a marker to draw where I want the traces to stay. Using the razor knife and a careful hand trim around the markings you made, I would suggest using a straightedge to keep the lines sharp. I just did a little design here to use as a book mark its the Instruct-o-bot a few lines and a stylized design of my initials J C W

Step 5: Weeding

After scoring the tape carefully peel the areas that you want etched off away. If any of the traces shifted carefully reposition them in the correct area. Using your thumb firmly press all the remaining tape to the surface of the board.

Step 6: Prepping Etchant

Fill your etching container with your etchant, in my case I pour the entire 16 oz bottle of ferric chloride in my peanut jar. I do this for a few reasons. 1. It’s easier to make sure that there is plenty of fresh etchant for the board. 2. The jar containing 16oz of etchant is only half full and with the shape of the top when I swirl the etchant around there is less chance of spilling any etchant out. 3. It’s what I have :P .

Step 7: Etching

After filling your etching container carefully drop your ready to be etched board in. Depending on the temperature and freshness of your etchant this could take from 10 to 40 minutes. I try to occasionally swirl the etchant around my board. This is where I really appreciate my peanut jar, the shape of the jar and volume it holds allows me to swirl the etchant with no splashes if I don’t go crazy with the way I swirl it.

Step 8: After Etching

After 20 minutes I tilt the jar around a few different ways to see if I can judge how far along my etching is. After I am satisfied with how well etched it is I pour my etchant back into its storage container. Since the etching solution eats copper and is toxic you really need to find out your local area’s disposal guidelines are most definitely DO NOT POUR IT DOWN THE DRAIN it will eat up your pipes!

Step 9: Rinse the Board

Remove the remaining etchant on your board by holding it under running water for a few minutes. Keep it under running water washing both sides until the water runs clear. After I would still run the water of 3 or 4 minutes to make sure I don’t mess up my pipes. Pat dry the board with paper towels or a towel you don’t mind being messed up (just in case).

Step 10: Finishing

Now using either the edge of the razor or a credit card remove the vinyl tape. Then using rubbing alcohol remove any remaining adhesive. Finally enjoy your new circuit board or in my case PCB Book mark.

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