DIY Printed Circuit Board

Introduction: DIY Printed Circuit Board

I want to share my personal experience with heat toner transfer method of making PCB.
It's easy to learn for beginners and it delivers very good result for fair price.
Do fast prototyping with fun!
Enjoy!
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To get more info about LIQUID TIN see Spec sheet at
http://www.mgchemicals.com/products/421.html
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NOTE!!! Why it works only with laser printer!

Heat toner transfer is possible because it employs physical properties of laser printer toner.
Toner is a mix of a very fine plastic powder and black pigment.
When paper is being heated by fuser inside printer plastic particles melts and sticks to paper.
If we attach paper to flat surface and apply heat to paper so temperature of paper exceeds toner melting point,  plastic melts again and sticks to adjacent surface.

If you don't have laser printer you can use xerox to make copy of your artwork. Since xerox employs laser technology it should work the same way.

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123 Discussions

wow thanks exactly what i was looking for your a life saver

I'm wanting to custom make some LED tailights for my car, this seems like the route I want to go. I'm not quite sure on the exact materials needed for this, could you maybe post a list of all the materials I would need? Thanks, and this is a fantastic video!

I followed your instructions to transfer toner to copper board. I used canon photo glossy paper. But when I remove the iron, most of the toner are still on the paper. Would you please tell me which exact type paper do you use? And my etching process is very very slow... Thank you.

1 reply

Increase heating during the transfer for better results.
Tip: Add 1 part of conc. Citric acid to 4 part FerChloride for faster etching.

Thanks for that introduction! Was that for a through-hole application, or for SM?

For through-hole, does the copper/tin flake easily?

After the iron,under the copper it's all black, is it possible that my iron is too hot, the iron settings is before steam. What do you suggest? thank you!|

1 reply

I know this is likely a bit late, but I have a couple of follow-up questions for you (and please remember I mean no offense):

Are you sure you were using a bare copper board and not a photoresist board?

Was the print-out clear and clean, or did it have dithering or hashes or spots? Make sure your printer settings are set for black and white, no dithering, no color, and high-quality... though if your circuit is "bleeding" into a single mash, you may want to try "normal quality" or even "economy" to reduce the amount of toner the printer uses.

Is your circuit very dense? If so, perhaps a little less time and/or pressure may be needed. Keep in mind that "Press as hard as you can" means very different things between a 90 pound teenager and a 220 pound adult (me).

What paper are you using? I haven't used other than glossy photo paper myself, so I don't know what effects standard printer paper may have, but intuitively it may 'wick' the toner into a wider pattern than intended (or the toner may soak into the paper too well and leave nothing on the copper), really not sure. Paper choice for this process is a big issue.

The nice thing about the toner transfer method is that you can see problems before the board is ruined, just clean off the copper and try again as many times as it takes, you just use more paper and toner. (Much cheaper than the copper boards!)

Hope this helps!

A couple of tips I have found will help but not seen posted anywhere.

Your local printshop can be your friend. Take your graphics file in on a disk or thumb drive; and ask them to print it out on a color copier/printer/xerox machine with the darkness setting wide open and in forced color mode even though its black and white. Color mode will cost you a buck or two, but this forces the machine into mixing a black toner from the four process colors. The result is a much thicker layer of toner so you get better transfer and better protection of the copper. Use a little less iron pressure though; its thick enough to squish our a bit under extreme pressure.

Also, there is no need to buy photo glossy paper. The printshop will have a ready supply of glossy papers at near normal paper prices. Ask for the lightest weight gloss paper they have; and try a couple different paper brands. I have personally found "Sappi" gloss text 80# to work well - but that may or may not be available. I like it because I find it softens/falls off faster in water after ironing.

Set up your board to fill a sheet of paper - ie multiple copies of it. It won't cost any more and you will have spares for mistakes or future duplicates. (yes, my employment is in such a printshop - so I've had the opportunity to do some experimenting with all this :) Just wanted to share the info with those who don't have the equipment available to 'play' with.)

Getting the toner back off after etching can be a challenge. Alcohol, nail polish remover, light fluid, etc will do it with a lot of scrubbing. Go to your local auto parts(or Wally for that matter) and buy a spray can of 'brake and parts cleaner'. Hit the board with a shot of that, and the toner will wipe right off instantly.

You can use the same technique to create a 'silk screen' image on the board after etching, even in full color! I don't recommend doing it on a side your going to solder. It doesn't stick as easily to the bare board as it does the copper, but its good enough to locate components for assembly.

No, only laser printer works but there's method of using modified jet printer to print artwork directly on cooper clad and then etch it. You can find lots information
online.

Thanks for the great tutorial! Finally my husband can print his own boards and rest assured on the quality of the outcome. The last boards outsourced had horrible squiggly lines and no spots for drilling, which made things quite difficult.

I'm going to assume that the poor quality job he has received is due to the transfer being heated too high when applying, thus causing all of the holes to disappear and lines to be wavy. Do you know what the maximum temp should be? Or is it safe to say that the iron will not go past that?

Once again, thanks for the fantastic tutorial. It really saved the day for us!

1 reply

Quality is a matter of experiments and practice;)

Heat and pressure force should be evenly distributed over whole area and best result you can achieve using laminator.
Squeezing too hard on one spot will result in distortion of image being transferred.

If iron is too hot you may try to put additional sheet of regular paper between iron and paper with artwork.

should it be a laser printer only? can i used an ink-jet printer for instance cannon pixma? tnx!

1 reply