How to Make Large PCBs With a Sublimation Machine




In this Instructable I'm going to show you how I use a Sublimation Machine to print and etch large PCBs or multiple board.

Step 1: What Is a Sublimation Machine!?

First, 99% of people will be asking "what is a Sublimation Machine".........and its a good question!

A Sublimation Machine is a heat press for transferring onto many flat surfaced items, such as fabric, metal, wood, ceramic & glass, etc.

But, is commonly called a "T-shirt Heat Press" as it is most commonly used for printing onto garments!

They can be easily picked  up on popular auction sites for as low as £80 ($100) for a very basic models.

Step 2: What Are You Going to Need.

As we are basically using the toner transfer technique of PCB making this will be very familiar to many of you who make your own PCBs:

A Sublimation machine.
A laser jet printer.
A Copper laminated board.
A Glossy magazine paper.
A container of water that is large enough to submerge your copper board.
A sheet of craft felt that will cover your copper.

Step 3: Setting Up the Sublimation Machine.

All sublimation machines will have two setting; Time, and Temperature.

For printing PCBs, Iv found the best setting on my machine is 190°C for 60 may need to tweak your settings. 

(Now this is one of the huge advantages with this technique, sure you can print large PCBs with just using a domestic iron and the  toner transfer method.....but can you print upto 38X38CM baroads in 60 seconds with a domestic iron, no!)

Step 4: Let's Make Sandwiches!

Right, lets go!

Step 1: Print your artwork onto a sheet of glossy magazine paper.
Step 2: Place your copper board copper side up.
Step 3: Place your artwork on-top of your copper board.
Step 4: Place the sheet of craft felt onto of the artwork and copper board.
Step 5: Press in the machine for 60 seconds, at 190°C.

Step 5: Quench Peel & Prep.

After 60 seconds in the machine place the hot board into the water (be careful as the board will be extremely hot, and mittens would be a wise choice!).

After about 10 minutes the paper should easily peel away from the board (it my be longer or shorter, depending on the paper used)

Dry your board off, and then tweak any floors with a sharpy marker or other etch resistance pen.

Step 6: Etch the Board

This is self explanatory, etch your board in your etchant of choose and admire your huge slab of PCB! 



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    11 Discussions


    1 year ago

    This is very interesting. I am just starting up making small boards and have had varying results using the iron heat transfer method. Do you think that a sublimation press would give more consistent results even on small boards?

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Hey James, if your just doing small board, and not a whole panels of them I would consider using a laminator over an iron, google or yourube "PCB Laminator" or "PCB Laminator mod". the Sublimation Machine give really constent results bet is rcpencive for just small PCB, when I do it I tend to do large PCBs or a whole A4 sheet of small ones.


    Reply 1 year ago

    I have not tried it so cannot be 100% sure, but I don't think it will work, the key to this method is the toner powder melting onto the copper to form the resist, I'm not sure how well sublimation ink would hold up to the etching process. Please, let us know the results if you do decide to try it!


    3 years ago on Introduction


    First off, thank you for this awesome tutorial! Your boards look fantastic.

    Do you have a preferred method for double sided copper boards? I have all the similar tools (including a heat press). After withdrawing the boards from a water bath and removing the remnant magazine paper; the traces look noticeably blurry. Could this be due to excessive heat? Any advice will help. Cheers!

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    Hello aloya3,

    Are you using a bit of felt on top of the paper? I only ask as I get really blurry lines if I don't use it. you could also try using a little less pressure and heat.

    For double sided, I used photoshop to put a space the same size as the thickness of my board between both sided and fold along those lines and put it the press for seconds each size.


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Icecreamterror are you the creator this images if yes can i take the permission to use one of them .

    2 replies