PCB Etching Using Laser Printer

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The goal of this instructable is to share my experience in making PCBs using a Laser Printer
If you are really into electronics and robotics, then you must MUST make your own PCB's.

Introduction to PCB etching using toner transfer method

In the following technique, I use a solution of hydrochloric acid (Muriatic acid) and Hydrogen peroxide and drop my copper board into it. Within a blink of an eye, you find that the board has etched and your circuit is ready to conquer the world.
If you feel that the instructable is summerized, feel free to check out the complete documentation and a video tutorial in my site:

http://www.robotplatform.com/howto/pcb%20etching/pcb_etching_1.html

Materials required:

Copper Board
Laser printer
Fine sand paper or Kitchen Scrubber
Muriatic Acid / Hydrochloric Acid (HCL)
Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2)
Thinner / Acetone
Plastic container
Circuit diagram
Electronic or Hand Driller
Fine Drill Bits (0.5mm and 1mm)
Hacksaw

Step 1: Paper and Printer Selection

Paper selection

Selecting an appropriate paper is your first step in making a right selection. Glossy photo quality paper or even a glossy thick magazine sheet would do wonders

Printer selection

I have used a printer to transfer the circuit diagram onto the copper board. If you are using a sharpie or a marker, go ahead with it. I haven't tested it, but I guess it should be OK.
Set your printer to output maximum toner and printer your circuit on the glossy paper

Step 2: Preparing the Board and Transferring Toner

Preparing the Copper board

Normal Copper board availabe at your radio shop would be good enough. Use a kitchen scrub or a fine sand paper and rub surface until you feel it is clean. DO NOT over do it. Once done, clean it with water and a clean cloth and avoid touching the surface

Transferring toner to board

This step is not as complicated as the title says. Switch on your cloths iron and turn it to its highest setting. Place the printed paper over the board and start moving the iron over it for 2-3 minutes. Now drop the board into a mug of water and peel off the glossy paper.

Step 3: Etching and Removing Toner From Copper Board

Etching the board

Mix Hydrochloric acid to Hydrogen peroxide in a ratio of 2:3 and drop your copper board into it. Within 5-10 seconds, you can see the copper removed from the board and tracks clearly visible.

Removing Toner

Wash the etched board thoroughly in water and then use acetone or a nail polish remover and clean the surface so that the toner is removed and copper tracks are clearly visible.

Step 4: Drilling the Circuit Board and Soldering Components

Drilling & Soldering

Once the toner is completely removed, use a hand driller or an electronic drill and drill holes into the board to mount the components. Place the components and solder them across.

You are ready with a complete professionally (almost) looking circuit board. If you have all the tools and parts in hand, the entire process takes less than an hour.

Caution:

Muriatic Acid is dangerous. Hydrogen peroxide, although not dangerous, still gives your skin a burnt effect. Be careful with these solutions


If you succeed or in case of any doubts, share your comments.

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    57 Discussions

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    Adambowker98

    6 years ago on Step 3

    Could you just use a etching solution from RadioShack instead of doing all that 2:3 mixing?

    4 replies
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    ArifSaeAdambowker98

    Reply 2 years ago

    nope, its expensive. and often not found in many locations. I live in large city but still i find it difficult, due to decline in hobbyists.

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    ArifSaeArifSae

    Reply 2 years ago

    also if we can get etching solution, so can we get products ready made :P here goes the diy spirit out o window haha

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    RobotplatformAdambowker98

    Reply 6 years ago on Step 3

    I could have, but I did not. The intention of my site www.robotplatform.com is to show everything from scratch. I could get an arduino and get away with all the mess. I can get the boards printed with a manufacturer and keep cool. But that is not the intention of the site.

    I guess you would have got the point by now. :)

    Great instructable thank you! I wish I had listened about the magazine paper. I tried using expensive photo paper first and it took serious effort to scrub all the left behind paper. The old magazine paper just lifted right off after a min soak. No problem. Kicking myself for not trying it first.

    1 reply
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    mykiscool

    4 years ago on Introduction

    So, can you use glossy paper from magazines that already has print since the ink is dry, or do you need fresh paper? Your picture shows a magazine with print.

    1 reply
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    batmat

    7 years ago on Step 4

    Very well.
    I don't fink way form (Glossy photo quality paper can be used for etching.)
    I never thought could be done this way. Pretty simple. Too bad I do not own a laser printer, but as was thinking of buying one, as my epson are already getting old, so I'll try the business with pleasure. I will test with someone who has a laser and then I will buy a certain one or exchange. Who knows ...

    5 replies
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    ArifSaebatmat

    Reply 2 years ago

    can get it out from print shops for cheap

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    Robotplatformbatmat

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 4

    That is exactly what I did before purchasing one. I tried it from other printers and once I was confirmed that it worked, got one.

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    tomc53batmat

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Rather than buying a laser printer, consider an office supply store to print (<10 cents per page) or your local library. Unless you are going into mass production, of course... ;)

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    nfarrow

    4 years ago on Introduction

    Just wondering if it's possible to use electrolysis process rather than acid for the etching?

    2 replies
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    baelza.bubbanfarrow

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    In my experience, using the electrolytic process rather than acid etching is a short path to frustration. The copper would need to be connected to the anode for each separate pad and trace ... when the copper has gone into the solution, there will be gaps in the design where positive voltage wasn't passing through it.

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    ArifSaebaelza.bubba

    Reply 2 years ago

    Here are my observations from living in Pakistan:

    1. either
    its ,more diluted vinegar or hydrogen per oxide. the process is NOT 10 -
    20 minutes long, but takes hours. which in result causes poor tracks as
    toner transferred plastic begin to dissolve or drop off. Conclusion;
    Poor method for my usage.

    2. Better: use electrolysis in salt water solution. BUT it leaves dust like structure behind, perhaps not fully etched.

    3.
    BEST OF BOTH WORLDS. I used electrolysis to remove access copper from
    pcb than used vinegar method (1) to remove the little dust like
    structures.

    Worked like charm.