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Making Your Own Printed Circuit Boards

Making Your Own Printed Circuit Boards

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Published by Debasish Padhy

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Published by: Debasish Padhy on Nov 17, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Making your own Printed Circuit Boards
These hints are worth gold! Some close friends, engineers, technicians and the like were admired with thequality achieved by this process. Again, the motivation arised after veryfing that in the brazilian market isvery hard to find materials for doing an industry-grade PCB at home. There are those nasty pens (usingthem sucks)...there are transfer sheets ('Letraset' a load of work for doing a pcb) and finally there aren´tthose special transfer papers, imported and mainly USA made. Even if we got them here, their cost wouldbe prohibitive. After doing a good research on the Net and finding out some crazies that were usingregular paper and a laser print for doing PCBs at home, I started to test many kinds of materials and papersuntil coming up with the final solution!
A laser printer (It ONLY works with LASER Printers!) A friend of mine did some tests on a Xeroxcopier. It works, but sometimes the toner won´t come off the paper when you´re 'ironing' theboard...
A4 Photo paper. The best brands for experimenting are EPSON and KODAK. Kodak is cool becauseyou can use either side of the paper!
A good ironing "tool": I use a black&decker...really HOT... =)
And some more stuff, check the picture:
Instead of the electrical tape, use masking tape, since it won´t melt...
The first step is to have a PRINTED CIRCUIT ARTWORK. You can get this from the original designer OR usesoftware for doing it. I use and like very much one called EAGLE. It´s excellent and freeware (limited forsmall sized boards and number of pins) and have one of the best part libraries that I´ve ever found. Youcan get it for free at
The second step is to have the Copper board. It´s cheap andyou can use one for many projects. The board pictured below is over a PHOTO PAPER SHEET, you can checkthe paper glare in the lower part of the picture. The board we are going to use is bigger than the testdesign showed here, just to demonstrate the process.
Print your artwork on the photo paper using a Laser Printer. PAY ATTENTION to the design, if needed, printMIRRORED (I confuse myself every time I do this....)
One important note: TRY TO USE AT LEAST 600 DPI for printings. The better the printing, the better yourboard will come up. If you use a low resolution your board is likely to get "pixelized", that is, with littlesquares or "ladders" on the tracks.
The artwork pictured below belongs to Brent Dane´s CLIFFTECH Site and is an R/C Voltimeter which isfurther explained in this page (portuguese, sorry). We´re goin to use as our example.
After printing I trimmed the paper like this. This will ease the task of taping it over the board.Using somekind of thin steel wool, clean the board to remove any traces of copper oxide. After that, use the IsopropylAlcohol to completely remove any traces of oil, grease, etc.
Allright, after cleaning your board, grab that hardwood thing, put on a level surface, put the clean PCB overit, copper facing up. Put the printed piece of paper over and tape it like the picture using MASKING TAPE.Try to keep the paper with just a little "tension" over it.
That done, turn up your engine...for the iron. I use an old Black & Decker and the dial on the number 5.This iron is capable of leaving BUBBLES on the copper! Believe me, I wasted a couple of boards already. Nomore than 30 seconds with this guy heavyly applied over the board.On some irons you can use the highest number.
Now, apply the iron over the paper. Don´t worry, the paper won´t burn. Heat passes thru the paper andthe board wiil absorb good part of it, dissipating it. While this happens, the Printing Toner and a thin photopaper layer is transferred to the PCB.
The time spent on that is short. It ranges from 20 to 40 seconds, I´ve been using 30 seconds now with adifferent iron than the above. Try to use your body weight on the first "press" (that is, lean over the boardholding the iron firmly against it and count slowly to 30). After this, "iron" the board by using the iron tipto slowly and carefully go over all the surface, just to make sure the borders also got "glued" to the board.
Note: be careful to don´t let the paper spin or move over the board, if it occurs the artwork will be allmessed up and you´ll have to start over. Just clean the board with acethone/thinner and print a new pieceof paper. That is WHY you have to tape the paper with a little tension over the board. Just a little. On thefirst ironing the paper should stick to the board.
After finishing, TRY TO RESIST THE TEMPTATION of removing the paper, LOL... =) WAIT until it isCOMPLETELY COOLED. After ironing you can remove the masking tape and take the whole thing to cool off the hardwood board (which will be also hot).

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