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Making PCBs with magazine's paper


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Guest Kasamiko

In the link:
http://www.bobblick.com/techref/projects/ledsign/ledsign.html
On that page there was a mention of making a PCB pattern from a special paper to a page of a TIME magazine!
http://www.bobblick.com/techref/projects/picprog/picprog.html
"Assembly:
The PC board design is fairly straightforward and can be made by laser printing to special paper or a page from TIME magazine, then ironing the image onto copper-clad board, then etching with ferric chloride....."
Is it true?? ???
Thanks..

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Guest Kasamiko

Hi, I just got a very informative reply from the site owner..
here's what he said:
"Hi,

Yes, it's a real process. Although it is not as good as products from
Dyna-Art http://www.dynaart.com/DTF/A.PCB.html
or my favorite, Press'n'Peel Blue from Techniks
http://www.techniks.com/

But it does work with magazine pages. You need a laser printer. I have had success with all lasers I've tried. Take a shiny piece of paper from a magazine. It can have printing on it but don't use a color printed area. Cut a piece big enough for your circuit plus a little border. Tape it to a piece of regular paper using a label. You don't need to tape all around, just at the top of your piece. Before you do that, find out where to tape it by printing your circuit to a sheet of paper. Use that sheet only as a guide, tape your magazine piece to a fresh sheet of paper, and print your circuit to it. Then remove the magazine piece and trim to about 1/8 inch from the design.

Then take a clothes iron set to fairly hot, and iron the design onto absolutely clean and shiny copper clad circuit board. For best results you must clean the board ahead of time with steel wool and detergent and then alcohol. Don't touch it after cleaning!

After it cools you'll notice the magazine is stuck to the copper. Soak it in water for 15 minutes and the paper will get rotten enough to pull off, leaving all of the design on the copper. Little bits of paper may be stuck in the design but that's OK. You may need to touch up a void or crack here or there with a Staedler Lumocolor 313 - 2 (red) pen, a legendary pen with ood resisting ink, better than so-called "etch resist" pens.

At that point you are ready to throw the board into etchant. I'm assuming ou already know about etchant, and that warm is good, agitation is good.

I've been asked about other magazines than Time. I have had good results with Mother Jones but didn't have a copy of National Review so I can't vouch for that magazine ;-)

Cheerful regards,

Bob"
Well it was confirmed..
;D ;D

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Before some time I was looking for a method to make pcb's, and I saw this method.
I tried it with a simple text photocopy that I had and the results was not bad. The text was transfered on the copper and was etched nicely.
I didn't tried this method more because I don't have a laser printer and I dislike photocopy shops. :P

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I tried the procedure yesterday and the results are awesome !!! :o
I made a very professional looking pcb with a very low cost.

1) Print the pcb layout on photo glossy paper using a laser printed and high resolution.
2) Clean the copper surface.
3) Put the glossy paper facing the copper and ironed on high for a couple of minutes. Let it cool.
4) Submerge on water and tap the paper lighthly with your finger for a while. The paper comes out.
5) Clean the glossy coating with some soap with your finger. Don't worry, the toner does not come out very easily. Clean it thoroughly then with some alcohol.
6) Submerge on FeCl3 solution (with hot water) and let it etching for
half an hour or so.
7) Clean very well with water and use a sponge to rub out the toner
from the pcb.

You will be amazed with the results !!!! Now I laugh when I think that some people still use lamps/NaOH/transparencies etc etc. This is
VERY expensive compared to the toner way !!! ;D

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Billy,
There are many ways to make PCBs and these are as different as using any one of the many circuit layout programs. Some of it has to do with taste, but a lot of it has to do with features. The same is with the many methods of fabricating PCBs. In my workshop, the transfer method will not give me the resolution that I must have. I use the photographic method. The magazine method will work for most hobbyist projects. But do not laugh at those who find they need a different method. ;)

MP

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Dear billy

I am glad to hear that this method works for you. I haven't tryed it yet myself. It would be nice if you scan your pcb and attach it to the forum, so we can see the quality of the result. I suggest you to use 300-350dpi resolution. If the pcb is big send as just a part of the pcb (use as high resolution as to keep the file size in acceptable size). Hope you can do that.. for us !! :D

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I first have to apologize to MP because I said I laughed at the photographic method. It was just a joke maybe because I was
over-excited about the results of the toner method. :) Of course not
hard feelings at all, I really respect the professionals who do projects
with high resolution pcbs, I am just an amateur only ! ;)

Dear Mike, I promise that I will send photos of my next pcb I make
with the toner procedure. I will send photos of the procedure itself
as well as hi res scans of the finalized board.

After all I totally agree with MP, the toner procedure is ideal for us, the
hobbyists, but when you are about to make a pc motherboard it is
surely not ! 8)

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Absolutely no offense taken here. I just felt the need to point out the reasons for the other methods. I am also glad that this method works well for you. There are lots of projects on the web which also provide a board layout. In the past, this has been a very expensive undertaking for the hobbyist. It is good to see alternatives to sending them to the expensive board house. :D
Happy etching!
-MP

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My mate used the laser printer technique and it works a treat for simple/low-current circuits. i have one question with power circuits that need big tracks, is there any technique to achiev it without using an expensive solder flow machine (i notice on professional power pcb's they have a slight dome to the track) and if not is there any cheap uk pcb making places ?

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Rob, you want to figure wire thickness for the wattage needed. Then you convert the board copper to this dimension. I did have the information but I cannot find it. A google search for copper thickness and pcb might give you the result.
Anyway, you have two choices for the thicker conductor needed. If you have the room on the board, you can make wider tracks or you can find thicker copper clad. The thicker copper clad takes more time to etch, so the etch resist has to be of good quality.
In the past, I have also performed my own solder coating by wetting the copper with flux, then running a solder iron and a generous amount of solder along all the traces. If you get too much solder on the traces, drag a little solder wick across the traces with the solder iron on it to provide heat. Afterwards, cleaning up with denatured alcohol leaves a very nice looking board. This method works really good for surface mount boards.

MP

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  • 3 weeks later...

hello!
i am using this method too....
only...a bit different, i don't have a laser printer, so i have to photocopy the board. but i tried with laser printers and it works fine. i photocopy the circuit printed from a jet printer on some sperial paper, similar to the one from magazines, acutally the guys from the copy shop use it for printing invitations on it and cards. it works well.
though, there is something i do different form what it is presented on that website. immediately after ironing, i drop the hot pcb in cold water. it makes that nice sound of instant boiling of water. the results that i have are good. still i sometimes have to do some touchup for some tracks with the marker.
also, just a tip, for making the tracks from the edge of the pcb stick better, it is a good idea to surround the whole pcb with a thicker circuit line, witch you can clean after you take the paper out of the pcb.
and another thing, cleaning the ink after etching with acetone is better, with the sponge you seem to scratch the tracks.....

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  • 4 weeks later...

Mixos has asked me to scan a PCB that was made with the paper toner method. Here it is ! (300 dpi).

Please post your thoughts and remarks.

The three holes in the lower left were enlarged (1.0 mm instead of 0.8 mm of the original) because a jumper couldn't fit, just ignore how it looks.

Please note that I don't have a good etching system. I just used FeCl3 in a plastic tray submerged in hot water.

I feel that I should have let the FeCl3 to act some time more. The cross section the traces looks like
----------
/ \

instead of
-----------
| |

but I was afraid not to leave it to long because it could turn to
------------
\ /

Generally it is good enough I think. 8)

post-275-14279141585721_thumb.jpg

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I see nothing wrong with your board. And I have been making boards for quite a few years. Since your traces are thick, the edge is not a problem. In fact, the only place I have seen where this is critical is in microwave circuits where the trace thickness and length is calculated for precise ohm.

If you decide you need thinner traces, you can make an etch tank that sits upright and put a fish tank heater in it to bring your temperature up. Also add a fish tank bubbler pump to your sdt up and some tubing to allow a wall of bubbles in your tank. These will allow better
oxidation and cause the etch to go faster.

MP

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This is indeed a very good idea dear MP. I am thinking of making such an etching tank (because it is hard to find a fabricated one here) out of plexiglass. The problem is that I don't know where to find and cut the plexiglass. I have found some good literature in the net. I am attaching one pdf here.

(Mixos, we can start a new thread about home made etching tanks ;))

Moreover I am thinking of quitting using FeCl3 and move on to ammonium pesulfate. It is clear and you see what you are doing all the time. What do you think ?

Etching_Unit.pdf

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Not sure about the plexiglass. I made mine with thick pieces of glass and clear RTV. The materials were more readily available to me.
Ammonium Persulfate turns blue as the copper is etched. The more copper etched, the bluer it gets, until you cannot see through it very well, either. I think it is easier to dispose of.
The bad points: After it is mixed with water, it has a shelf life and if you get it too hot with the heater, it is ruined. This and more is probably in the data sheet. I used it for a while but went back to fecl3. I do not remember why. Perhaps you could post a comparison when you try it.

MP

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I used for a while FeCL3. It leaves yellow stains everywhere, I hate that. It also takes a lot of time. requires hot water.

Now I am using Peridrol+something that I cant tell it in english. It is quite fast. It is easier to see through. It does not need any water. When I'm done i store it for one or two days max and it is reuseable. To dispose it I pour it in the drain with plenty of water. :)

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gsmaster,
Yes, I also have experience with the yellow stains. I have also had the occasion when the thermostat quit working in a heater and got the etchant too hot. Everything in the etch room that had metal exposed to the air became rusted.
I hope you can find a way to post the ingredient that you use to the group. Please tell us more about it.

Mixos: How does one start a new topic? Is there a button somewhere? I think there is a lot of information to share here.

MP

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Well, this try was not so successful. I used EPSON PHOTO PAPER which I assumed was good. :(

The picture is 600 dpi.

As you can see the traces do not have a uniform width and the holes are not properly aligned. My explanation is this :

The paper was not good, and that's all. After ironing I had to wait for more that 3 minutes for the soaked paper to peel off and some toner had remained on the paper, so that the look of some traces was a bit faint.

Another fact is that some glue that the paper is coated with remained on the copper side and was not very easy to remove with hot water.

So :

1) the traces were etched too much in some points.
2) the holes were not clearly etched because they had glue inside, and consequently I could not align the drill well by hand.

I know that the circuit will work, but I didn't like it. >:(

After that, I assume that everything depends on the paper. I am not talking about the quality of the paper (epson has indeed very good photo paper) but the way it is constructed. My other PCB was made with medium quality paper but the toner traces were fine, it was peeled off in seconds, and the remaining glue was removed instantly with water.

The question remains : which paper to use ? I want to know before I buy the whole pack. ???

Finally I wish I could have the PERFECT press-n-peel sheets

(http://www.techniks.com/) ;D

or the toner-transfer-system

(http://www.montek.com/catalog/item4296.htm) :D

but they charge A LOT for shipping to europe : press-n-peel is $50 for 20 sheets !!! >:( >:( >:( That's too much for me ! :(

Please tell me your opinions :)
8)

PCB_part.jpg

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