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Etching your own PCBs at home

August 30, 2012 By Brian Benchoff 78 Comments


Making your own PCB's at Home

Make your own circuit boards
You can make printed circuit boards like this one at home for
a modest expense. Invaluable to experimenters and homebrewers.
Why would anyone mess around to make PCB's?Printed Circuit Boards for the Masses
Creating PCB's at home has always been a hassle. The basic methods available include manually laying out the traces with trace transfers (not recommended), photoreproduction (specialized, and expensive), or the use of a laser printer using the toner transfer method. This latter has been somewhat hit or miss for me, with variable results, until I did a bit of internet research and discovered an absolutely dynamite paper. All the credit goes to Tom Gootee for finding a paper that really works.Professional PCB making at home

May 30, 2011 2:05 pm / 10 Comments / Arup
We know that PCB has a great role in our circuits.

It not only keep parts arranged, but also makes the connections smartly navigated so that future parts change requires small effort. In readymade kits available in market, all kits comes with own PCB and this makes them look better too. But the circuits we make and develop in home, doesn’t have a specially designed PCB to suit the circuit, so we have to do them on veroboard, which also takes time in making and it requires much larger board size as we have to use manual jumpers everywhere.PCB DIY (Do it yourself)

How to make a PCB (DIY) at Home
In today’s world executing college projects is becoming more and more competitive and time consuming. Added to this, the final exam scores are also dependant on how well the project is conceived, executed in time and it actually works ;-).

I myself struggled a lot while executing college projects which were electronic hardware based. The one constant worrying factor was “how to make a PCB”? The PCB should be according to my requirements and my design. And now I have somewhat mastered the process of making a PCB and here are directions for making it yourself (Do-It-Yourself).

Steps to make a PCB at Home
1. Designing the PC
2. Printing the PCB Design
OHP Transparent Sheet (thinnest)
It is advisable to find the thinnest sheet so that it facilitates easy ironing on to the PCB without crumpling etc.
Laser (B & W) Printer Home brew multi layer PCBs?
I just say a post that showed what looked like a multilayer PCB. Can this be done at home?
Better PCBs in Eagle
by Nate | November 06, 2008 | 41 comments Skill Level: Intermediate

Designing a Better PCB:

We are constantly pushing ourselves for better printed circuit boards (PCB). One thing we’ve learned is that PCB fab houses (such as Advanced Circuits, BatchPCB, PCB123, Gold Phoenix, Bare Bones PCB, anyone really) have a very hard job to do. Creating a PCB is not an easy task and there are many ways for a fab house to mess it up. Unfortunately, fab houses tend to spend less time on prototypes than on production runs. Therefore, we try to design products and PCBs for ‘manufacturability’. This tutorial will show you how to minimize the number of ways the fab house can screw up a PCB.

We’ve messed up piles of PCBs over the years. We want to share with you some of the DFM (design for manufacture) rules and tricks and tips we’ve learned to get a good PCB, every time. If you’re creating a prototype PCB, we highly recommend you use these rules to increase the chances that your proto will work!

Important Files:
Guided Tour through EAGLE

Creating the board How-to: Prepare your Eagle designs for manufacture

January 15, 2009 By Ian 39 Comments

Laser Pointer Forums - Laser Pointers and Laser Pointer info > Lasers > Tutorials, Help & Repairs
Tutorial: How to make PCB using laser printer, household iron and sponge.

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Tutorial: How to make PCB using laser printer, household iron and sponge.
Simple heat toner transfer technique to make PCB using laser printer, and household iron.
That's what I do for quick home prototyping and to make aluminum face plates for my units.

All chemical are from local electronic hobby shop.
Printer HP Laser Jet 1012.
Glossy laser photo paper from Staples (item 651611).
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.
My tutorials and fun projects

Cadsoft Eagle is a multi-platform freeware circuit layout program. Lots of open source hardware is designed in Eagle, and it’s become a hobbyist favorite. We use it for all of our hardware designs.

There are several ways to turn an Eagle design into an actual printed circuit board (PCB). We’ll show you how to save Eagle designs as industry-standard gerber files that are accepted by any PCB manufacturer. You can use the gerbers to order a single prototype, or a full panel.


Toner transfer is the beginners’ favorite way to make a PCB because the investment in materials is minimal. We’ve covered toner transfer before. Most PCBs in our how-tos are made with the photo-resist process. The photo process makes nice boards, but requires a bit of equipment; sensitized boards, developer, and an ultra-violet light source.

Creating the board from a schematic is one of the easiest tasks with EAGLE.
The Board command creates a new window with all the parts arranged next to a default board outline.

All the nets from the schematic are shown as airwires.
SparkFun Eagle Rules for designing PCBs in Eagle. This is a list of rules that we have forged over the years. You are welcome to use or dismiss them. Some only apply directly to the engineers here at SparkFun, most of the rules apply to everyone.
SparkFun DRC file for Eagle. Right click on the link, select ‘Save Link As’ and save this file to your Eagle/dru directory.
SparkFun CAM file for Eagle. Right click on the link, select ‘Save Link As’ and save this file to your Eagle/cam directory.

Trace Width and Spacing:

Just because a fab house can handle down to 5mil traces and 6mil space doesn’t mean you should design with those sizes. If your board can be routed with 10mil traces and 10mil spaces, do it! The smaller you make things, the more likely you will get a PCB with broken trace (traces less than 10mil) or two traces touching each other (less than 10mil spacing between traces).
Obviously I am not ready for this level of complexity so I don't need a lot of detail. But can someone explain the basics of how this would be done?

And how are vias done? I have read about them and I was curious of how they would be installed.
Simple PCB etchant made from chemicals you can put in your mouth

March 3, 2011 By Mike Nathan 57 Comments

[Stephen] often finds the need to make his own PCBs at home, and when he got the urge to do some etching recently, he realized that he was fresh out of “Ferret Chloride and Bureaucratic Acid*.” Undeterred by his empty chemical cabinet, he poked around in his kitchen mixing together anything and everything that might have the ability to strip copper from a PCB.

Now, we don’t necessarily recommend this course of action, but it seems that he finally hit upon a winner. He discovered a formula that can be made at home from simple and safe household ingredients which does the job quite nicely. A fair warning however, standard ferric chloride disposal procedures need to be followed when using this solution.

If you want to know what he concocted in his kitchen as well as the chemistry behind it, you will have to visit his site, we won’t ruin it for you. You can however, see the solution at work in the video we have posted below.
Again just the basics. As we old folks would say "the nickel tour".

The method used here is called toner transfer method
3. Obtaining the required components PCB ecthing at home using photo transfer method
February 27, 2012 in tutorials by DP | 2 comments
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Blondihacks wrote an in-depth tutorial on how to make PCBs made at home using pre-sensatived photo-PCBs. We especially liked the board design optimization for home etching tips. Wide traces, big vias, and using a ground plane are all strategies we use to get good DIY photo-transfer PCBs too.

DIY etching is the fastest way to get your prototypes made, but if you find it too much of a hassle there are lots of cheap PCB fab houses. You can check out our tutorial on how to get your PCBs manufactured.

Via Electronics-Lab.

This entry was posted in tutorials and tagged DIY, etching, pcb.
Components Required:
- PCB Copper Plates (size of your design)
Choose one which is slightly bigger than your PCB design borders. Too much space outside the design border will waste copper and cause longer time to etch.
- PCB Etching Powder
The etching power is actually the Ferric Chloride powder that I have used and easily available in shops in India. You can ask simply for PCB etching powder also.
- Iron Box
- Water Pump (used in Fish Aquarium)
Usually this costs around Rs. 100 and is available in Fish Aquarium shops. Make sure you also get the plastic tube attached to the pump.
- Scissors and Tape
One of the difficulties of modern times is that the electronic circuits have become very very small and almost impossible to prototype with them. I had to use always a breadboard or a universal PCB that only allowed DIP or big components.

I wanted to work with SMD (Surface Mount Devices) chips that usually are more powerful and are smaller, but this was the disadvantage for me and for many hobbyists.

A friend from Argentina once told me about a method to make your own PCB in home with no expensive components or complicated processes. This method is Toner Transfer.

There are a lot of resources on the Web that explains this method in deep. Here are some of the useful links that helped me in this process.

So, what do we need?

Blank Copper Clad Board,
Ferric Chloride as etchant,
Rubber gloves and safety glasses for our safety from ferric chloride,
Scale for measurement,
Hack-saw Blade for cutting Copper Chad Board,
PCB Artwork Printed on magazine paper by laser printer,
Dry Iron,
Scotch Bite scrubber pad,
Ether, or spirit even nail polish remover
Soap, Water, plastic tray, cellotapes, miscellaneous…

The procedure is simple. You need some Jet Print brand Photo paper, glossy. The stuff I bought was Jet Print Multi-Project Photo Paper, 07033-0. Jet Print color codes their inkjet photo papers... look for the stuff with the green band. About $0.75 per sheet here in Texas.

The next step is to produce a positive image of the traces you want, using almost any editor, CAD program, etc. The image must print to the exact scale needed.

Once the image is created, test-print the traces on a sheet of regular paper. You must use a laser printer; inkjet printers will not work. If it all looks good, load a sheet of the Jet Print into your printer tray, set your printer for darkest image, and print. Here is the image of my traces printed to the Jet Print paper.

I finally bit the bullet and tooled up to make my own circuit boards at home. The idea of hand-wiring some of the projects I'd like to do has kept me from even starting them. By making my own circuit boards I opened myself up to not only being able to create and re create favorite projects, but also much more complex projects. If you've done any kind of building at all, you can appreciate how much difference it makes to stuff a pre-printed PCB versus hand wiring on perfboard. It makes building some of the projects you see in magazines much more straightforward to do. Just convert the article's schematic to a board, buy the parts and put it together. Just a few steps short of a pre-kitted project.

Preliminary Stuff

While making PCB's at home isn't particularly difficult, it's not a trivial undertaking. You need to acquire some kind of PCB layout program, and build or buy some specialized equipment. There's also a bit of a learning curve to it, especially the PCB layout tool. There's nothing stopping you from using resist-pen, or even a simple computer paint program to define the traces. The downside is that this will limit you on the complexity of the circuit you can lay out, and make it harder to incorporate changes down the line.

This is a step-by-step guide on how I make PCB's.

Producing a PCB in your home can be very easy with a little practice. There are many different ways to do it using many different tools. Here is how I do it.

After designing a circuit on breadboard and making sure it works the way I want it to, I draw the entire circuit on the computer. The drawing is a reversed image, for example, if you looked at the image in a mirror it would look correct. I design the circuit as if the circuit board material is see-through and I'm looking at it from the component side. The image will be flipped back to normal during the transfer process (below).

Any drawing program will work, however, I prefer using a CAD program. I use an older program called Corel Draw version 3.0. The illustration below shows two circuits ready to be created.

If you have access to a laser printer you can print the image directly onto the transfer film (press-n-peel). If you use an ink jet printer you can print the circuit onto regular paper, then re-copy it onto the transfer film using a photocopier, this is the method I use.

The key is the find a way to get the image onto the transfer film using a toner cartridge type of powder, like the kind used in photocopiers and laser printers.
Etching your own PCBs from copper clad board is nothing new, but the ability to make your own circuit boards at home is so useful it should be part of every maker’s repertoire of skills. The folks over at Hub City Labs in Moncton, NB, Canada put together a workshop covering the basics of home PCB manufacturing, allowing any maker to put a circuit board in their hands in under an hour.