Over the last few weekends I have been spending some time in learning how to make your own PCBs at home. While there are many online service vendors who do an excellent job for a reasonably good price for bulk quantity, I felt they are a bit of an over kill for single order PCBs – particularly for my project – where the circuits are pretty straight-forward. For single PCBs, I determined making them myself. Plus this gives me an opportunity to learn this skill without spending too much money.
Tools of the Trade:
- Press-n-Peel Blue (I bought mine here)
- Access to a computer
- Laser Printer (not dot-matrix or ink jet)
- A board drawing software. I use “Eagle“
- Paper cutter (with a good sharp blade)
- PCB board panel
- Ferric Chloride Soln (I bought mine here)
- Masking Tape
- Pressing Iron
- Number 70 Drill bit (I bought mine here)
- A hand-press drilling tool or a drill machine w/ drill press
- a plastic tray
- Steel wool
- Some Alcohol for washing the PCB (my wife would know – I stole her nail-polish-cleaner-thingy)
Circuit Transfer to PCB:
- Design your board and print it out on paper using a laser printer
- Take your Press-N-Peel paper and cut to fit the printed board drawing – add about 1/2″ extra on all sides
- With the DULL side of P-n-P cut paper facing UPWARDS, tape it over the printer paper (using thin masking tape) w/ the printed drawing so that the P-n-P covers the drawing on the printer paper.
- Now, place the P-n-P that is over the printed paper facing DOWN into the printer tray (check w/ your printer specs, yours might need it facing up). I’m using HP Laser 6P – which needs it facing down.
- Now RE-PRINT the drawing from Eagle software
- By now, the Drawing is now printed on the DULL side of the P-n-P paper
- While the drawing is being printed, set up your press-iron to either “wool” or “polyester” setting. Let it heat up. Temperature is very CRITICAL
- Carefully remove the P-n-P paper from the printer paper making sure your DON’T touch the dull side w/ your fingers. Finger prints can cause issues later on
- Now, take the PCB copper panel and using steel wool and some alcohol wipe and wash off the panel.
- make sure you don’t touch the face of the panel board
- Repeat the washing 2-3 times to make sure the face is bright and shiny and void of any goo spots
- Now, using a clean paper towel, wipe of the PCB panel so that it is completely dry and free of any felt or other remains.
- Starting now on, ensure you touch and lift the PCB board ONLY by its corners
- Once the PCB is all dry
- take the prepared P-n-P w/ the drawing
- with the DULL side facing DOWN, line it up over the cleaner face of the PCB panel.
- And, using thin masking tape, tape the edges – making sure your are NOT covering up the drawing.
- Make sure there are no ripples or air bubbles - we want full contact over the PCB
- While this moment, your pressing-iron must be ready by now.
- Take your iron and place it over the PCB and press firmly over moving it about over the PCB.
- We need to ensure the heat is transfered to the PCB evenly
- After abt 3 minutes of firm presses and moving the iron about over the PCB, set the iron over the PCB and leave it alone for about 4 minutes
- Now, again, with firm presses move about the iron for another 3 minutes making sure you are running the iron right over the P-n-P side of the PCB
- Now take away the printer paper that was place over the PCB
- Using your iron, move about the iron with firm presses over the P-n-P DIRECTLY (w/o the paper over it), making sure you’re catching all the corners
- At this time, you can check the status of the transfer of the drawing over to the PCB by briefly lifting the P-n-P from the PCB.
- Once all the drawing is transfered to the PC, you can safely remove the P-n-P completely from the PCB
- You’re now done w/ transfering the drawing to the PCB
- Switch off the iron
- Carefully peel off and separate the P-n-P from the PCB.
- Let the PCB cool off for 2 minutes - be careful PCB will be HOT
- Take the PCB and cut to size using the paper cutter- It worked great for me. Making sure you are NOT cutting off the drawing – that would be bad and defeats the purpose.
- In a plastic container – prefereably w/ a deep flat one
- Place the PCB, with the drawing facing up
- Pour the Ferric Chloride just enough to cover the PCB
- Now using both your hands, tilt the plastic container to/fro and side-to-side alternating
- Once the drawing side is free of all copper, using your tweazers, turn the PCB bottom side up
- Once all the copper is gone over all the parts of the PCB except the drawing portion, carefully take out the PCB to a sink with running tap water.
- Place the PCB under running water making sure the PCB is completely washed free of any left over chemical
- Now with steel wool, firmly rub over the drawing areas of the PCB while letting it run under the running tap.
- Wipe off with dry cloth or paper towel
- Discard the chemical under running tap water – you don’t want any stains left
- For drilling holes thru the vias, I am using a #70 drill bit and a Dremel drill housed over a workbench
- line up each of the PCB hole targets and vias and start drilling away.
You’re now a successful PCB Homebrewer!
This was my 2nd attempt to making my own PCBs and this board took me 35 minutes start-finish.
Hope that was useful and helpful in your experiments
BTW, thanks to my dear wife for taking these pictures. Had to sneak that in there!!