What are the best methods or transferring a pattern to copper boards? - RC Groups
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Feb 15, 2013, 09:41 PM
Thermite + ice = Big boom.
boaterguy's Avatar

What are the best methods or transferring a pattern to copper boards?

I've starting etching recently, and I've been using the print on a magazine and transfer it with an iron method to get patterns onto my boards.
Truth is, I really don't like it. It's messy, annoying, it messes up alot, and I get impatient sitting there for a good 2 minutes moving the iron around carefully aking sure not to move the paper or the board.
Are there better ways to do it? I can't seem to find anything online except the photo etching, which looks pretty expensive.
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Feb 15, 2013, 09:45 PM
Quad Crasher
kad's Avatar
Try Press-n-peel. Same basic method, but made for the process, releases toner easily and peels off easily.


Feb 15, 2013, 10:45 PM
Thermite + ice = Big boom.
boaterguy's Avatar
34$? Thanks for the suggestion but I'm trying to do this with home supplies.
Keep in mind: I'm a 16 year old on a part- time budget.
Feb 15, 2013, 10:57 PM
Quad Crasher
kad's Avatar
Originally Posted by boaterguy
34$? Thanks for the suggestion but I'm trying to do this with home supplies.
Keep in mind: I'm a 16 year old on a part- time budget.
Well, you asked for better, not cheaper. I use the "cheap photo paper" method myself. Similar to what you've been doing, but use cheap (NOT waterproof) inkjet photo paper, running it though a laser printer. It's a bit harder to get off (you soak it off after ironing) but produces a cleaner line than magazine paper.

Example: http://behindthetone.com/johnfisher/transfer/trans.htm

Feb 15, 2013, 11:06 PM
Thermite + ice = Big boom.
boaterguy's Avatar
Thanks, I should have put cheap in there too.
I'll give the photo paper a try and see what happens.
Feb 16, 2013, 03:45 AM
Registered Adict
tignmeg's Avatar
Do yourself a favour and search for "circuit board etching" or something similar on you tube. There's heaps of useful step by step videos available.
I find videos are so much better as a learning tool.

Feb 16, 2013, 07:58 AM
Registered User
What I used to do for cheap and easy.
Print out pcb layout and tape it over the board.
Drill all the holes
Paint on the copper traces with a fine paintbrush
Etch then remove paint with acetone
For IC pads I would just paint the entire area then scratch the paint off between the holes with a t-pin. I also used the pin if traces were overlapped by mistake.
It's not the prettiest board, but it will work
Feb 16, 2013, 10:21 PM
Registered User
Wow spog, that seems like a lot more work. You can just draw the lines on with a sharpie marker. I can't imagine painting them on.

Press-n-peel blue works OK, but I don't really think it's worth the money. You can use water-soluable paper (dissolvo is one brand) if you want to do the water method.

Otherwise try parchment paper. You can find it in the grocery store, it's used to line baking sheets. It's usually called parchment paper or grease proof paper. Cute store girls can usually help you find it.
Feb 21, 2013, 08:45 PM
Registered User
slebetman's Avatar
I second the photo paper method. It's my go-to method of etching PCBs. But you may need to try out several different brands of photo paper before finding the one that works best. They all work, but some better than others.

As with most things manual, you need lots of practice before perfecting the ironing bit. Took me a while to figure out how much pressure at what temperature for how long to apply the iron to get the ink on just right.

I've never tried magazine paper but in my experience photo paper can be tacked onto the copper. Just iron on some ink on one corner (I sometimes deliberately draw guide marks or logos for this purpose). As you iron the sheet it will stick to the board so you only need to worry about alignment at the beginning of the process. The down side is that the paper sticks to the board so you can't just peel it off and check your work.
Feb 22, 2013, 03:56 AM
Registered User
I don't have a laser printer, so press'n'peel and other similar transfer methods seemed to be out. I found I can get excellent results using my HP inkjet printer to print the pattern on transparent vinyl in yellow ink for photo-printing.

I made my light box from 90 uv leds for about 5 -- it runs off a 5S A123 battery but, depending on your led layout, could run off other voltages. The only other thing you need, apart from the normal etching fluid, is universal developer, to develop the "print" on the copper board after exposure. So, the "extra" running costs are photo-resist board instead of simple copper-clad board, developer, and transparency.
Feb 22, 2013, 06:48 AM
Thermite + ice = Big boom.
boaterguy's Avatar
I' going to go out this weekend and see if I can get small packages of different photo paper and try a few out.
Thanks for the help guys!
Feb 23, 2013, 02:03 AM
Registered User
Hi boaterguy
You can also try till receipt paper printing on the thermal side.
I find it works well on copper tracks of 1mm and bigger, not suitable for SMD parts.
For professional and very fine tracks. Convert your PCB layout to a PDF fill ratio 1:1 and give the file to a print shop that can print litho positive transparency.
PCB, you can use PCBs that is coated with photo sensitive film or spray with K20
Positive spray. Expose under UV light (black light) some photo sensitive film can be exposed using a fluorescent tube 50-100mm above the PCB for 10 minutes. Cool the PCB before developing in the developing solution, 12g Caustic Soda to 1L of water at room temperature for +- 3 minutes.
Acid: Ferric Chloride must be warmed to +-50C. Can soak or sponge bath +-15 – 45 min.
Better but very dangerous and corrosive!!!
1 part Hydrochloric Acid (swimming pool acid)
1part Hydrogen Peroxide 50% volume, also available from a pool shop.
4 parts water not heated straight from the faucet.
Mix only small quantities, not more than 100ml of Acid and 100ml of peroxide at a time.
Well ventilated room or better yet outside. If in a room your chromium tools will start to rust.
Dispose the Acid mix in an outside drain where PCV or Ceramic piping is used or dig a hole in a remote part of the garden flushing with 5L of water or more.
Rinse PCB in water to remove acid and polish with a metal house hold polish.

Feb 23, 2013, 03:58 AM
Registered User
Don't overcomplicate things. Simple parchment or magazine paper works perfectly. If you want to spend more money on the same process then get dissolvo or press-n-peel blue or white.

Fooling around with UV, print shops, or photo paper just isn't worth it. This isn't rocket science, you're just transferring laser toner to a copper board.
Feb 23, 2013, 07:22 AM
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RC Bogan's Avatar
My prefered method is to use glossy photo paper, I did try glossy magazine paper but the laser printer made it puff up with air bubbles in it and it smelled bad.

There is a trick to using glossy photo paper, after ironing it on your board soak it in warm water for 5 min+ then try to separate the layers of paper, then use your finger and rub the paper off (it comes off in balls under your finger when you rub).
This way leaves 100% of the toner on the board when the paper is rubed off.
My first two attempts weren't so good because I was impatient and rubed to hard and fast, the third was perfect with exellent fine fine detail.

I use Ferric Chloride at room temperature 20-25C and never had a problem.

Feb 23, 2013, 10:10 AM
Thermite + ice = Big boom.
boaterguy's Avatar
I do the same with magazine paper, I iron to melt the toner, and then let it cool.
Then I peel away under water and get all the toner off. I'll try the same strategy with the photo paper and see if the quality is better.

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