I have been making PCBs for homebrew projects for a while now and the old process I used is documented here. You would notice that the PCBs did not come out very well. Normal A4 sheets do not transfer the toner completely and Hydrochloric acid/Hydrogen Peroxide is so strong that it would eat up the toner along with copper leaving cuts in the tracks or at times dotted copper surface. The result are not nice and I wanted to do something better.
I recently wanted to make a PCB with a MSOP-10 SMD IC. The PCB layout was just around 1 Sq. Inch in size. With SMD components, I wanted to be extra careful with the etching process. I have been reading and hearing good results of toner transfer using glossy and thin magazine paper (like Readers Digest or India Today). Also using traditional Ferric Chloride etching method, though slow, seems to give far better results.
The process I followed is the most simple and traditional Toner Transfer Method and here is how I did it:
- Print the PCB Artwork on a Thin and Glossy magazine paper. I used a Marathi weekly called Saptahik Sakal. Any paper from magazines like Readers Digest or India Today will work.
- Cut the PCB to match the size of artwork. (Also cut the artwork paper to artwork size, do not leave extra paper around.)
- Clean the PCB with Scotch-Brite or steel wool.
- Place artwork on PCB facing the copper side.
- Iron it for around 3-4 minutes with highest temperature setting. Press the paper well on the PCB with hot iron.
- let the PCB cool by itself. Then put it in water and leave it for around 10-15 minutes to soak.
- Peel off the paper slowly with hands and remove any stuck paper bits using soft brush.
- Touch up on any cut traces or torn off toner with a permanent marker.
- Now pour a table spoon full of Ferric Chloride in a plastic tray and add water enough to soak the PCB for etching.
- Keep the tray with etchant and PCB shaking to clear off the copper particles coming off of the PCB. Keep shaking the tray till all the copper is etched off.
- Etch it till all the unwanted copper is cleared off.
- Rinse the PCB with clean water and remove the toner with Thinner/Acetone or clean using Scotch-Brite/Steel wool. Your PCB is now ready for drilling.
Do let me know if you have any issues or if you liked this article. Leave your feedback and suggestions in the comments section below.