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Laser printer etch resist

Discussion in 'General Technical Questions and Answers' started by N2RJ, Jul 16, 2007.

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  1. N2RJ

    N2RJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I've been reading up about using laser printers to make iron on etch resist patterns.

    Does anyone have any experience?

    Previously I've used a resist pen (sharpie). I want to make neater and thinner traces now, so I figured I'd start using my laser printer.

    What sort of paper do you use?

    Any special techniques? Got any tips you'd like to share?

    What about the etchant? Is ferric chloride OK or will I have to use something else?
  2. G7JVN

    G7JVN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have to think back a few years for this one, but back in college we used both a plotter and a laser printer to make transparencies for making PCBs

    The laser printer method used overhead projector transparencies that you can buy off the shelf at a computer store. I remember that the exposure times in the UV box were rather critical though as the opaqueness of the tracks on the transparencies was not ideal, although that may have been more to do with the printer we used.
  3. WB7DMX

    WB7DMX Ham Member QRZ Page

    yes, ferric chloride is just fine for that.

    as I understand it, the material used for laser printers is small balls of plastic and it is melted onto the photo paper, and then ironed onto the pc board, which melts it to the board.
    I have not done it but have heard it can be difficult to get small traces as used with smt parts to stick good.
    some of the pads for smt chips are very small.

    the best method to use I have found it to use positive photo resist boards and print the pattern on a laser type transparency, then using a standard fluorescent light it takes about 8 min of exposure to transfer the the pattern to the board, then you develop it in a positive developer till all clean, then you place it in the enchant till all the unused copper is gone.
    you can get the photo pc boards from several places, I get mine from Ocean State Electronics on line, they also have the enchant and developer, this makes a very clean board with small pads and traces very neat and clean
  4. N2RJ

    N2RJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Not talking about the UV method. That's a bit too expensive for the few PCBs I plan to make.

    I'm talking about something like this.

    The toner itself is used as etch resist.
  5. KG4RUL

    KG4RUL Ham Member QRZ Page

    You've got all the info you need in the link you posted. I have used this method before with very good results. One thing that is a huge help is a Dremel tool mounted in their drill press adapter. Keeps you from breaking a lot of expensive carbide bits while drilling.
  6. K9FV

    K9FV Ham Member QRZ Page

    That link is good info - I've tried regular paper and it didn't work so good. I used the overhead transparency tpye with good results. I'd expect the photo paper might work ok also. I might try that next time - but the transparancy type worked good for several small PCB projects I've done. Go for it and have fun.

    73 de Ken H.
  7. KE4FES

    KE4FES Ham Member QRZ Page

    J-TRONICS, INC. in Rockford Ill.
    866 - 965-6775
    They sell photo sensative copper clad PCB material, etchant, photo sensitive transparencies and most any thing you may want / need, even kits TO MAKE YOUR OWN PCB PROJECTS. I designed/built my exposure , developer , etchant etc. MOTION devices , use those plastic food storage products > not metal<. Glass oven ware is expensive, will break, BUT is best. WELL SEALED liquid chemicals can store in a extend life cycles.
    A CHEAPER "smaller flood lamp" works for exposure
    lighting. IF U phone ; explain you are wanting a "tutorial"
    instruction in the various methods / materials . They have a DATAK INSTRUCTION MANUAL, about a dollar. THEIR CAT. IS FREE WHEN AN ORDER IS PLACED .
    IF U want to "automate "the agitation of the processes
    you can get gear motors from ALL ELECTRONICS, GOOGLE THEM TO VIEW PRODUCTS [ AC AND DC].
    IF U need advice/help designing it ; contact me via EM.
  8. KB3NDN

    KB3NDN Ham Member QRZ Page

    apparently from the responses, most people havent done this method. i bookmarked it. i would just follow the instructions - they tell you everything you need to know.
  9. K7JEM

    K7JEM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Here is another link to look at.

    I used to make my own boards using a pen or the "iron transfer" method. Back in the 80's, before laser printers were everywhere, you would copy the pattern onto the transfer sheet using a photocopier.

    My time has become too valuable (to me) to fool around with making the PC boards, and drilling lots of small holes. I now use Express PCB to manufacture all of my small quantity needs. They will supply 3 complete boards that are 2.5 by 3.8 inches for about $60. Some of my boards are very small, so I put several on one of these bigger boards, then cut them out when they arrive. The software is free.

  10. AB9LZ

    AB9LZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I do it all of the time.

    I've found that the best paper type is the cheapest inkjet (not laser) paper that you can find, the cheaper the better it will work(!) Even better, though expensive is a bayarta (clay) coated photo paper. Be sure it is real paper and not the plastic ccoated stuff (all color papers are plastic coated). I have a pack of outdated Agfa B+W matte single weight paper that I use when I want really fine traces for SMT work.

    Despite what others say against it, I use steel wool to burnish the copper, I then wipe the surface clean with acetone.

    I use a household iron on high for about (depends on the weight of the paper) 2 to 5 minutes, then drop it into a bowl of water while hot and let it soak for quite a while before peeling he paper off.

    With a little practice you generate a perfect trace board everytime.

    Have fun.

    74 m/4
  11. KB1KIX

    KB1KIX Ham Member QRZ Page


    Check out Make Magazine podcasts for just 2 weeks ago.

    There was a tutorial on this topic - video.

    I understand it is available in the archives.

    If not, let me know and I'll try to get you a copy somehow.

  12. K7NNR

    K7NNR Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have never done this, but I strongly suggest that you use a transparency made for laserprinters and have it feed through the machine with as straight a path as possible. Also Adjust the paper setting in the driver to OHP. I cannot tell you how many printers I see every month that have melted the fuser because the customer did not make the correct settings.
  13. KA0GKT

    KA0GKT Ham Member QRZ Page

    I haven't ever tried the method which you mention, however I remember reading about it in Don Lancaster's column "The Hardware Hacker" in one of the electronics magazines to which I used to subscribe (Popular Electronics, Modern Electronice Radio Electronics, etc.). I am sure that a copy of the magazine on microfilm of microfiche. You could also do a google on Don Lancaster; I would be surprised if he didn't have a web presence.

    73 DE KAØGKT/7

  14. AB9LZ

    AB9LZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Sounds like a good idea, but it doesn't work (at all) the toner sticks to the transparency base better than the copper substrate... not what you want.

    73 m/4
  15. KB1KIX

    KB1KIX Ham Member QRZ Page

    The method I've seen uses that "glossy" photo paper.

    It's shiny, but peels off rather easy.

    I've done something similar for woodworking project templates and found that the shiny photo paper works good on wood.

    Dunno why it wouldn't work out well when making some boards.

  16. VK2TIL

    VK2TIL Ham Member QRZ Page

    Go to the links at the bottom of this page;

    and you will find some good hints.

    I have occasionally used the iron-on method and it works OK with care.

    I do most of my boards in EasyTrax and plot directly to the copper with a HP 7475A plotter adapted to take Staedtler 313 pens (they are designed for O/H projector sheets but make good etch-resist pens).

    This is a fairly simple board being plotted;


    It's for a narrow/wide pair of audio filters for a D/C receiver.
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