Go Down

Topic: Silk screening vs toner transfer PCB (Read 12517 times) previous topic - next topic



Jun 20, 2013, 04:27 pm Last Edit: Jun 20, 2013, 04:33 pm by pwillard Reason: 1
Nice single sided board. How'd you get the black printing on?

Why'd you apparently embed a nano vs just using the components that make one up?

1) Black printing is just toner applied the same way you do with copper.  I lock it in place with Future floor wax  also known as Clear Acrylic (the copper side gets dullcote) though it sticks pretty well. FYI: I use an apache laminator model al13p.

2) I considered building it with a simple DIP 328P as a starting point... but I had a nano handy and well.. it fit so nice, I kept it.  Not something I would normally do but the nano is just so convenient.

It's a work in progress... so maybe my next revision gives me back a nano... but to be honest... I sort of feel I'm using it as intended,

http://pwillard.com/?p=180   The project status.


Wow... such dislike for what I consider "an enjoyable use of my time" versus "messy".

Not at all. If you enjoy doing it, go ahead.

OTOH, if all you want are some PCBs for something...this is a time consuming, messy way to do it.

No, I don't answer questions sent in private messages (but I do accept thank-you notes...)


yeah, I guess it's sort of like saying  "write documentation for that".   Some people love it while others despise it.


Wow... such dislike for what I consider "an enjoyable use of my time" versus "messy".

All my toner transfer stuff is "once-off" so going through the steps of sending it out to be fabricated are... well... annoying to me.  And If a mistake creeps in... Meh... what's the harm in little 28AWG jumper wire?

I have the stuff I need to make it now, so I do.  Example: a good Laminator, Drill Press, Pool chemicals... the carbide PCB drills and not really too much of an investment is involved.

Examples below:  Yes, Toner silkscreen, locked in place by dullcote clear lacquer (2 light coats)

So to me... the process works... and results are good and a fun way for "me" to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Looks good. Thanks for the pics too. Do you use liquid tin on them or just as is? I think this will work out nice while I work out any design flaws with the board.  Maybe then I can have a pro board made, but it's not like ill need ten brewery controls unless I wanted to start a business. Lets face it though. BCS-460 and Brewtroller seem to have that covered pretty well already.

Some of the people here have recommended using a laminator. Does the iron method suck that bad?


You're still left with having unmarked  boards (what many consider the silkscreen, all the parts labels (Reference Designators, R1,C1, etc).  You also have to add wires to connect top & bottom traces for any vias  that were used.
If doing small SMD parts or fine traces, solder mask makes assembly a lot easier. You have to be sooooo careful applying solder without soldermask.

What about this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0Syj4awcc8


You can get decent results with toner transfer and home brew. See the example images of one of mine. I made a bit of an error with the silkscreen by using my toner transfer laminator (too hot) instead of normal temperature one, but it's still pretty good.

I'll do anything where I need a quick prototype or just a few reasonably simple boards, but I use Elecrow for pro-fab boards at about £10 for 10 off 50x50 or £20 for 10 off 100x100 double sided, any colour solder mask.


If you have one single requirement of such PCB for some project related work maybe for fun and entertainment go for a toner transfer method and have a portable PCB hand drill with drill bits of different sizes.

If you are designing a new product or want to be more creative and crazy about your project try once for silkscreen,it really goes beautiful.
All the home based methods work on THT components not SMD. You wil need a separate SMD solering station for SMD work or consult your university lab assistant for some help.

SMD works are all insdustrial and needs professsional training and touch for mastering.
Also,unless you do not design a high speed circuit you are off from many design cconsideration like trace thichness,clad board selection,etch time and its concentraton.
Ultimately it's like a private fun and passion


I did try to use a home iron for a while... which only convinced me why I wanted a heat laminator.  Results with an iron are OK, but I would not call it a consistently good solution.  Lot's of variables to help it go wrong.


SMD works are all insdustrial and needs professsional training and touch for mastering.
Also,unless you do not design a high speed circuit you are off from many design cconsideration like trace thichness,clad board selection,etch time and its concentraton.
Ultimately it's like a private fun and passion

I'd probably reflow SMD stuff, not do it by hand. Hand seems too tedious. This seems like td make SMD cake as far as pick and place. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-FXD6zQ60g I feel like SMD would just be worth the hassle of producing a board vs through hole just because I wouldn't need a mini drill press and a handful of drill bits. In the end I'm sure ill just buy a pro PCB. I suppose it doesn't matter if I don't need five or ten boards. The time and effort probably will be worth having them manufactured.


Jun 24, 2013, 09:42 pm Last Edit: Jun 24, 2013, 09:48 pm by xl97 Reason: 1
I 'used' to do the DIY toner transfer method with an IRON....

but would like more info on what easy to use laminator you guys use?  I have read up on them a little.. but always seemed like a bunch of mod's and hacks to get one to work..

curious to hear feedback on your laminator set-ups/mods..etc  how hard? ready out of the box?..etc

My current approach is ordering PCBs from china for CHEAP.. (or in a pinch still the DIY toner transfer method, in which I have done double sides DIY boards before)...

and using a solder paste stencil/mask.. and solder paste to add my components..

add in my $17 wal-mart toaster oven for re-flowing..  all done.

I have just added a Silhouette Cameo (vinyl/paper cutter) to my arsenal.. so I can now make my own solder paste masks/stencils.. and stop paying $30 a pop for them!

they turn out great..  better/same quality I have seen from Pololu and ohararp  (although the later are pretty good too!)
this is down to 0603 components & QTFP ATmega328P-Au chips..

I have even done (not sure of package name, but SMD accelerometers and amps chips too)

outside of actual PCB's.. I can do everything in-house.. (including PCB's if I want to do the DIY toner transfer method)

DIY pcb.. hand applied some solder paste (no need for stencil on this little junk!)  :)
popped into toaster oven for a few minutes:

Before I got the Silhouette Cameo..
I would even use paper and an exacto knife to make a paste mask/stencil. (only for small/simple boards of course!)

All these done with same in-house tools (except ordering for PCB's if I needed more than 1), by hand..etc

Spider-Man webshooter pcb's (for prop):

all done in house with toaster oven..

washing and peeling the photo-paper off the pcb's was a turn off for me..
but using a laminator might help for the protoyping of a board and 1-off boards.. (still make stencils for them.. and re-flow them)

if the wait for the pcb's wasnt so long.. I would never look back.. sometimes 3+ weeks is a BUZZ kill though!


link to DIY solder paste stencils made using the Silhouette Cameo cutter if curious:



This is the cutter?


And you are cutting the mylar with it directly?
Designing & building electrical circuits for over 25 years.  Screw Shield for Mega/Due/Uno,  Bobuino with ATMega1284P, & other '328P & '1284P creations & offerings at  my website.


Hi Robert-

yes, that 'is' the one I have..

although for myself.. I recommend a different kit..  as the 'tools' were only 'meh' to me.. (can use toothpick, exacto..whatever)
so I opted for the kit of the same price on amazon.com came with 2 mats and two blades..1 stock multi-tool..etc

Im not sure what you mean by, am I cutting the mylar directly with it?  the Silhouette Cameo does the cutting.. (but no I am not using the stock 'software' if thats what your asking?)

matter of fact.. there are 'two' approaches I have seen/tested..

but to qualify things first..

the Cameo comes with stock software called Silhouette Studio.. you can buy a better version (30-50 bucks depending on coupons/sales around) called Designer Studio..

which allows .svg support (which is nice I guess).. and a few other things I think?..

but you can import images .jpg, .png, .dxf files..etc..  and trace the image(s) you want to cut out..  takes a bit of getting used to.. and tweaking the settings for best cutting results..

that being said..  I'll outline the two approaches I have tried/tested..  (all of this info is already out there, not new here, just my results, same stuff you seen on hackaday..etc, same cutter too)

method 1:

this involves using a custom Eagle script to export your cream layer to a .dxf file (using all straight lines for the pad outlines..thats was the 'key/trick')..

you then -do- use the Silhouette studio to import this .dxf file and cut away..

simple.. HOWEVER.. not the best results.. some slanted pads, not always straight..  depending on the footprints used in the file though, most stencils were still usable  (solder paste is somewhat forgiving)

this way is fast and exports directly from Eagle..  easy to use/do..

summary:  for anyone of the people 'here' reading this..   they should be able to handle method 2 no problem  (especially if "I" did it!) ;).... and there -are- better results to be had..

method 2:
this takes the installation of several other programs/applications..

its more or less a Phython script that that takes your gerbfile file and converts it using a .py script into coords to send to the Cameo.... it more or less re-home/re-aligns the blade after each cut to make them all correct alignment/precise.. takes a long time to make one stencil (originally...read more)

if you are Windows its a bit more...Linux/Mac I guess it much easier by default.. (not sure.. Im a windows sap still!)  lol..

anyways..  you'll need to download and install the following:


this is the 'magic script' right here:

download gerber2graphtec from:

matter of fact you can follow my failures and success here on Dangerous Prototypes forum:

it will outline everything way better than i can again.. lol..

once you get everything installed..

there were some NEW updates you'll want to use:

1.) the author made a GUI that makes things MUCH easier..

2.) another member created an 'optimized' .py file to replace the OG one in the gerbertographtec directory...
it makes the stencils cut WAY faster.. minutes rather than hours (which is how long some stencils would take with original script)

just read through it to the end so you can see all the changes and results posted!

clean you blade before you do a new stencil!!!!
material used matters!  (I have used same mylar as Pololu and overhead transparencies!)
making sure the mat is CLEAN (scrape with credit card/library card..etc)
squeegee your mylar/transparency over the sticky mat!!! make sure the cut area is adhered to mat good!  (you do NOT want the material to LIFT on a cut with very tight footprint!)

not only is great to do vinyl stickers
masks for glass etching/painting/art

its a GREAT addition to my in-house work shop!

I have already saved myself in $90-$120 in stencils already!.. and cut a few for my buddies project/pcbs!

here was a vinyl sticker I made as a test..

grabbed some image on-line.. traced it in the software..  cut it out:

let me know you have any question Robert...  be glad to help!..


Thanks Jerry. I might look into getting one of those!
Designing & building electrical circuits for over 25 years.  Screw Shield for Mega/Due/Uno,  Bobuino with ATMega1284P, & other '328P & '1284P creations & offerings at  my website.


I think they do a great job when using the gerbertographtec script!   (look at some of the results posted on the DP forum link)

now if we could only get a US based iteadStudio/Seeed type of pcb house...  I'd be all set forever!

seriously though.. a really nice investment...

the machine itself can be had for under $200.00 if you poke around.. (google)

and your local hobby lobby or Michael's will have mats and card stock..etc.

(I got some vinyl from Amazon for pretty cheap, used the PRIME account free 30-day trial, free 2-day and $3.00 next day air! <-- did same with my Cameo got it next day for $3.00...spolied!)

Go Up