Easiest way to make small thru-hole PCBs at home

Hi all,

I’m thinking it would be fun to make small PCBs… perhaps do the layout in whatever CAD’s available. (My daughter’s using Altrium, so far.)

What’s the very easiest way to go about this at home? Single quantities, physically I’d say just a few cm square max (say 5x5cm, 2x2"). No fancy machines to send a Gerber to, but could print the layout on a transparency or paper if that’s part of the process.

Any links to anywhere explaining thins would be good, thanks.

Jim

The simplest is to use the press and peel blue film toner transfer method. However I find that the dry film photoresist method is more reliable once you have got the process right. You don't need a UV light box - a few seconds exposure to sunlight does the trick but again you will need to experiment to get the exposure right.

Russell.

Thanks Russell.... any links to brand names etc please?

I thought for a moment you meant plated-through holes!

Print with Epson pigmented ink directly onto the board, bake to set, etch. As always, the devil is in the details.

http://techref.massmind.org/techref/pcb/etch/directinkjetresist.htm

You don't have to go to great lengths to modify your printer. If it has a CD tray, cut a rectangular hole out of a CD and tape it into the tray, with the center trimmed from the CD tray.

Or buy an ID tray, and cut your PCBs to fit it.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005FYLJ7Y/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004GBI7X6/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Some people have successfully used dye ink by printing, dusting the damp ink with toner powder, and baking or sending through a laminator to melt the toner.

Or if you prefer toner transfer:

I bought a couple of Epson R200 printers at a computer surplus store and a thrift store for about $10 each to use for this. I have the ID tray and the ID die cutter.

I found some 0.030 inch thick double sided PCB that cuts and fits.

I use toner transfer on vinyl.
It works really well, even on very thin traces and spacings (think threading two traces between 0806 pads).

I've used photo negative method for the last 20 years.
I print the neg on overhead material and UV to expose the PCB for 3 1/2 min.

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I do toner transfer from glossy paper via iron, etch with CuCl2 in HCl, regenerated with 30% h202 as needed (instead of that whole "bubble air through it" crap - takes forever, and the splatters are corrosive).

Few notes on my process: http://drazzy.com/e/boards/

I can get a trace between SMD 805 if I have to (I try to avoid it, since the lack of solder mask means it's very easy for the solder from one of the pads to short to the middle trace), and I can do TSSOP, but only with difficulty (and poor yield at the toner transfer stage).

By far, the worst part is the drilling the goddamned holes. Making PCB's for SMD parts is much easier, and I now use only SMD parts on boards I make at home (as you can see from my boards at above link :stuck_out_tongue: ). It's very hard for me to get the holes drilled right on target while leaving the copper around the hole intact. SMD pin header was a godsend, because I can't reliably sneak a trace between two through-hole pin-header pins, but it's easy to do with SMD pinheader.

To avoid component side jumpers, I use 0 ohm SMD resistors to get over traces.

So an SMD jumper 8)

Yes, mounted on the foil side with the rest of the SMD parts.
I make a macro to the size/dimensions of a 1206/1210 SMD jumper :wink: which satisfies the DRC.

Similar to this http://www.digikey.ca/product-detail/en/RC1206JR-070RL/311-0.0ERCT-ND/732131

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JimboZA:
Thanks Russell.... any links to brand names etc please?

Press and peel film

Dry film photoresist

The last time I used the dry film resist was back in November and it needed six seconds exposure to the sun at midday here to expose it.

Russell.

That dry film is similar to the stuff on my PCB material but, I get mine already laminated to the copper clad.

Some interesting bits.
http://uk.farnell.com/harwin/t1559f46/track-pin-0-84mm-pk500/dp/1143874?MER=en-mer-0713-pd-r2-acce

http://uk.farnell.com/cif/bg9-s/rivets-ø-0-8mm-qty-100/dp/1783593

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I used to do all the above.
All the chemicals, expensive photo board, the work, the mess, and the mediocre result.
Now I use EagleCAD lite (free), and email the Gerbers to a board house in Hong Kong.
Perfect result. US$10 for TEN 50x50mm single side or double sided boards and US$12 for ten 100x100 boards.
Plus ~$15 freight for 1-3 sets.
You can have your boards the size you want, or panelise them if you want more.
It was nice to know how you can make boards, but I will never go back to the old way.
Leo…

I have had limited success with Press-N-Peel blue heat transfer paper, my laser printer ran out of toner, it eas doing great until I replaced the cartridged, after which I couldnt get a single board to transfer from the Press-N-Peel paper.. even with adjustments to time/temperature/blood-pressure/beer !

Then I discovered some paper on eBay, I bought 10 sheets for £0.99p inc delivery from china

I was sceptical about if it would work at all for that price, but it was perfect ! where the PnP failed the cheap chinese copy worked at a fraction of the price

I am now not bothered about trying out new designs, mainly becuase if I waste the chinese paper it is so cheap it doesnt matter, the PnP was quite pricey (about 15-20 times the cost per sheet !)

Chinese Ebay alternative to PnP

I couldn't get the chinese toner transfer paper to go through my printer, and when I finally did, i couldn't get it off the board without it ripping up the toner-covered sections.

Wawa:
I used to do all the above.
All the chemicals, expensive photo board, the work, the mess, and the mediocre result.
Now I use EagleCAD lite (free), and email the Gerbers to a board house in Hong Kong.
Perfect result. US$10 for TEN 50x50mm single side or double sided boards and US$12 for ten 100x100 boards.
Plus ~$15 freight for 1-3 sets.
You can have your boards the size you want, or panelise them if you want more.
It was nice to know how you can make boards, but I will never go back to the old way.
Leo..

There are all sorts of prototyping houses that we can use. Dirtypcbs will do $14 for 50x50, $25 for 100x100 shipped, ~10 pcs! Plus at least as much again if you want the boards in a couple of weeks instead of a couple of months.

OSH is more expensive, but faster, includes ENIG, and domestic (and fabulous) - you get the boards in a couple of weeks.

Making PCBs at home, my chemical cost is pennies (reusable etchant), copper-clad is cheap (toner transfer), the results are good enough for simple things, and I can have a single-sided board in a couple of hours. It's the last part that's really key in making home etching appealing to me. It doesn't replace sending things out to a fab house, but for cheap, single-sided boards, it's great, especially when you need them to continue on your project. You lose the inertia on a project when you need to wait weeks for the boards.

Started off with hand drawing pads and sticking 1mm wide paper tape on bare boards.
Then letraset pads and tracks rubbed onto the bare boards.
Then letraset on transparent inch paper, and spraying/baking photoresist on bare boards.
Then press 'n peel. Ughhh.
Now I use mostly doublesided boards with SMD parts and ~10mil tracks, and can’t get a good results at home with that.
I have had zero problems with Smart Prototyping.
Boards are shipped within a few days.
I always use slow/cheap post. That always takes two weeks to New Zealand.
I always have received the order within 3 weeks.
Leo…

I tried the laser printing onto sheets, hot transfer and etch process. I worked OK, but the big problem was getting the holes drilled. If you are mounting a through-hole part and the holes don't line up (even by a small amount for a 24-pin socket) you may as well give up.

Next time I think I'll use a board production house, if I can get my mind around the complexity of the layout programs.

Now that I've got more luck with SMD soldering, a simpler method might be to do a single-sided board with everything on the top, then you don't have to drill any holes. :slight_smile: