Making your own PCBs

Hello! I live in the dorms at my university and I'm sick of waiting ages for my PCBs to be made and shipped so I'm itching to start making my own. But there are a few issues with doing this in a dorm, so I need to know a few things

Note: my university is in northern Wisconsin and right now, everything is covered in snow and ice so I can't really blow fumes out my window.

1) Does using skillet reflow create any fumes? This is how I would be soldering my components b/c using a wand makes fumes.

2) Does drilling holes in a PCB with a Dremel make any fumes?

3) Does using etching solution or ironing the traces onto the board create any fumes?

As you can tell I'm worried about fumes. I can't let my fire alarm go off. I could unplug it, I'm just worried that the one outside my room might go off.

Make then in the bathroom with the vent On

No vent in bathroom.

For many years, I have done what your are looking at doing and the alarm above my work area has never gone off.

1) Does using skillet reflow create any fumes? This is how I would be soldering my components b/c using a wand makes fumes.

Visible fumes? Not much... but you can smell it as the flux evaporates. (depending on the solder paste you used, there may be some fumes.) These won't trigger the fire alarm.

2) Does drilling holes in a PCB with a Dremel make any fumes?

No, but depending on the number of holes you're drilling, you can create a lot of dust... and PCB dust has a distinct smell.

3) Does using etching solution or ironing the traces onto the board create any fumes?

No fumes. Now with etching, assuming you're using Ferric Chloride, you may not just be able to dump them in the sink without getting in trouble. ... if you drip/drop the FeCl, it will also cause stains.

"I'm sick of waiting ages for my PCBs to be made and shipped" Use the DHL $26 option. Build up boards using wirewrap. Use an American source: http://www.4pcb.com/ "WE WILL MEET OR BEAT ANY U.S. PRODUCTION PRICE!"

Is there a Chemistry lab with hooded vents you could use?

Hmm, I could use a chemistry lab fume hood. That would work! Looks like I'll be reconnecting with my chemistry professor from freshman year!

I would get started with a second project PCB design while waiting for the PCB of the first project. Do some programming, write documentation, answer questions, etc.

You might look for some of the domestic bare bones PCB fab options ... I'm still looking for faster turnaround that doesn't cost a fortune.

Yeah, skillet and soldering and etching all create some crazy nasty fumes. I etch my boards in a plastic food container with the lid on. It minimizes fumes a little. If you're in college, maybe see about making some friends who have access to lab environments where you could borrow a small corner near a vent from time to time?

Once you get in an apartment it gets easier I would think. :)

Yea, it should get easier soon. I’ve signed a lease on the rent for a house next year but I just don’t want to wait that long.
Oh wow 2:40 already? I need to get to bed.

I read on Adafruit that cutting/drilling PCBs with a fiberglass substrate is dangerous because of carcinogenic dust. I didn't think of that the first two times I took a Dremel cutting wheel to a panel to split some boards apart. But now, I don a dust mask with a damp paper towel underneath it. I may be over-reacting, but I do enough vaguely unhealthy stuff (woodwork, soldering, etc..) that it could add up, and I'm not all that crazy about the idea of catching the cancer.

Yes, fiber dust is pretty bad so are solder/copper/paint dusts. I would not do PCB cutting or drilling unless I am protected. A vented hood would be best.

Oh, I didn't know that those were carcinogenic. Looks like i'm gonna need surgery in 30 years. I'll start using a fume hood.

Between the FR4 particles, lead solder, rosin fumes, acetone, gasoline, and various other things this might be my last post. Seriously tho the pcb dust is awful. I won't be cutting or grinding any more of those without a good dust mask / respirator thingy.

Is there a Chemistry lab with hooded vents you could use?

Might as well look for gold - is there an engineering lab where they have PCB fabrication tools? How about a student machineshop/makerspace?

hey fknyguy-

not sure 'where' in WI you are.. but we have a few makerspaces here. ;)

Matter of fact the MMS (Milwaukee Maker Space) just moved into a killer new building!!

anyways.. I would suggest you just get a $17 dollar toaster oven from Wal-Mart instead of trying skillet.. especially in a college setting.

I would like to do the reflow oven, but it so much more expensive than the skillet. You need the thermocouple, the monitor, a relay, and other stuff.
I’m up in Menomonie, we have a hackerspace supposedly (according to the hackerspace wiki) but I don’t think its actually there.

How far from the madison maker space are you?

Menomonie … far West eh?.. ouch.

anyways…

“I” personally do NOT have any of that stuff on my toaster oven…

its exactly as I explained it to be… a $17 toaster oven form wal-mart… lol…

nothing else added to the mix…

Yea pretty northwest. I do live in a suburb of madison when I'm not at school though so I could use their makerspace during the summer I guess.

Wait! how do you know if your stuff is reflowed and all that?

plus, how do you get the solder paste on the pads of say a SSOP without a stencil?

funkyguy4000: Wait! how do you know if your stuff is reflowed and all that?

I watch it? you can see it.. happens quick.. will heat up.. and dry out a bit..getting grey/ashey... (the solder paste).. and then all of sudden will get shiny and flow out..

plus, how do you get the solder paste on the pads of say a SSOP without a stencil?

carefully? lol... I use stencil.. and order the.. (they are not cheap!) $30 a pop..

but you can try to use a tooth pick of syringe..etc..