Working at Home: Making a DIY Printed Circuit Board

Printed circuit boards are everywhere. They can be found on a smartphone a businessman uses, the computer that a call center agent works on, or on a tablet that a kid uses to play games. These devices work efficiently due to the support of PCBs. They can be readily bought in stores or can be ordered online; but for those who need a printed circuit board but has no budget to buy it, and resourceful and patient enough to create it, this can also be made at home using cheap materials.

For a DIY printed circuit board, the materials to work with designing process of PCB are as follows:

A copper-clad board, a glossy photo paper, a solution of ferric chloride, a small-hole drill, acetone, clothes iron, a tape, a cutter or a hacksaw blade, a marker, and water. Get more about DIY printed circuit board from pcbnet.com.

PCB

The first step is designing the desired pattern for the PCB. This can be done by drawing on the glossy photo paper. But to be more accurate, it is recommended to use computer software that enables to check the exact spots for fitting the components later. It will also ease the modification jobs and can be printed directly.

The next process will be printing the circuit design.

There are many methods to do this like photo transfer, milling, or direct transfer. However, the easiest way for a homemade PCB is the toner transfer method. This is through the use of a glossy photo paper and a laser jet printer. The design’s image is printed on the paper and has to be cut out.
Take the copper-clad board, which will serve as the actual circuit.

Precisely cut it out the same size of the paper. This can be done by using a sharp cutter for small-sized boards or a hacksaw blade for the larger ones. To ensure that the board is clean from any dirt, grease, or fingerprints, acetone is wiped through it. If there is no acetone present, then rubbing a metallic sponge until the board becomes shiny is beneficial; but take note that this is a time-consuming process.

The fourth step is attaching the design’s image to the copper-clad board. Tape the cut-out image; make sure that it faces down. Press the clothes’ iron onto it, which is set at the highest temperature within a period of five minutes. This is to melt the toner and the plastic, making it stick onto the board.

The next step is peeling off the paper from the board. Soak the entire board into a cup or basin of water, preferably boiling in about 25 minutes. This can separate the paper from the copper-clad board. The remaining paper remnants can also be manually peeled off. Take note that some parts of the print may be removed a bit, but you need not worry because it can be traced back using a permanent marker.

The board can now be etched.

During this process, you need a ferric chloride solution. For those who are unfamiliar about what ferric chloride is, it is an orange-black, sometimes brown solid solution which is slightly soluble in liquid. It has the ability to corrode or dissolve most of the metals, including copper. Submerging the board on the solution while stirring it in for about 10 minutes will remove the excess copper parts that were uncovered by the toner; but when using it, make sure to wear protective coverings such as gloves and masks.

PRINTED CIRCUIT BOARDS

After doing so, wipe away the toner with acetone or by simply dipping it again on a basin of water and scrubbing again with a metallic sponge. Now the copper pattern will be easily recognized.

The next step is drilling the holes for the circuit components using a small drill. Make sure that when drilling, no other surfaces will be damaged. Now the circuit components, as well as the wiring, can be attached. This will mark the completion of the homemade printing circuit board.

Making a DIY printed circuit board is very useful aside from being fun. Having a handmade PCB will also increase your knowledge about electrical circuits and other related components.