Making a circuit board from scratch the easy way. You can use heat transfer foil, or simply draw it with a permanent marker in the old school style.
Homebrew PCB boards ready in less than 20 minutes. A few quick steps I’m following to make my own PCB boards. If I’m just building test circuits I don’t bother using the heat transfer foil, so I’m mostly drawing everything with a permanent marker. If I want to build a circuit that it’s either a final design or it’s too complicated to draw, that’s when I’m using the heat transfer foil. It’s up to you what method you like using the most, or what it the easiest one.
1. TRANSFERING THE DRAWING TO THE PCB BOARD
To transfer the circuit diagram to the PCB board you have two choices available. The modern method that’s easy to use with the heat transfer foil. If you are not in a rush and you don’t want your circuit to look perfect, especially if you are only testing a particular schematic, then drawing everything with a permanent marker will do. I honestly prefer the old school method most of the time, drawing everything with a permanent marker.
No matter what method you are using, before drawing, or transferring the toner, make sure you are washing the PCB board really well with water and soap, then rinse it well. I also like using the green kitchen pad to scrub the PCB board with lots of soap, making sure there is no grease left on the surface.
2. DRAWING THE BOARD
This is my preferred method as I was saying earlier. In the past I had to use melted pitch. Now that was not easy to draw with. Later on I tried nail polish. It was easier, but still too messy and complicated. These days we have the magical permanent marker that makes drawing a lot easier. Check the video on the bottom of the article where I talk a lot about the way I’m drawing my PCB boards with the marker.
3. HEAT TRANSFER FOIL
There are many types of heat transfer foil available on the market. Some work amazing, some not so much. I will not put any links to a particular one, since we all live in different places and that particular foil may not be available in your area anyway. Use whatever you find and you think it will do the job and make your life easier, that’s all that matters.
After you printed your transfer foil using the laser printer, cut the foil to the appropriate shape end dimensions. It must be as close as possible to the dimensions of the final PCB board. Place the PCB piece on a book with a hard cover, or a piece of straight wood. On top of the wood place two layers of kitchen paper towels, then your PCB board. Carefully place the already prepared piece of printed transfer foil on top. Some people like using tape to fix it to the PCB board. I don’t like doing that as sometimes it will be inconvenient in the next step.
Use an iron having the temperature fixed at the highest setting. Place two more layers of kitchen paper towels on top of the PCB, then carefully place the iron on top and press really hard. The time you have to keep the iron on top depends on the particular foil you are using. Some require a longer time, some only around 15 seconds. It’s important to remove the iron and place it again and press, to make sure you covered the entire surface of the PCB and all the printed drawing will stick properly to the PCB board.
After you finished with the iron, let the PCB board to cool down, then slowly and carefully peel the transfer foil from the printed board. Usually this is also the time when you will realize how well the transfer was made. Or sometimes you will notice a lot of imperfections. Especially if you didn’t clean the PCB properly before, or you didn’t press hard enough or long enough on the iron.
4. PREPARING THE PCB BOARD TO BE CORRODED
If you decided to draw everything by hand with a permanent marker, just double check everything it’s correct. If using the toner transfer method with the heat transfer foil, after removing the foil, fix all the imperfections that may appear in the drawing using the same permanent marker.
5. CORRODING THE PCB BOARD WITH FERRIC CHLORIDE
For this step make sure you are using gloves, eye protection and a mask. If you do this very often you may not need them, but for safety if it’s the first time using chemicals, it’s good practice to wear them. The ferric chloride it’s dangerous if you breath it, so you will need a well ventilated space. Be careful not to splash the solution into your eyes, or on your skin. With this out of the way, let’s corrode the PCB board.
Get a plastic container big enough for the PCB board you are trying to corrode. Place the ferric chloride in the container, then the PCB board. Usually if you have a layer of 3 – 4 millimeters of solution on top of the PCB it’s more than enough. Depending on the size of your board, or how old your solution is, the PCB should be finished from 5 to 15 minutes. Try to check from time to time and also move the plastic container as I was showing in the video down bellow.
6. FINISHING THE HOMEBREW PCB BOARD
After you finished corroding the PCB board, carefully take it out of the container and wash it with a lot of water to remove the chemicals. Don’t forget to place the chemicals back into the storage container. Usually I like using acetone to remove any trace of toner or marker from the PCB, then wash the board again with a lot of soap and water with the same green kitchen pad I used earlier. Your board it’s ready to be drilled and used for your circuit.
73 DE YO6DXE