A printed circuit board (PCB) is a device that mechanically supports and electrically connects electronic components using conductive tracks, pads, and other features etched from copper sheets laminated onto a non-conductive substrate. Circuit board design is a staple of all electronic manufacturing training programs. You can also design your own basic PCB by yourself at home.
The materials you will need for making your own PCB are:
- magazines or advertising brochures
- laser printer or photocopier
- household clothes iron
- copper clad laminate
- etching solution
- kitchen scrubs
- thinner (acetone)
- plastic coated wire
- glossy paper
- permanent black marker
- blade cutter
- paper towels
- cotton ball
- pliers or spatula
- rubber gloves
- plastic box
To make your PCB:
1. Take a printout of the circuit board layout using the laser printer and glossy paper. Make sure the printout appears on the glossy side of the paper.
2. Cut the copper plate for the circuit board using the cutter. Cut according to the size of the layout. Scrub the copper side of the PCB using abrasive kitchen scrubs to remove the top oxide layer and the photoresist layer. You can also sand the surface so that the image from paper will stick better.
3. Transfer the PCB print onto the copper plate. Taking the circuit as a reference, draw a basic sketch on the copper plate with a pencil and go over it with permanent black marker.
4. Iron the circuit from the paper onto the PCB plate. Place the paper image side down onto the plate. The iron should be heated to maximum temperature. Put the board and photo paper arrangement on a clean wooden table covered in tablecloth. The back of the photo should be facing you. Using pliers or a spatula, hold one end and keep it steady. Put the hot iron on the other end for 10 seconds. Iron the photo paper all along using the tip and applying little pressure for 5-15 minutes. The heat from the iron will transfer the ink from the glossy paper onto the copper plate. DO NOT touch the copper plate directly, as it will be hot from the iron. Place the printed plate in warm water for about 10 minutes. The paper will dissolve. Remove the paper gently. If the tracks get fainted, use the black marker to darken.
5. Etch the Plate. Put on rubber gloves. Place newspaper on the surface where you’re working. Take a plastic box and fill it with water. Dissolve 2-3 teaspoons of etching solution into the water. Dip the PCB into the solution for 30 minutes. This removes unwanted copper from the PCB. Use pliers to take the PCB out. If parts of the unmasked area have not been etched, leave the PCB in the solution for a little bit longer.
6. Clean up. Dilute the etching solution somewhere safe. It is illegal and unsafe to pour it down the sink. Put a few drops of thinner on a pinch of cotton wool to remove the ink/toner from the plate, exposing the copper surface. Rinse carefully and dry with paper towels. Trim to final size and smooth with sandpaper.
To learn more about circuit boards and to understand printed board requirements, consider enrolling in one of Blackfox’s courses. Blackfox is a premier technical training center for electronics system technicians. Courses are beneficial for novices and professionals alike.
Gehlot, Suraj. Circuit Board Making – The Best Way to Make PCB at Home. DIY Hacking.