Friday, 9 August 2013

Step by Step Home made PCB tutorial (How to make PCB at home)

This post is all about how to fabricate or make single layer PCB (Printed Circuit Board) at home easily. The quality of PCB tracks depends upon how perfect you are in doing things by heart. A lot of friends ask me about how you made these PCB so perfect. So simple answer is to do it by heart more the time you spend more it would be perfect (Experience makes a man perfect). I got a good business for PCB manufacturing at home including single and double layer + silk screening. I learned this method when I was in 5th semester in 2010.

A lot of friends asked me to write a step by step PCB tutorial so there it is. The method I am following is very basic and requires some easily available apparatus.

Apparatus Required:

·         A CAD software for designing circuit.
·         A good high resolution Laser printer at least 600dpi (Dots per Inch).
·         High quality Sticker sheet or super high quality photographic paper.
·         Scale
·         Cutter or you may use iron blade for cutting PCB.
·         Permanent marker.
·         Ferric chloride etchant.
·         Water.
·         Glass or plastic dish or container.
·         Petrol or thinner or nail polish remover.
·         Copper sheet (single layer).
·         Iron.


1.      CAD design.
2.      Sizing Copper sheet.
3.      Cutting Copper sheet.
4.      Cleaning.
5.      Printing Circuit.
6.      Pattern transfer.
7.      Cooling.
8.      Etching.
9.      Removing Ink.
10.  Drilling.

1.    CAD design:

 Many PCB softwares are available in the market. Some of them are ORCAD, Altium, Proteus, Eagle and PCB wizard. I am not going through the software designing in this post. In figure 1. We have a design for PIC microcontroller 100 PINs TQFP designed in Altium Designer which I like the most because of user friendly and highly advance in above mentioned softwares.  

Figure 1. CAD design

In figure 2. We have its 3D image that how this PCB would look like in real I personally recommend to use this 3D feature as it clears so many hidden points when you are new to CAD soft.

Figure 2. CAD design 3D

2.    Sizing copper sheet:

The second step is to make a desirable sized Copper sheet piece. I do this in three basic steps. In figure 3. I just print this design with all layers enabled including silkscreen.

Figure 3. Print for sizing.

In figure 4. I cut the desired PCB size using scissor and place it on Copper sheet this copper sheet has 1x1 length and width and material is fiber. It’s better to have a fiber copper sheet rather than plastic one.

Figure 4. PCB sheet.

In figure 5. I marked the outlines of desired PCB on Copper sheet using permanent marker and scale.

Figure 5. Marking PCB.

3.    Cutting copper sheet:

Cutting fiber copper takes too much time and effort so I am using a custom made cutter for it which is shown in figure 6. You may use the sharp iron blade for it.

Figure 6. Cutting Copper sheet

4.    Cleaning:

As copper is metal and its upper surface reacts with oxygen present in air which causes the upper surface to become contaminated. It is necessary to clean it before proceeding further. If you skip this step you pattern would not be perfectly transferred to PCB. I use very light steel wool for this purpose. You may use scotch brite or any lowest number water proof sand paper this step should be done under continues water for better results. Show in figure 7.

Figure 7. Cleaning

You can compare easily the contaminated surface of copper sheet in figure 8a. And a very shiny surface in figure 8b.

Figure 8a. Unclean surface.

Figure 8b. Cleaned surface.

5.    Printing circuit:

Now you are ready to print a circuit. You need a sticker sheet or a super high photographic paper for printing a circuit and a good resolution laser printer. Make sure that silkscreen is disabled this time. When you are using sticker sheet it has a plastic sticky sticker remove that sheet as shown in figure 9.

Figure 9. Sticker sheet.

Now you have a highly shiny and smooth paper surface this is the side on which you have to print the circuit as shown in figure 10. This surface is equivalent to the surface of super high photographic paper.  

Figure 10. Print on Sticker sheet.

6.    Pattern transfer:

Now align the circuit with a Piece of PCB and put a fully hot iron on it as shown in figure 11. This is the most critical step. For a good pattern transfer you need to practice hard in beginning. One thing I should say here is while putting hot iron on sheet DO NOT MOVE IRON for at least first 20 seconds wait for the heat to be transferred to PCB correctly if you move iron within 20 seconds this will cause the tracks to move in either way. Iron Sheet until sheet becomes brown.

Figure 11. Ironing the sheet for pattern transfer.

7.    Cooling:

I highly recommend quick cooling of PCB after pattern transferring. Cool PCB with continuous cold water as shown in figure 12.

Figure 12. Cooling.
Now remove sheet slowly under water as shown in figure 13.

Figure 13. Pattern transferred.
Now at this stage the patterns are perfectly transferred to PCB as shown in figure 14. Please make sure it has no broken track if yes then complete is with 0.3mm permanent marker.

Figure 14. Successful pattern transfer.

8.    Etching:

Etching PCB is another technique. Many people say to use warm or hot water but I recommend using normal water placed at room temperature. The etching agent is ferric chloride (FeCl3) mixed with normal water (saturated solution) as shown in figure 15. Made this solution in Plastic or glass dish do not use metal containers it will dissolve it very quickly because of chlorine. One more thing about this chemical put it in a sealed container because it gets moisture from air.

Figure 15. Ferric Chloride Etchant.

Now put PCB into solution and stirring it like shown in figure 16. Complete etching time is not fixed it depends upon concentration of Chemical as well as stirring speed.

Figure 16. Putting PCB in solution.
After 2 to 3 minutes you will see the copper along edges will be etched as shown in figure 17.

Figure 17. Edges Etched.
Continues stirring it will result something like shown in figure 18. Oh it is much closed put is back and stir for some more time.

Figure 19. Still left.
And yes PCB is etched completely as shown in figure 19.

Figure 19. Etching complete.

9.    Removing Ink:

Remove the ink using petrol or Thinner. I use Petrol because it not highly gaseous as compared to thinner so removal can be done easily as shown in figure 20.

Figure 20. Ink removed.

Now put your lamp ON and check for any shorts in between tracks this is important for quality assurance as shown in figure 21.

Figure 21. Inspection under lamp for broken or short tracks.
10.       Drilling:

Now you can drill down the holes and stuff the PCB and enjoy.

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