How I Make Electronic Circuit Boards for Homemade and DIY Projects
On my home page, I list links to pages telling how Electronic Circuit Boards (ECBs) can be made. You will find the same links referenced on this page also. I know, not good wepage design.
First read Thomas P. Gootee's paper on making boards. The link that was on the internet is no longer active, and I wasn't able to find it in https://web.archive.org
. Click here to see a copy of the paper.
Following are the methods that I use.
I draw my layouts in Designcad. All my components are surface mounted, no through holes. I use 20-mil spacing between tracks, although my tracks are not really tracks they are lands. I leave as much copper as possible to improve current capacity and reduce the amount of copper that must be etched.
To get multiple patterns on single sheet of photo paper, I copy my design a few times before printing it to a JPG
file for finishing in Irfanview. My design is converted to a negative print in Irfanview and printed on photo paper.
Etch or Chisel
Depending upon whether the board is large or small, I will etch or gouge-out the plating between tracks on the copper-plated board.
My source of paper for making circuit boards is closer to home - Staples. The paper is Staples' "Picture Paper" (SKU 471861 UPC 7 18103 02238 5 or SKU 471865 UPC 7 18103 02241 5)
I remove the paper from the board by soaking in vinegar. Something in the paper reacts with the vinegar and it bubbles slowly loose. When the paper is removed, there is still a fine layer of clay on the board which I remove under running water with a soft tooth brush.
My etchant is copper cloride. It is easily made with muratic acid and hydrogen peroxide using instuctions in William Finucane's paper, Create A PCB Etchant That Automatically Improves After Each Use
. The original link I used is no longer valid on the internet, and I wasn't able to find another link. The link above is to a copy of his paper.
I use an aquarium air pump and a plastic small-engine fuel filter to provide bubbles for agitation of the etching solution during the etch and regeneration of the CuCl solution.
Another dead link Cupric chloride as a board etchant
has been copied here for additional reading.
The board shown below is a small board that I used gouging to remove the copper cladding between board tracks.
I often use an Xacto knife with a modified blade as a chisel to cut very simple PC-boards instead of etching them. The ground and honed blade shown below cuts a nice 20-mil groove through the copper layer. It is also useful for cleaning up the edges of under-etched boards.
Small Board Made Using Chisel
Chisel From Xacto Knife Blade
The last step is solder coating the board. This step makes revising the board much easier down the road. Oxidized copper on a tight board is a pain to remove when a part needs to be added or a connection changed as my projects often require.
I use water-soluble solder paste smeared on the bare board and a soldering iron to melt the solder. Water-soluble solder paste makes cleaning the board very easy.
Copyright Dale Thompson,
12 December 2020 through
last revision on 12 December 2020
Refer to Copyright notice at www.thompdale.com.