Like everybody else I started doing boards with the ol' iron. Some people are really good at it, I just got lazy, and I think a lot of people can relate to that. I then switched to doing the UV thing which worked great but has some flaws. Your stuck buying the special material until you want to attempt to apply the coat yourself. Then you gotta mix more chemicals yadda yadda yadda. I had always read about the laminator thing but always made excuses because jeese, something really couldn't be that easy! Then a birthday came up and family members asked me if I wanted something so I was like, fuck it, and gave em item numbers for the laminator, paper and foils. The laminator isn't cheap but it's money well spent. When I gotta do a board I don't go "ugh" anymore. Also, doing huge ass complicated boards is super easy and turns out 99.9% awesome every time. My biggest fear was switching to using a thinner fr4 because I used to using the super thick shit. The thinner stuff is actually way nicer to work with. You can cut it with a good pair of shears rather then needing a break or hacksaw. Etches easier. Way nicer on your drill bit. Oh yeah, also cheaper which is good. So here we go!
This method is question is here.
Here's what your gonna need...
* Copper Clad (I get mine from Ebay seller "amt33461", he's got a decent checkout system in his shop but I find it easier to just shoot him a message to order direct) I've also used stuff from Ebay seller "ABCFAB." Just make sure you get the right thickness and that's it 1/2oz.
Here are the specs on the stuff I use.
- Type: FR4
- Copper Cladding: 1/0 Singled Sided (1/2 oz)
- Thickness: 1/32" 0.031
If you were gonna do a double sided board, obviously you'd buy double sided with the same specs. Here's a photo comparing the stuff I use (will be on the right) compared to standard thicker stuff that seems to be the norm (will be on the left)
* Laminator I got mine from Digikey. It's probably a good idea to get the one they recommend so avoid fuck ups.
* Chemicals These are what I like to use but I think everyone has their own preferences.
* Latex Gloves You want to keep them oily fingers from smearing the copper yo!!!!
* Bowl 'o' Water This is for throwing the copper in after lamination. The laminator activates a glue, the water releases it.
Alright, that's the stuff, now lets get er' dun!!!
* Step One: Print your artwork to the TTP
I obviously didn't take a photo of me printing the stuff but there are some key things to remember when printing your artwork. You have to use the Pulsar branded Toner Transfer Paper. A 10 sheet pack is like 15 bucks, but you can do a lot of boards with 10 sheets. I'm pretty wasteful with the stuff but if you want to conserve you can do what you would do with the other stuff with the cutting a piece out to size and then taping it to the piece of paper before printing. One thing they'll mention on their site is this stuff hates Brother toner and they ain't fucking around when they say it. If you use a Brother printer the toner will not fuse to the copper and it prints to the paper like shit. Also set the resolution to the printer at the highest setting and set the toner density to it's darkest. Also if possible, choose the option to print BLACK. This sounds complicated but it really isn't. You could do this stuff at a copy shop like Kinkos or else just find a good black and white laser printer to use. My friend has a HP printer in their office at work I use. I swing by, hook my laptop up, print and go. I also prefer to use vector files because once you switch to this method, you get flawless transfers and you can't get any sharper than a vector image. If I'm serious enough about a pedal to make a board, I have no problem redrawing the layout in expresspcb to print it to adobepdf as a vector. I'm pretty compulsive though, gif's and those types of images will work fine. Once you figure out a printer source the rest is a breeze.
I used a pretty big design to show good this stuff works. The big board is for the 9V Electric Mistress. I never would of attempted it with an iron and I woulda been sketchy with the UV method as etching can pit pretty quick something like that. I used a different copper in these photos as well. I don't like the stuff nearly as much as the stuff I use now. Same size and all though so just pretend your looking at the good stuff!
* Step Two: Trim your copper down. The advantage of the cheaper copper is you don't need to salvage it nearly as much. I go pretty gracious on the initial trim. I go bout a 1/2 to 3/4 inch off the borders.
I use a shear break I got a good deal on at Harbor Freight. Another good tool to have around. Makes cutting this stuff super simple, also works great on trimming vero and other boards. Bends shit good too! With the thinner copper you can tin snips, heavy duty kitchen shears, some paper cutters (use your bosses, just don't tell em!) and I'm sure there's other stuff.
* Step Three: Trim your design off the TTP if you haven't already. Also, nows a good time to super clean the copper. I like to use a green kitchen scubbie with some Bar Keeper's Friend under the kitchen faucet. If the copper is real gnarly, I'll get out the Tarn-X. Just make sure she's clean so you get a good fuse. Wear gloves too!
Place the paper face down on the copper and feed er into the laminator. (You've had the laminator plugged in and warming up for 20 minutes and the go lights on right?) After it's first pass the paper will glue onto the copper. Don't try peeling it off at this point and you'll only screw up the paper. The toner doesn't fuse until it hits the water. The first time I did a board I didn't know about the water so I had a pretty shitty night! So after the first pass grab the copper by the sides and feed it through a few more times. I usually feed her through about 6 more times, rotating each time. It's probably over kill but I like to make sure she's got a good bond.
* Step Four: Bath time. As you can see I had to upgrade to a bigger dish!! After the last pass, simply take the board and drop her in some water and walk away. After a few minutes, come back the glue will have released from the copper and all the toner will be fused. Yes, seriously, all the toner. No smears, no monkey business.
After the bath your going to want to run it under a faucet for a minute or two to get all the glue off. Don't worry, that toners fused on there tighter than a stripper is fused onto a millionaire! Don't go scrubbin it with anything though. I'll make sure the waters turned up to full pressure just to be safe though. If any glue remains on it'll mess up the foil. Once rinsed, I simply pat with a paper towel and then push it face down onto a few more to make sure she's dry.
Bitchin! At this point you'll have a better transfer than you can get with a Iron or the UV method. If your doing a board with super thin traces, you'll be amazed to see that the traces are fully there. No more fucking around with a sharpie fillin in missed spots too! Once dry you can either move onto using the foil or you can go etch. She'll stand up to an etch the same, though she will be prone to pitting and such, the same as the other methods, which is why I go with the foil too. The purpose of fusing the foil to the toner is that it makes an etch resistant seal. When the board is foiled you can throw it into the etchant and take the dog for a walk without having to worry about the etchant eating into the toner. It also leaves full, super sharp traces that look, well, shiny and sexy!!! Like I said, the foils not a requirement. If your good at etching, you probably won't need it. For those of you who crave adventure, let's foil this way...
* Step Five: The green TRF. Fun stuff. Bout 9 bucks for a roll and the roll will last for boards and boards. Now this stuff can be tricky. This is the hardest step. The other steps are pretty hard to fuck up, this step I'm about 90 percent with. Basically you cut a piece big enough for the board but 2 inches longer. You then fold that two inches over so when you feed er in, she grabs. I cut the pieces wider than the boards in the pics which probably wasn't a good idea. You wanna go about dead even width wise. Once she's feed into the laminator, you want to pull the foil towards you and against the board to prevent wrinkles. Wrinkles aint the end of the world but the foil can't fuse where it wrinkles. I forgot to take pics of the larger board but I got pics of the smaller board I did.
Once out the laminator, set er down and let er cool off. I've heard that people feed it through a second time to make sure the foil fused but from my observations, it either does on the first shot or it doesn't. After a minute or two check er out. If you see a lot of wrinkles, you'll probably have to use another piece. Let's see how she turned out... no visible wrinkles so far...
As you can see she transferred pretty damn nicely. I'll get results like this on 9 out of 10 boards. It's normal for the foil to stick to some of the copper where there wasn't toner. You simply just take a pencil eraser and rub over those areas and the loose foil will rub off while the rest of the foil will stick to the toner. I read about that tip after I did these photos. Now if you had bad wrinkles and have open spots don't sweat it. You can leave it be or you can cut another piece and send it through the laminator again. If the spots are small that might be over kill. From here, we etch...
* shit, I hit my limit on photos, I'll make another post! Don't reply until I do!