Drawing PCB directly on copper...

Frequently asked question on the subject of designing, creating, producing printed boards, veroboards or perfboads and on point-to-point construction techniques.

Drawing PCB directly on copper...

Postby shugs81 » 31 Jan 2010, 18:45

Hi chaps.. Just wanted to check before give this a go...

I've read somewhere (can't find it now tho!!) that i could use a sharpie permanent marker to do a trace on a copper board...

I've not go access to a laser printer or photoensitive stuff so was wondering if i actually could do this...

also... the tonepad layouts... am i right in thinking that if i were to draw them exactly the same as looking at them then that would be the right way?

then obviously the etchant solution would leave just the copper under the marker?
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Re: Drawing PCB directly on copper...

Postby KindaFuzzy » 31 Jan 2010, 19:21

Normal sharpie doesn't hold up too well to etchant in my experience, it works but not great. They sell etch resist markers that look just like a sharpie that seem to work a bit better, I use one to touch up bad transfers.

It's totally possible to do a board this way though, but I wouldn't try anything too complicated, it's hard to get the spacing right and draw fine traces close to each other.

I used to use perf board when I first started, and just copied the pcb layout with the component leads.
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Re: Drawing PCB directly on copper...

Postby shugs81 » 31 Jan 2010, 20:00

I was using perf board.... thought that making a pcb would make it smaller and easier to make work... also wanted to incorporate the footswitch in the pcb...

will look into an etch pen too... cheers mate!!
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Re: Drawing PCB directly on copper...

Postby Volume11 » 31 Jan 2010, 20:09

you can get a laser printer for around a hundred bucks.... in your case, it will totally be worth it. If you insist on using the etch pen, you may want to consider more than one coat but, once again it may be tough to get quality traces. Who knows maybe you have a shitload of patience.
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Re: Drawing PCB directly on copper...

Postby rocklander » 31 Jan 2010, 20:15

KindaFuzzy wrote:Normal sharpie doesn't hold up too well to etchant in my experience, it works but not great. They sell etch resist markers that look just like a sharpie that seem to work a bit better, I use one to touch up bad transfers.

It's totally possible to do a board this way though, but I wouldn't try anything too complicated, it's hard to get the spacing right and draw fine traces close to each other.

I used to use perf board when I first started, and just copied the pcb layout with the component leads.

+1 on this .. the sharpie didn't have much chop against the etchant IME either. I went for a proper PCB pen, and it's lasted me a couple of years now.
I started out PCBing this way and as KindaFuzzy says, it's not easy getting the tracks separate if the bord is a lil complex, but I did manage to do a rebote 2.5 this way (did my head in, but I got there).
I used to print out the PDF and cut the paper down to the board size. I'd tape the paper over the PCB and get a light hammer ad nail, and tap a dent onto the board at each of the dill points. then I could take the paper away, and I'd have a better idea of what lines to draw from <-> to (between the dents).
I can't remember if I drilled, then drew, then etched; or drew, then etched, then drilled.
try it on a smaller board first I guess...
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Re: Drawing PCB directly on copper...

Postby roseblood11 » 31 Jan 2010, 21:53

Volume11 wrote:you can get a laser printer for around a hundred bucks.... in your case, it will totally be worth it. If you insist on using the etch pen, you may want to consider more than one coat but, once again it may be tough to get quality traces. Who knows maybe you have a shitload of patience.


Go to a copy shop! A photocopier is a laser printer...
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Re: Drawing PCB directly on copper...

Postby salocin » 31 Jan 2010, 22:43

roseblood11 wrote:Go to a copy shop! A photocopier is a laser printer...
+1. I use the photocopier at work :D

The etch resistant pens are good too though, I did my first few boards with one, takes a few attempts to figure out how many layers you need to put down.
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Re: Drawing PCB directly on copper...

Postby shugs81 » 01 Feb 2010, 11:37

My contract at work is up at the end of march so need to be on my best behavior... so i can't use them at work...

Just had a thought tho... I have an old scanner/printer thing that i was going to bin... think i may just get some UV bulbs and make it a light box... that would solve a lot of issues as then we can use the transparencies for inkjet....
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Re: Drawing PCB directly on copper...

Postby shugs81 » 02 Feb 2010, 00:42

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/36W-WHITE-NAIL-UV-GEL-CURING-LAMP-w-4-LIGHT-BULB-220V_W0QQitemZ260546743035QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUK_Health_Beauty_Nails_Manicure_Pedicure_CA?hash=item3ca9cbcafb

would that be any good for pcbs??? just with it being cheap.... have found cheaper ones now... with lower wattage bulbs... 9w is about right isn't it?
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Re: Drawing PCB directly on copper...

Postby Jaicen » 02 Feb 2010, 00:54

Personally, I'd shy away from using inkjet transparencies. I doubt they're opaque enough for the job.

I used to do exactly what Rocklander describes, I even laid out a Smallstone (I find EHX stuff good, their boards are BIG).
Having said that, I would highly recommend you search out a laser printer or photocopier as it will make your life a million times easier!
Just make yourself an A4 size master and photocopy a load of boards onto a full sheet in one go. Staples will do the job for you no sweat.
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Re: Drawing PCB directly on copper...

Postby pmac7565 » 02 Feb 2010, 19:02

I have had luck using sharpie markers to repair spots where the circuit did not transfer well. I have never had good luck using it as a stand alone. Hope that helps.
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Re: Drawing PCB directly on copper...

Postby lolbou » 02 Feb 2010, 19:31

shugs81 wrote:would that be any good for pcbs??? just with it being cheap.... have found cheaper ones now... with lower wattage bulbs... 9w is about right isn't it?


I use a modded face tanning unit with 6 x 15W tubes and it works ok... These nails stuff should do it too, since they actually polymerize the fake nails...
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Re: Drawing PCB directly on copper...

Postby shugs81 » 03 Feb 2010, 17:13

cool beans!!! think i'll get a cheap one and use the sharpies to darken the transparencies...

or does anyone know a uk version or pcb express or whatever it's called where you get free software and they send you boards... obviously paying for them too...
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Re: Drawing PCB directly on copper...

Postby RnFR » 04 Feb 2010, 00:32

i would just go to kinko's or fedex office, or whatever the UK version is. and for the record i believe the PCB pens they sell are just Industrial Sharpies at most places. you can probably find them at other stores besides electronics shops.
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Re: Drawing PCB directly on copper...

Postby ramaneek.gill » 05 Feb 2010, 05:52

I had a successful etch when i just used a PCB pen to draw on the board. I bought it at a local electronics store for about 3 bucks.
Just remember to do at least 2 coats or else it won't work that well.

Btw, this method almost destroyed my pen and I had to go out and buy a new one. I would highly recommend a laser printer.
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Re: Drawing PCB directly on copper...

Postby RnFR » 05 Feb 2010, 06:21

i've heard of people using nail polish with decent results before.
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Re: Drawing PCB directly on copper...

Postby WhiteKeyHole » 08 Feb 2010, 10:48

Never had a problem using a regular Sharpie, one layer. Done lots of boards this way.

:?
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