Direct to PCB inkjet printing

[Rhys Goodwin] has been working on a system to print resist onto copper clad using an inkjet printer. This is a toner transfer alternative as it still uses toner, just not quite as you’d expect. The first step is to modify an inkjet printer, separating the carriage from the feed rollers in order to increase the clearance for the substrate. Instead of printing with etch resistant ink, as we’ve seen before, [Rhys] prints with black ink and then covers the board (ink still wet) in laser toner. Once there’s good adhesion he blows off the excess and bakes the board in a sandwich press, with spacers to keep the iron from touching the surface of the copper clad. This cooks the resist into a hard plastic layer and the board is ready for the acid. Watch him walk you through the process after the break.

[Rhys] uses the same method for silk screen, printing in red and baking the ink onto the substrate without added toner. This produces a nice looking board but it’s still quite a bit of work. It certainly sheds more light on the process than that laser-printer method from back in May. We hope you’ve been inspired by this and come up with the next innovation that makes this process easier.

Comments

  1. colin says:

    Why does he keep saying “we”?
    Cool method. Takes forever though, it’s like a day job to run a quick PCB with all the preparations!

  2. jeremy says:

    Eh, I still think it’d be cool to have a plotter style design drawing tool. Just use a good sharpie marker for the pen, I know from at least one case that sharpies work really well as long as you don’t leave the board in the acid tool long.

  3. stevevp says:

    this isn’t really that great of an option. UV printing is still allot easier and is very inexpensive making it much better then this. on the plus side though i’d think that if you could print a protective coating over your pcb then that would be really neet and would make it look very professional

  4. Abbott says:

    Alright, now I’m considering making a pcb laser printer… now to go find an old laser printer…

  5. alexei says:

    Nice job! Looks great for a very reasonable budget too.

  6. dmcbeing says:

    Hmm,i thought toner was toxic??
    Nice idea,but imho the classic toner transfer method is simpler.Did anyone got the name of the cad
    software he uses?

  7. biozz says:

    i have a canon ip3500 and i have been doing the resistive ink method for a long time and works great as long as you dont smudge it but this method looks so much cheaper

  8. George Ene says:

    I may be able to help out with a laser printer.. would a brother hl 2040 do the job?

  9. Rhys says:
  10. D_ says:

    @colin; of course “we” is a figure of speech here.

    Rhys should at the beginning of the first video should say his inability to get Ferric Chloride etchant in ZL is the reason for this he employed this complicated method of making PCBs. Rhys’ blog points to a wep page with content by Adam Seychell, the same page inspired this instructacle http://www.instructables.com/id/Stop-using-Ferric-Chloride-etchant!–A-better-etc/ . I’m no chemist I suspect using all the information available it could be possible to create a Cupric Chloride etchant solution that is not so aggressive to need the etch resist method Rys has devised.

    IMO all this info should be archived by hackers, in the event Ferric Chloride for some reason becomes unavailable to the them.

  11. George Johnson says:

    Just check out MG Chemicals. They have a nice pre-sensitized board that exposes with regular florescent lamps. You can do double sided, don’t need special lamps or LEDs or anything, just a regular drop lamp.

    Yes, this is a cool method he’s doing, but seems to be a lot of work, when MG Chemicals is so much easier.

  12. medix says:

    Minimum trace width with this method?

  13. Rhys says:

    To be honest I haven’t tested which I know is pretty lame. I will next time I do a board and put the results on the original post. The board on the post is 19mil from memory so not exactly impressive.

  14. tim says:

    nice but WHY????

    it is so simple to print on any transaprent film with any laser printer then to transfer to any pre-sensitised PCB with any UV lamp and develop in seconds with any NaOh available then etch in minutes with HCL+H2O2

    I can do a complete 1 side pcb in less than 12 minutes !

    laser print 30sec.
    cut transparency and adjust on pcb 1min.
    UV light 2min
    Photoresist develop 1min
    Rince 30sec
    Etch 5min

  15. RIUM+ says:

    Be very careful with laser toner. The average particle size of its dust gets down to the micron level where it doesn’t matter if it’s Carbon or Arsenic, it’ll still cause you harm. People forget about how dangerous small particles can get.

    If you’re going to try something with laser toner, take some precautions beyond opening a window and using a mask as both probably won’t do much at that micron size. A humidifier, swamp cooler, low-micron HEPA filter or something else. Ionizers actually work well on toner dust but can take time to clear the air.

  16. Rhys says:

    WHY? Well that is a good question. I guess sometimes we like to buy things off the shelf and use them. Other times we like to hack things up, like old inkjet printers and toner cartridges, things that cost us nothing. Just for fun. And when we do, we come to Hack a Day and share them. ‘We’, the ones who like to hack things. :)

  17. darkore says:

    @Rhys, I believe you completely missed the point of Tim’s question. Tim was simply pointing out the fact that there are better ways to DIY something like this, and I completely agree with him. I certainly wouldn’t try to use that dreadful toner dust without very good protection, and without an extremely good reason to do so.

  18. Reggie says:

    The best method is the one you use.

    I’m with rhys on this method, I have 3 epson r300s all sitting here, none of them need any adjustment at all to do what rhys is doing, they have a front feeding tray that prints to CD/DVD media. they come with an insert so that you can do business card sized boards, roughly 3.5″x2.5″x1/32″.

    you can go one better than the ink/toner method and buy a pigment based ink from MIS http://www.inksupply.com/arcink_mispro.cfm

    there is a nice couple of pages on massmind:

    http://techref.massmind.org/techref/pcb/etch/directinkjetresist.htm

    a 10 cart refill will cost you $18

    and a dedicated yahoogroup:

    http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/Inkjet_PCB_Construction/

    just print, bake, etch.

    If you hunt around there are methods for mixing your own conductive inks and printing the CIRCUIT directly to a blank substrate, I can’t see a laser doing that so easily.

  19. Reggie says:

    oh and 12mil trace / 10mil gap is easily achievable but if you hunt around on the sites that I have provided I believe they’re down to 3/3 which is pretty tidy in anyones eyes.

  20. Ivan says:

    Hey… after etching and cleaning, you could repeat the first steps of the process (printing/toner/baking) to print additional information on the component side, like component outlines, numbers, etc. Perhaps even yellow toner for this.

  21. James says:

    Most toner material is just polyester resin dust and dyes, nothing particularly nasty at all. Only really a hazard as any dust is if you breath enough of it for long enough. Check the MSDS.

  22. fartface says:

    oh good god, just buy the sheets of blue resist transfer sheets and call it done.. Why do you guys out there waste a week of tinkering to make a convoluted, rube goldberg process that ends up as costly as buying the blue transfer sheets?

  23. Alexandre says:

    Rhys made a good job! I dream with a conductive ink to use with one print like this… but recently, I have been used the fast pcb resin. It’s photosensitve and I use a simple fluorescent lamp (25W at 15cm above the board) to polymerize the resin. It takes me about 15 minutes. With UV lamp takes it’s more fast… I spread the resin with my finger (without spin the board, i.e., without centrifuge). The result is pretty good: http://www2.ele.ufes.br/~alexandre/pcb/quadrotorboards.html
    The fast pcb here in Brazil can be order in this site:
    http://circuitoimpressofacil.com.br/products/Mini-Kit-de-Tintas-Fastpcb-50.html (resin for etching, solder mask and silk)
    I beliave that in another countries must have similars products like this…
    Tutorial about fast pcb:

    Fast pcb resin for etching:

    http://www.microtecnet.com.br/tinta-fotografica.html

    Fast pcb resin for solder mask:

    http://www.microtecnet.com.br/mascara-de-solda.html

  24. Tweeks says:

    Hey @Abbott..

    I don’t think doing toner directly via laser printer (aka “xerography”) will work.. bc xerography relies on a localized static charge to hold the toner in place before/while it gets fused to the paper as it rotates around the drum.

    1st problem.. you can rotate copper around the drum.. and #2, copper would totally dissipate the static charge and toner wold not form patterns on the surface.

    Sorry man.. back to the blue iron on. :)

    Tweeks

  25. Tweeks says:

    Follow up for @Abbot verifying my statements:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xerography

    Tweeks

  26. keystoneclimber says:

    “We hope you’ve been inspired by this and come up with the next innovation that makes this process easier.”

    Uuuuuuugh… UV?

  27. medix says:

    Interesting, but I think I’d be more impressed with a laser-printer version that prints directly to the board, seals the toner, and you’re done. Just feed the board in one side, and it comes out the other (hot).

    But yeah, just use the transfer paper.

  28. Ben says:

    surplustronics in auckland/nz had ferric chloride last time i was in there.

  29. Alexandre says:

    Another project about direct to pcb inkjet printing:

    http://techref.massmind.org/techref/pcb/etch/cx4200-vs.htm

  30. Brian says:

    amazing home tech , thanks

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