Upgrading A Laminator For Toner Transfer PCBs

If you need a circuit board now, you’re probably looking at a toner transfer process; all you need to make a PCB is a copper clad board, a laser printer, some special paper, and the usual etching chemicals. The quality of these boards is highly dependant on the quality of transferring toner to the copper, and getting the process right is as much an art as it is a science. A clothes iron is the easy way of transferring the toner to the board, but if you’re looking for repeatability, you’ll probably want a laminator.

Laminators, too, also vary in quality. The king of toner transfer laminators is the Apache AL13P. With four heated rollers and a steel chassis, it’s enough to do some serious heating. [mosaicmerc] came up with an amazing mod for his Apache laminator that takes all the guesswork out of the settings, and does it all in one pass for maximum repeatability and PCB quality.

The Apache laminator in question is a beast of a machine that drives four rollers with a synchronous motor and also has a ‘reverse’ button that sends the laminations out the front end of the printer. Stock, a toner transfer PCB would require dozens of passes through the Apache, but [merc]’s mod takes care of everything for you.

The addition that makes this possible is a small board with a PIC12 microcontroller. This microcontroller connects the motor driver board and the display interface together, triggering the reverse button to move the board 5/8″ forward and 1/2″ back, giving the laminator an effective speed reduction of 12:1. This method also has the bonus of not tampering with the motor or control circuitry, and allows for multiple passes in the same run.

With this modification, the Apache AL13P becomes the perfect solution to transferring toner to a piece of copper, with the ability to transfer 10mil traces on 1oz copper. The board also offers some other features like thermal sensor failure shutdown and a cool-down mode that overrides the heater. If you’re looking for an easy way to step up your toner transfer PCBs, you can’t do much better than this mod.

9 thoughts on “Upgrading A Laminator For Toner Transfer PCBs

  1. I would like to read through the articles starting from the HAD-site until the end of a project.
    But the f*** structure of the project site separated from the main site plus the bad readable new typography or the lack of makes it really hard to follow.

    To gather all the facts I had to go through 4 sites! WTH.

    http://hackaday.com/2014/11/21/upgrading-a-laminator-for-toner-transfer-pcbs/

    http://hackaday.io/project/3363-apache-al13p-laminator-one-pass-pcb-toner-xfer

    http://hackaday.io/post/11050

    http://hackaday.io/project/3363/components

    1. That’s invalid criticism.

      You didn’t need to go through four sites. You’re already on one, this one. There goes that one from your list. The next link, http://hackaday.io/project/3363-apache-al13p-laminator-one-pass-pcb-toner-xfer, goes to the project page on hackaday.io. That’s the usual structure of posts on hackaday; a summary and a link to the source.

      Right now you have to follow one link.

      This site: http://hackaday.io/post/11050, is the details for the project on hackaday.io, special in that it’s visible from the project page on hackaday.io, i.e. the one you just clicked on. The next link, http://hackaday.io/project/3363/components, is the components used for the build, also visible on the link to the project on hackaday.io. By following one link, you get all the information you just somehow clicked four links to get through.

      I’m not seeing where you’re getting four links. If you have valid criticism, please share. We will improve the UI/UX of hackaday.io. Right now, though, I’m not seeing anything useful to anyone except a whine.

  2. Hi Lindsay:
    That heatpress idea is neat. I figure a lot more folks would have use for a laminator though. The hack permits the laminator to do its regular job as well! The Apache AL13P lists for around $89 USD.

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