We’ve done a lot of PCBs with the toner transfer method over the years. The idea is simple: print a pattern using toner (which is just ground up black plastic) and then use an iron or other heat and pressure device to transfer the toner to a copper-clad board. It works and it works well. But getting just the right combination of heat, pressure, release paper, and toner is sometimes tricky.
Some people hack their printers to turn off the fuser wire (to make the toner not stick to the paper) or to run a PCB directly through it. If you have a big expensive laser printer, though, you might not want to chop it up just to run PCBs. Have you looked at laser printer prices lately? We aren’t sure if it is cheap units flooding the market, or the overwhelming popularity of color printers, but you can pick up a Pantum P2500 for about $25 or $30–and probably get WiFi printing at that price. [Mlermen] picked one of these up and shows you how to convert it to a PCB printer.
The mod isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ll have to cut slots in the printer, add a microcontroller, and you wind up using the printer rotated (to provide a flat path for the PCB. The results, though, look impressive. For $30 and some elbow grease, it could be worth it if you make a lot of boards using toner transfer.
The printer, by the way, is an amazing deal by itself. It is small, fast, and does a fine job. Sure it doesn’t do automatic duplexing, but it does have Windows, Mac, and Linux drivers. It also has a WiFi hotspot to print with a phone. Out of the box, ours didn’t do Airprint, but there’s a firmware upgrade that allows it (and has a few other new features; see the video below). It is supposed to directly support Google Cloud Print, too, but we haven’t found the firmware for that. The toner is programmed to self-destruct after 700 pages and it might be cheaper to buy a new printer instead of replacement toner, so be prepared for that.
[Elliot] posted about toner transfer and you might want to read up on that. If you don’t want to cut up a printer, you might try doing a chemical toner transfer, instead. We’ve also seen [Mlermen] do this with other printers before.