No-Etch Circuit Board Printing

If you’ve ever tried to build a printed circuit board from home, you know how much of a pain it can be. There are buckets of acid to lug around, lots of waiting and frustration, and often times the quality of the circuits that can be made traditionally with a home setup isn’t that great in the end. Luckily, [Rich] has come up with a way that eliminates multiple prints and the acid needed for etching.

His process involves using a laser printer (as opposed to an inkjet printer, as is tradition) to get a layer of silver adhesive to stick to a piece of paper. The silver adheres to the toner like glitter sticks to Elmer’s glue, and allows a single pass of a laser printer to make a reliable circuit. From there, the paper can be fastened to something more solid, and components can be reflow soldered to it.

[Rich] does post several warnings about this method though. The silver is likely not healthy, so avoid contact with it, and when it’s applied to the toner an indeterminate brown smoke is released, which is also likely not healthy. Warnings aside, though, this is a great method for making home-made PCBs, especially if you don’t want tubs of acid lying around the house, however useful.

Thanks to [Chris] for the tip!


26 thoughts on “No-Etch Circuit Board Printing

  1. I’ve been wanting to spin my own boards for a bit to do stuff but have been avoiding it because of concerns with chemical etching (i’m a klutz). This looks like it’d be perfect for some low volume boards that I want to do. Put it all onto a PCB blank for rigidity and I think it’d be perfect. I wonder how well one could do some through-hole components like that too.

  2. I like etching. A tiny bit of chemistry magic makes for cheap, robust, quick boards.

    The neat trick in this method is that he uses a laser printer but avoids the smudge-prone transfer phase. And gets great resolution from it. If you work on your toner transfer technique, you can get very close to the printer’s resolution, but [Rich] gets there directly. And that’s cool.

    Re-laminating the boards, heating the adhesive, and then avoiding too high a solder temperature are inconvenient. If the adhesive/silver remained flexible, this would be a lot more interesting. I totally want to see where this line of experimentation leads! Cool stuff.

  3. While silver and its salts are not altogether benign, it is difficult to see how one could become overexposed during this process. Certainly the health and safety risks of techniques involving ecid etchants is far higher.

  4. Oooh! I’d love to test this. But i’d try to make a toner like transfer to pcb blank after the silver paste part has been finished. It ought to work :/. Somebody test. Please! :)

  5. “Tubs of acid” – not exaggerating a bit, are we? I still like the pre-sensitized boards, laser printed transparencies, and peroxide/HCL methods. Quick, accurate, and not dangerous to anyone with a little common sense.

  6. The traces remind me of those ceramic substrates found in older equipment, i.e. LCD 5v to +/- 5v I think I have still got in a drawer somewhere.

    Looks like the household hacker is getting better prototyping tools each day.

  7. Does anybody know what the silver adhesive is called? Like many hackaday articles there are major missing pieces from the text assuming that everybody can (and wants to) watch the video.

  8. I wonder how well silver/gold leaf would work. I used metallic transfer foils back in the day. You placed the sheet on top of your (laser) printed sheet, then, when you heated the sheet again, the toner melted and stuck to the foil. A gentle scrub, and Voila! shiny printing.

    1. Maybe very thin aluminium foil would then also work? But soldering on aluminium is a no-go, so I guess that would still be no good :/ But you could then use it to make decorations though, x-mas decorations or cards.

      So uh, copper filings! that should do it. get a bit of copper pipe, grind some filings off, and bob’s your uncle.. maybe.

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