DIY PCB Printing and Etching

When I was building my installation for the exhibition in Toluca Mexico, I received many helps from a Relder Leguz, a new good friend that I met through Marengla, Marko and Loretta, his wives. One of the helps was to print my own Printed Circuit Boards (PCB) for sonikakustik instruments that I was using to capture acoustic sounds from my installation. As we were printing our PCB, we decided to make a little documentation and creating a tutorial for anyone to try it themselves. I wrote the same tutorial in Indonesian on lifepatch site.

To start the tutorial, here’s the list that’s needed to print your own PCB.

Materials:

  1. Blank PCB board (size depends on your circuits design)
  2. Duct Tape
  3. Alcohol (70% or 90%)
  4. Thinner
  5. Screen Print (usually found on printing shop, choose the screen print for hard surface)
  6. Photo-Emulsion Screen Print (usually found on printing shop. make sure you  the emulsion storage is protected from light)
  7. Screen printing ink for hard surface (usually found on printing shop)
  8. Transparent glass
  9. Metal plate/rakel
  10. Plastic container
  11. used toothbrush
  12. Laser Printer
  13. Transparent plastic film
  14. UV lighting
  15. FeCl3 (Ferric Chloride). note: You can also use a mixture of H2O2 (Hydrogen Peroxide) and HCl (Hydochloric Acid) which is more environmental friendly for etching.

How To:

Follow the step bellow in order.

Step 1:

Print your PCB design on a Transparent plastic film using Laser printer, clean the Screen Print and prepared all materials that you will need. Make sure all the materials are ready to use and clean.

 

Step 2:

Prepare the Photo Emulsion in a dark room. Photo emulsion is very sensitive to light. If you have a red bulb, use it. Dark red light room are very helpful to prepare the solution.

 

Step 3:


Apply the Photo Emulsion, spread it thin using a glass or other tools to your inner side of your Screen Printing. Be sure the glass or acrylic has a smooth edge in order to get a thin and regular layer of emulsion.

 

Step 4:

Put the Transparent plastic film to the outside part of the Screen Print. Use duct tape to attach it by taping the outer part (the part that doesn’t have the PCB design print) of the Transparent plastic film. Make sure you are working in a dark room.

 

Step 5:


Put the Screen Print along with the Transparent plastic film over a transparent glass surface such as a glass table or glass sheet. Put some weight (books or anything heavy) to make sure the screen and negative film print sticks together. Turn on the UV light and put it on the down side of the glass surface. Wait for 8 minutes. Put the transparent plastic film over .

Step 6:

After 8 minutes turn off the UV light. Remove the Transparent plastic film and wash the screen printing with water. You will get a nice clean PCB design on the rubber printing screen.

 

Step 7:

Take some duct tape and cover the outer part of the printing screen that is not needed (the outer green part of the PCB print) from the inside part of the Screen Printing (this helps to use less solvent to clean the screen after print). Clean the blank PCB board with alcohol, to remove grease or dirt from the blank PCB surface.

 

Step 8:


Place the Blank PCB board on the center of a piece of glass, then use the duct tape to attach one edge of the Screen Print to the glass. You might also want to tape the blank PCB board so it doesn’t move. Carefully apply the Screen Sablon using the rakel.

Step 9:

Carefully lift the Screen Printing and you’ll get a nice print on your blank PCB.

 

Step 10:

Now that we are done with the printing, we continue with the Etching. Prepare a plastic container and  FeCl3 (Ferric Chloride). Put the PCB inside the plastic container and pour FeCL3 on it until the liquid covers the whole PCB. Wait for 10 minutes or more, depend on the reaction of the liquid with the PCB. Check as many times as you could to see if the reaction is finished or not. FeCl3 can also be mixed with warm water (50-50) and works well.

Step 11:

When the reaction is finished, clean the PCB with water and some brush to help cleaning. Remember that FeCl3 is highly corrosive and poisonous. You can use multiple times of one bottle FeCl3. When it gets weak and you want to throw it away, mix the liquid with detergents so it doesn’t harm the environment.

 

Step 12:

This step is optional, but for me, I prefer to drill the PCB so it’s easier to put the components in their place.

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3 thoughts on “DIY PCB Printing and Etching

    • ciao vadim,

      i updated the tutorial a bit. the emulsion i use is photo-emulsion, ink = regular printing ink, mesh = screen print for hard surface (not the one for t-shirt pint). this three item you can easily find in printing shops. hope it help :)

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