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Making PCBs and Paper for Toner Transfer

Discussion in 'Modding Forum' started by CraigHB, Jan 4, 2012.

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  1. CraigHB

    CraigHB Ultra Member ECF Veteran

    Jul 31, 2010
    Reno, Nevada
    So, I've been making PCBs (printed circuit boards) myself a long time for little projects here and there or to make little proto boards for breadboarding surface mount components. I usually pay to have the complex ones fabricated, but for simple little one-offs, it's not worth it, better to make them myself.

    One thing that's always been a pain is the medium used for toner transfer. I've tried a whole array of different mediums. For people that have not yet attempted to make a PCB, but are thinking about it, toner transfer is a simple way to transfer your designs for chemical etching using a plain ol' laser printer. It's like doing a silkscreen T-shirt, you just print to paper and iron it on. You can also use a laminator which I use myself. I've tried all kinds of mediums for toner transfer with mixed results, but I recently came across something that is outstanding.

    Now, you can get special toner transer paper like this, but it's not cheap. Magazine paper works fairly well most of the time, but I found Elle magazine paper is just amazing. If you have women in your household or you are a woman yourself, you probably have a few Elle magazines around so it's basically free. It works just as well as the dextrose paper you can buy. It lifts off in about a minute of soaking with water. No brushing or other help is required leaving a circuit board ready to etch. Really amazing stuff.

    I was highly pleased to find a magazine paper that works so well so I thought I would share that.
  2. asdaq

    asdaq Vaping Master Verified Member ECF Veteran

    I was looking into this and saw that the thinner magazine-like paper that the ads come printed on in the Sunday paper works really well too, just that the edge needs to be folder over to feed through the printer.
  3. jrm850

    jrm850 Senior Member ECF Veteran

    Jun 18, 2011
    Southeastern US
    I've got to try this. I've been using glossy presentation paper with decent success but I'm tired of cleaning toner off boards and starting over. On another forum I saw where someone swore by wax paper but I can't get it to go through my printer no matter what method I try. On the parts that I could salvage from the horrific waxpaper jams, the printing looked absolutely perfect.
    Having something more transparent like Elle paper could be awesome for me because I like to make double sided boards in one shot by making an envelope with the pcb inside and running it through the laminator. Lining up the holes in the envelope would be a hell of a lot easier if I could see through the paper better.
  4. DaveP

    DaveP PV Master & Musician ECF Veteran

    May 22, 2010
    Central GA
    Have you tried iron on T-shirt transfer paper? Just a thought, but it's designed to heat transfer most of the toner to a T-shirt, is heat proof in the ironing process, and you would just be transferring to a different medium instead of cloth. It's also designed to go through the fusing process of a laser printer. avery iron on transfer paper
  5. jrm850

    jrm850 Senior Member ECF Veteran

    Jun 18, 2011
    Southeastern US
    I tried some T shirt transfer several years ago. It prints and transfers fine but unfortunately the entire coating transfers instead of just the traces. The newer stuff might be different though. Good thought.
  6. DaveP

    DaveP PV Master & Musician ECF Veteran

    May 22, 2010
    Central GA
    Maybe it's a heat level issue with the iron. The fuser roller in a laser printer is hot and fuses the ink to the transfer paper, but doesn't melt the coating. You might try different iron heat levels to find the sweet spot ... just enough to transfer without melting the coating.
  7. Sicarius

    Sicarius Super Member Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Nov 30, 2011
    I have tried many different mediums as well, but best results were with cheap 'photo' paper. Not the glossy type though. Once printed and ironed onto the pcb you just pop it into a sink of lukewarm water with a little dishwashing liquid and let stand for say 20 minutes. The 'photo' layer on the paper turns into a gel and just wipes off with a little thumb pressure.
  8. Str8V8ping

    Str8V8ping Vaping Master Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Sep 10, 2011
    Best trick is to use cheap inkjet glossy photopaper . The new stuff is now waterproof and melts so stick with the oldest photo paper you can find . I do this for a living . ALso ONLY use HP laser toner . or etching use two parts peroxide to one part muriatic acid . Keep agitated and warm .
  9. breaktru

    breaktru Vaping Master Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Bumping ....................
    Thanks Craig. I had used the magazine paper a while back after Googling PCB making. Got to find a Elle issue somewhere. I was using thin advertising mags. I tried it for a double layer board and maybe I used too much heat doing the second side. The super thin traces didn't hold. The wider traces were good though.
  10. SurvivorMcGyver

    SurvivorMcGyver Ol' Timer Verified Member ECF Veteran

    I've been using this system for about a year - works great for me - double sided is a "trick" for sure. A good consistant laminator is the key as are following the simple directions. - Great for protos -- Batch is the way to go for multilayer.
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