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Old 7th April 2013, 12:42 AM   #31
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also, some earlier said the etching solution works better when its warm. Would placing the "tank" container in a larger container that is full of hot water work?
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Old 7th April 2013, 12:47 AM   #32
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No, ferric chloride is commonly used in bubble tanks, boards are etched one after the other in the solution until the etching time doubles. Then it's time for new etchant.
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Old 7th April 2013, 12:59 AM   #33
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A typical industrial installation uses a polythene tank with a heater (like an industrial aquarium heater) and a perforated tube that runs along the bottom of the tank with an air pump (not unlike an aquarium air pump). Bubbles rising from the tube agitate the solution reducing the overall etch time. Temperature is typically 50 degrees C.

A similar heated tank alongside contains etch resist developer, but without bubbles, the board is washed manually by raising and lowering it into the tank and the time is short enough that the absence of bubbling is of no consequence.

A superior industrial-style installation uses a pump to raise etchant from a heated reservoir. The etchant is sprayed onto the board continuously and drains back into the reservoir under gravity. Etch time can be 1/10 of that of a bubble tank.

Home users frequently adopt photographic developing dishes, I'm fortunate enough to have some still, but for small boards the plastic containers which takeaway food comes in are useable, and no loss if stained by the chemicals, which they frequently are.

A secondary dish of hot water is an aid to maintaining temperature.
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Old 7th April 2013, 12:59 AM   #34
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I've done small boards with ferric in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup sitting in a pan of hot water heated on the stovetop. True story.
Trick is to not heat it too much, because some etchant starts to not work as well if it's too hot. I say keep the heat on Low. Sorry, I didn't measure temperatures... didn't have a thermometer handy. I do have a decent liquid thermometer, so maybe next time I'll measure it.

When I was doing alot of HCl etching in a tank with a bubbler, it was heated with one of those immersible aquarium heaters. I just cranked it up all the way.
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Old 7th April 2013, 01:01 AM   #35
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Using a foam sponge brush to agitate the copper off the board seems to help when doing it without a bubbler. I wouldn't do that with HCl though
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Old 7th April 2013, 01:04 AM   #36
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For some very simple designs, you can hand etch it with a rotary tool and a scribing tip of some kind. I'm working on a power supply cap board right now that I'm doing that way. Much less hassle than chemical etching when there's really not much copper that needs removed.
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Old 7th April 2013, 01:05 AM   #37
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Yeah, another technique uses a ziplock bag to contain both board and etchant. You manipulate it to move the solution around. I tried it once but it goes cold quickly, and there's not much between you and the etchant. Definitely a rubber glove job.
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Old 7th April 2013, 01:06 AM   #38
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Would a cheap tupperware or rubbermade food type plastic container work ok?

also how well does various plastics and what not survive this. For instance, I have an airstone connected by surgical tubing to a small pump that I have used to get bubbles in an aquarium. Sounds like the agitation would be good, but would the stone and tubing survive? Its all pretty cheap stuff, so as long as I got more than 3 or 4 boards out of it, I would call it a win.
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Old 7th April 2013, 01:10 AM   #39
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I've used cheap "Ziploc" brand disposable storage containers before, and they've held up to multiple uses before they needed thrown out.
Most plastics can handle it pretty well, though ferric stains it very easily, that's not really a big deal if you're not using it for anything else. Pyrex glass dishes work great and usually don't stain unless you leave ferric sitting in it for a very long time (like months).

My plastic bubbler tank began to break down after a few years of constant use with HCl.

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Originally Posted by Dan Moos View Post
Would a cheap tupperware or rubbermade food type plastic container work ok?

also how well does various plastics and what not survive this. For instance, I have an airstone connected by surgical tubing to a small pump that I have used to get bubbles in an aquarium. Sounds like the agitation would be good, but would the stone and tubing survive? Its all pretty cheap stuff, so as long as I got more than 3 or 4 boards out of it, I would call it a win.
I don't know about the airstone. Depending on what it's actually made of, it might get eaten. My bubbler tank had perferations in the bottom of it. The tubing should be fine.

Last edited by iaxxaxxai; 7th April 2013 at 01:11 AM. Reason: added stuff
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Old 7th April 2013, 01:16 AM   #40
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BTW, this is the etching rig I was using with HCl. It lasted me 3+ years with no trouble. It would probably still work fine, though some of the plastic is getting brittle.
Low Cost Etching System with Agitator & Heater
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