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Old 3rd March 2010, 05:53 PM   #1
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Question WHICH Laminator for Toner Transfer?

I hope someone can set me in the right direction on laminators suitable for toner transfer to PCBs.

I need to make a few small two-sided boards. I was planning to try toner transfer with a clothes iron when I got distracted by the laminator process which looks to be a little more controlable. Most people don't mention modifying their laminators but others describe modifying theirs for more heat, less speed, more open paper path, etc. Some have spent $100 or more on a machine that they say works and others have spent $20 on an ebay find they also claim works well. GBC makes machines that come up often in forums. Pulsarprofx even sells one which I gather is unmodified. But that is the very brand and model that others have based whole modification articles on.

Are these modifications truly necessary to have any success at all or are they enhancements to make a slow but effective process more efficient? In other words, can I use a stock laminator and pass the pcb through multiple times or must I rip apart the machine ro replace thermal switches and fuses to ever make this work?

Is it really necessary to spend $80-$100 on a Xerox XRX-LM1910 when Walmart sells a 3M machine for $25? Are there features that make one work and the other not? Are there features or specs that would make a machine totally useless for toner transfer?

If you are successfully using a laminator, what make and model is it and what mods have you been forced to make?

Thanks.

Ray
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Old 15th March 2010, 03:37 AM   #2
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I bought one of those 3M/Scotch laminators. They use two pinch rollers that are soft which is great as it easily grabs the board. After a few minutes of use, the center of the top cover tends to droop just enough to rub on the board (no biggie as it can easily be modified if I keep it)
The heater looks less than impressive as it seems to be just a few aluminum plates along side of the rollers that heats up by a small heater.. somewhere

Well.. the innards don't really matter as I have run 2 transfers on it (my first two ever) and they both seemed to be ok. The first one I cleaned off because I know the printout was bad to begin with but all the traces stuck to the board. The second seemed fine as well. Both times the magazine paper jt fell off the toner after only a few minutes of soaking so it could be the paper I used was a quick releaser.

Actual etching on the second run resulted in good traces. Some pinholes on the larger traces.
Printer not liking the paper ? (I did notice streaking on the top of the pages)
Not enough heat on the transfer?

I will try the other printer if I get a chance tomorrow and see how the traces are. Might try some different paper and/or let the laminator warm up longer.
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Old 15th March 2010, 12:59 PM   #3
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Thanks, Paragon. Did you use .0625" thick boards or were they thinner?

What I don't understand is if the laminator does a good job of transferring the toner, and if it can be used as is out of the box, why do so many people modify their laminators? Is it to reduce the number of passes or because the stock parts don't get hot enough regardless of how many times you run the board through? For the little use I'm likely to make of this machine, I'd rather send the board through a half dozen times than to rip it apart and start replacing components without knowing why.

If the 3M did the job for you (assuming you were using .0625" boards), I'll pick one up and give it a go. It appears to be about the cheapest letter size laminator out there.

Ray
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Old 15th March 2010, 02:00 PM   #4
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According to the people that developed the toner transfer method, any laminator made by GBC should do.

Quote:
WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT "GBC"?

What makes GBC the ONLY laminator manufacturer that works with our process is because of the way they redesigned the ordinary pouch laminator heaters. The ordinary laminator uses two parallel heating plates after the rollers to seal the pouch. GBC mounted two curved heaters, one above the top roller and one below the bottom roller and radiate heat into the neoprene coated rollers kind of like a rotisserie chicken cooker!
PCB "Fab-In-A-Box" ... The 8min circuit board system

You can buy the laminator they sell for less than half the price on e*ay.......

Item #350269066568

Last edited by theAnonymous1; 15th March 2010 at 02:04 PM.
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Old 15th March 2010, 10:37 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RaymondW View Post
Thanks, Paragon. Did you use .0625" thick boards or were they thinner?

What I don't understand is if the laminator does a good job of transferring the toner, and if it can be used as is out of the box, why do so many people modify their laminators? Is it to reduce the number of passes or because the stock parts don't get hot enough regardless of how many times you run the board through? For the little use I'm likely to make of this machine, I'd rather send the board through a half dozen times than to rip it apart and start replacing components without knowing why.

If the 3M did the job for you (assuming you were using .0625" boards), I'll pick one up and give it a go. It appears to be about the cheapest letter size laminator out there.

Ray
Correct. The thicker boards. Not need to push it to start or anything. just line up the paper and slide it in to the top.

Some laminators either do not get hot enough or do not have enough pressure so people increase the heat. If the laminator has enough pressure, the you shouldn't need as much heat to fuse the toner to the board. Perhaps using the thicker boards actually helps in this situation by increasing the pressure.

I know it takes at least 2 passes to properly fuse it.

Once I get a chance to print some more pages and test, if I decide to keep it, I will probably space the top housing up or sand the edge so it doesn't rub the board when it gets hot. Other than that, I'm thinking it might be good.

Quote:
Originally Posted by theAnonymous1 View Post
According to the people that developed the toner transfer method, any laminator made by GBC should do.

Quote:
WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT "GBC"?

What makes GBC the ONLY laminator manufacturer that works with our process is because of the way they redesigned the ordinary pouch laminator heaters. The ordinary laminator uses two parallel heating plates after the rollers to seal the pouch. GBC mounted two curved heaters, one above the top roller and one below the bottom roller and radiate heat into the neoprene coated rollers kind of like a rotisserie chicken cooker!
PCB "Fab-In-A-Box" ... The 8min circuit board system

You can buy the laminator they sell for less than half the price on e*ay.......

Item #350269066568
This laminator has two curved aluminum plates that wrap around the rollers. I think the soft rollers (I guess they could be neoprene) give even pressure across the board.
I should have taken a photo when I had it apart.
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Old 16th March 2010, 11:54 PM   #6
tomchr is offline tomchr  United States
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I just use a clothes iron that I picked up at Goodwill for a few bucks. Works great...

I'd think the reason many people report having to run the board through the laminator multiple times is that the board doesn't get hot enough after the first pass. Preheating it with an iron might help.

BTW, the HP Laser Brochure paper is the best I've been able to find. It doesn't wrinkle under the heat of the iron unlike magazine paper and other papers I've tried. HP part number: Q1987A. Available at office supply stores.
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Old 17th March 2010, 12:34 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomchr View Post
I just use a clothes iron that I picked up at Goodwill for a few bucks. Works great...

I'd think the reason many people report having to run the board through the laminator multiple times is that the board doesn't get hot enough after the first pass. Preheating it with an iron might help.

BTW, the HP Laser Brochure paper is the best I've been able to find. It doesn't wrinkle under the heat of the iron unlike magazine paper and other papers I've tried. HP part number: Q1987A. Available at office supply stores.
I use an iron too, though I would love to give a laminator a try. Sometimes I get "squashed" and deformed traces using an iron.

I have a broken high end GBC laminator that got thrown out at work. It looks brand new, but it won't turn on. Haven't had the time to look into what the problem is.

How well does that brochure paper release when soaked? I use the Staples glossy photo paper. It prints good, but it can be a pain to get all the paper out from between fine traces and pad holes.
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Old 17th March 2010, 01:09 AM   #8
tomchr is offline tomchr  United States
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theAnonymous1 View Post
I use an iron too, though I would love to give a laminator a try. Sometimes I get "squashed" and deformed traces using an iron.
I'm considering dropping $25 to try the laminator... Using an iron is a lot of work and the laminator would give a more consistent pressure on the board during toner transfer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by theAnonymous1 View Post
How well does that brochure paper release when soaked?
It releases surprisingly well. I use warm water with a little dish soap added to break the surface tension. I let the board/paper soak for a few minutes. That's enough to get the paper pulp all soft and it almost falls off the toner tracks. Tightly spaced traces (10 mil spaces) require a bit of work to get the remaining pulp out, but a soft brush works pretty well for this. Also rubbing with my fingers tends to get the last bits out. Holes in pads are a bit tougher to clear, but I find that even if a little paper is left in the holes, they'll still etch enough to create a pit for the drill to catch in the center of the pad. It seems the glossy surface is very thin compared to the photo papers, where I've seen it be several mils thick. Thin is good... That means less scrubbing.

I've made double-sided boards with the brochure paper and a clothes iron where the registration between top and bottom layer was on the order of +/-0.1 mm or so. Drilling a 40 mil hole in the center of the pad on the bottom layer would have the drill come out very slightly off center on the top layer. That's about as good as it gets with home made boards.

~Tom
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Old 17th March 2010, 01:37 AM   #9
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Thanks for the feedback Tom. I will have to give some of that brochure paper a try.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tomchr View Post
Tightly spaced traces (10 mil spaces) require a bit of work to get the remaining pulp out, but a soft brush works pretty well for this.
For those little tough bits, I use a wooden toothpick or pointed bamboo skewer. I find trying to use a brush to get the last bits out can end up rubbing the toner too thin.
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Old 17th March 2010, 12:55 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomchr View Post
Using an iron is a lot of work and the laminator would give a more consistent pressure on the board during toner transfer.
That's why I was thinking that the laminator was the better way to go, provided it didn't require modification to work at all. From what I'm reading here, it does sound like it should work albeit with a few passes.

I will be doing a double-sided board although there are only two traces on the component side. I should be able to make them wide enough that a slight miss in registration won't be a problem. Are there any tricks to keeping the two pieces of paper in place as they go through the laminator? I'm guessing that after the first pass, the paper is stuck, so maybe run one side through once then add the paper for the other side and run the whole sandwich through a few more times?

Quote:
Originally Posted by theAnonymous1 View Post
You can buy the laminator they sell for less than half the price on e*ay.......

Item #350269066568
Thanks for the heads up on the ebay laminators. They're actually slightly cheaper (with no tax and free shipping) than the 3M units from Walmart.

Ray
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