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Old 1st September 2007, 06:01 PM   #1
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Question What does industry etch with

I got sick of ferric chloride stains (on work area and on boards) so I changed to sodium persulphate. Now I'm sick of that as it's etching power quickly diminishes with time when made up, and although it's clean you get salt deposits everywhere.

I'm not interested in experimenting with chemistry as I don't know where to buy the chemicals. Does industry use FeCl? I might go back to it if I can be convinced it's really the proper one to use.
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Old 1st September 2007, 09:56 PM   #2
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Industry uses a peroxide etch of some sort. Ferric chloride is a royal pain in too many ways to count, from staining to skin irritation. Try searching Google for "peroxide etch" and see what you find.
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Old 1st September 2007, 10:15 PM   #3
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Actually, I followed my own advice and did a search - there are two industrial etching cycles - one uses ammonia, and the other sulfuric acid/peroxide (hence the ammonium persulfate). The peroxide etch might be more popular with board houses here in California, as it is much easier to recover the copper. This is not only mandatory here because of environmental regulations (copper is death on wheels to aquatic life), but given the price of copper, it makes economic sense, too.
I have access to a computer-controlled milling machine, so the question is somewhat academic, but if I were forced to go back to etching my own boards, I would try my best to avoid having to use ferric chloride, as it stains/eats just about everything it touches.
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Old 1st September 2007, 11:15 PM   #4
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If you build a spray etcher with a heater, the ammonium persulphate(?) is the way to go. For rocking the boards in a photo tray, I've never had good results with it. I still use warm ferric chloride, with the smell, mess, and stain problems. My opinion at the moment is that it's so easy to lay out a nice double sided board using the very good and free Tinycad and Freepcb from Sourceforge, that I just do the layout and send the files to AP Circuits in Canada. For under $100 you get several decent boards in just a couple days, with fine lines and good plated through holes. I've tried a lot of cad programs, and Freepcb is better than some of the $1k+ programs. Just remember to read the instructions! I've also made my share of boards using tape (remember tape? remember Bishop Graphics?), film tools, and toner transfer. With the right technique, toner transfer works great, but the hassle of etching boards isn't worth it to me anymore.
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Old 2nd September 2007, 01:00 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by Conrad Hoffman
I just do the layout and send the files to AP Circuits in Canada.
AP is expensive. I recently ordered boards from Futurlec:
http://www.futurlec.com/PCBService.shtml
Cost for my order from AP would have been four times as much.

Tom Gootee has a recipe for etching solution on his site. Muriatic acid and peroxide (I think).
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Old 2nd September 2007, 02:14 AM   #6
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Wow, I just ran a couple estimates on their web site, and the price really is fantastic. Remember though, AP Circuits specializes in one day turn-around- order your boards on Monday, be building your circuit on Wednesday. That means shipping is a huge part of a small order, and there's no slow option, only FedEx. They rely on the fact that once I have the gerbers in hand, I'm too excited to wait! For those with more sense than cents, Futurlec looks like a far better deal, plus you can use the price difference to get a more professional looking board, with mask and screen.
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Old 2nd September 2007, 09:41 AM   #7
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So is it ammonium persulphate I need to look out for?

Currently I have a plastic tub which is sat in the sink full of hot water, and a fish tank pump with a tube in the solution bubbling it. It's not ideal really but I'm sure it has the potential to be better than what I've been getting.

In case you hadn't noticed I'm in the UK, but also I often knock up just 2 or 3 boards at a time (which all may be different) so it's just not viable for me to use these prototype board houses.
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Old 2nd September 2007, 12:18 PM   #8
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Right, I just made up some fresh solution and now it's working a treat. So is ammonium persulfate much different from sodium persulfate? They both seem to be 'equivalents' from what I can see.

My problem is the made-up shelf life of sodium persulfate. Is ammonium persulfate better in this regard?
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Old 2nd September 2007, 12:43 PM   #9
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Hi Rich,
Tom Goatee's site:
http://www.fullnet.com/~tomg/gooteepc.htm

Scroll down to new etchant update.
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Old 2nd September 2007, 01:10 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by richie00boy
My problem is the made-up shelf life of sodium persulfate. Is ammonium persulfate better in this regard?
Yes, ammonium persulfate has a long "best before". I have used it a lot. One thing though: Stains bleech cotton and what is worse, make holes after a long while.
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