Finally a DIY PCB procedure that works


2011-11-17 3:49 pm
After many years of trying to make PCBs and only having limited success, I finally found this product that works straight out of the box and is clean and easy to use.

PCB Fab-in-a-Box Kit — Cool Components

It relies on the same toner transfer principle that is commonly advertised but uses a clay coated paper that guarantees 100% of the toner is transferred to the board.

The producer acknowledges that the toner image may not be 100% opaque and addresses this with a Green Foil that ensures solid traces from a less than solid toner image.

Top up paper and foil is readily available and won't "break the bank".

Results are better with the recommended laminator but I did get good results with a household iron.

It's well worth the money in my opinion.
A good Laser is paramount.

You need it to drop thick abbundant toner for best results.

I bought an extra Samsing printer a cheap generic one, **just** to print PCB transfers and transparencies for silkscreening, period.

Mumbling vague menaces about cutting trespasser´s hands Saudi style to keep Family away from it and use the other one instead.
I have been using Pulsar toner transfer paper for at least 25 years. It works pretty good if you have a printer that uses compatible toner.

When I first found this stuff, I used an old HP LaserJet 2. It worked great.

When that old dinosaur died I bought a LaserJet 4L that used "Microfine" toner. That stuff needed a really high temperature to "fuse." In order to get success I had to superheat the iron on the kitchen stove, which fried its internal thermal fuse. Despite these issues I made some good boards with the 4L until it died.

My next printer was a cheap Brother. I found out at about the same time that Pulsar did, that Brother toner takes even more heat than the HP Microfine....I wound up melting some of the plastic on the iron heating it up on the stove, but forged onward. Now Pulsar says "don't use a Brother printer." I gave the Brother to my daughter and got another cheapie from Amazon.

Now I use a $89 Canon MF3010 loaded with a $12 Amazon toner cartridge. It does fine with the iron set at about 3/4 of max and my foot placing most of my body weight on top of it. I place a 3/4 inch pine board on the concrete floor, an old towel on top of the board, then the PCB / transfer sheet sandwich on the towel.

Back when Pulsar came up with the laminator idea (maybe 10 years ago) they published a list of useful models including one that you had to modify to increase roller tension. It was cheap, so I got one, but I got better results with my foot on the iron, so it sits on a shelf.

I never had much luck with the green TRF stuff. The toner came off with it, but I haven't tried it with the Canon / Amazon toner. I still have some, but it's at least 10 years old. It has a Digikey label on it, and Pulsar was located in Clearwater Florida.

In case you are also buying parts to put on your DIY boards, all the Pulsar stuff is stocked at Mouser. I have also bought it from Digikey, but not recently, so I don't know if it's still stocked.