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Hints, Tips and Solutions (Do NOT post requests for help here) If you have any useful general hints and tips for vintage technology repair and restoration, please share them here. PLEASE DO NOT POST REQUESTS FOR HELP HERE!

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Old 19th May 2019, 9:39 am   #1
Aerodyne
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Default PCB production using toner transfer

I've been experimenting with hot transfer of toner onto copper laminate for PCB use and had only moderate success with the method suggested by some, that being the use of magazine paper. I found it messy and somewhat unreliable in practice.

Someone on You Tube advocated the use of 'transfer' paper, the stuff used by laminated sign makers as a peelable backing for plastics transfers. A search on Ebay didn't find that exact product but it produced packets of 'heat transfer toner paper', A4 size. This material is waxy on one side but takes laser print very well. As a bonus, the iron-on result is very good and if done with care, it can be used to make front panels and possibly other lettering on chassis.

I've created a quick video showing my results:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4N3Z...ature=youtu.be

Search Ebay under 'heat transfer toner paper' and quite a few suppliers appear. As I was in no rush at the time, I sent to China (far cheaper than UK!).

Tony
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Old 19th May 2019, 7:13 pm   #2
60 oldjohn
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Default Re: PCB production using toner transfer

Hi Tony, I have been using this method for two or three years, still experimenting, try to get perfection. Like you I had limited success with magazine covers, one month perfect next month same magazine hopeless. Tried the transfer paper from China, unfortunately it often got screwed up in the printer. My Son finally brought the backing paper from a firm that makes laminated signs, they have to pay to dispose of the stuff. At first it seemed too waxy to get the toner to stick, after some thought I decided to wipe it on some old carpet to remove some of the wax or is it silicone? This worked well. I had been using an old electric iron for the heat, the modern steam irons have a lot of holes in the sole so not really suitable for this job. Then I spotted the Heated Book press pictured at a car boot sale for 20. It had some marks in the plates, I guess it had been used for die cutting leather. I finally achieved perfection with it using some thick strong card to back the PCB to even up the pressure. The card I used was out of a printing by numbers set that was being thrown out.
I like the toner idea for making front panels, something else for me to experiment with, Maybe spray it over with lacquer if it does not dissolve the toner. Thank You for the tip Tony.


John.
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Old 20th May 2019, 4:52 pm   #3
Aerodyne
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Default Re: PCB production using toner transfer

Hi John

The backing paper method was used in a You Tube PCB video, so I think you are on to a winner with it. I just hope the old carpet you wiped it with wasn't in your living room - especially if it is silicone! Tread with care, perhaps? Only joking.
I don't know if lacquer would dissolve toner. It is remarkably hard to shift once it has been ironed on, but I guess lacquer spray might act as a solvent. In which case an alternative would be a covering plate of clear Perspex.

Thanks for your interest and contribution. Always good to hear from you.

Tony
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Old 20th May 2019, 9:26 pm   #4
Electronpusher0
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Default Re: PCB production using toner transfer

I used the toner transfer method to make a couple of pcbs, I found the magazine method worked but not ironing on, I used a laminator designed for laminating paper in plastic. I ran the pcb and printed magazine page through it several times on the slowest / hottest setting. The paper then soaked off in water with a drop of washing up liquid with some gentle rubbing.

Peter
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Old 20th May 2019, 10:56 pm   #5
60 oldjohn
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Default Re: PCB production using toner transfer

There was a guy on You Tube using Toner but no heat. If I remember correctly he used diluted acetone, its a couple of years since I saw it. Tony, The carpet was an offcut left from when we had a new carpet fitted, I have the same on my workbench.






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Old 21st May 2019, 4:40 pm   #6
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Default Re: PCB production using toner transfer

I need to draw the attention of forum members to an omission in the video (link on the top entry). I suggest the use of plumber's flux when protecting copper tracks from corrosion. Nothing wrong there. However what I omitted to mention was the need to remove all traces of flux after the board is completed. Plumber's flux is corrosive. This was pointed out to me by my good friend David but I was rather ashamed to admit that I knew it! My only defence is that the video was rushed, though I know that is really no defence at all. There is also a further complication if flux is left on the PCB because is is slightly conductive, so if you have adjacent tracks carrying differing voltages, arcing can occur.
So, to sum up, remove the flux either by washing with hot water and a good washing up liquid or similar product, or use a solvent such as Acetone.

Tony
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Old 21st May 2019, 4:47 pm   #7
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Default Re: PCB production using toner transfer

As I've said, there are quite a few combinations of method that can be used to create PCBs. The advantage of the paper I use is that very little needs to be cleaned off afterward and as it is cheap enough to buy (from China) it seems a worthwhile thing to use.

Peter, I can see how a laminator would work. I have one so may give it a try myself.

John, I think I've seen that video. I think it might be a bit hit and miss, though. Like I say, each to his of her own. Whatever works for you is the obvious method you should use, but it is always good to hear about alternatives.

Tony
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Old 21st May 2019, 8:13 pm   #8
60 oldjohn
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Default Re: PCB production using toner transfer

Tony, I meant to pick up on the flux, I believe you missed a trick. If you polish the tracks with very fine wet & dry Paper before you smother the tracks and possibly the board with flux then get a tiny blob of solder on your iron you should be able to very quickly wipe the solder on the tracks to tin them, its very easy and quick. Just make sure there is plenty of flux, dab any excess solder off with flux soaked de soldering braid. Then clean off all traces of flux "even more important if it is plumbers flux" Sorry if its like teaching grandmother to suck eggs.


John.

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Old 21st May 2019, 9:00 pm   #9
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Default Re: PCB production using toner transfer

Printing directly onto a metal surface is very interesting...possibly not as good as proper screen printing but well worth a try....I am trying to restore a 1973 Akai amplifier front panel since the original screen printing is very badly worn. I have the correct font and was trying the transfer method using transfer paper. It works but doesn't look very professional. Direct printing as shown in your video is well worth consideration....all I need now is a laser printer.....!
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Old 22nd May 2019, 9:36 am   #10
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Default Re: PCB production using toner transfer

I have never had any success with magazine paper, but got some HP plain glossy printer paper (NOT the photo stuff) which works very well and since it is designed to fit a printer, no screw-ups!
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Old 15th Jul 2019, 10:17 pm   #11
M3VUV51
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Default Re: PCB production using toner transfer

ive always used cheap photo paper no probs,just rub over with p1000 wet and dry on the pcb and wipe with acetone before ironing,always works for me.
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Old 16th Jul 2019, 9:54 am   #12
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Default Re: PCB production using toner transfer

To pick up on John's point made in 8 above, I was aware of the solder flow method, though I've done it without using abrasive paper on the cleaned tracks. It generally seems to work well enough but next time I'll try the abrasive method.
It is always a good idea to tin the tracks or coat them with a protective layer of some sort, such as PCB lacquer, if only to prevent later corrosion.

For anyone experimenting, remember NOT to use glossy (coated) inkjet paper in a laser printer as this will adhere to the roller. To repeat and paraphrase John's comment, I'm not trying to teach an egg-sucking method, just offering a warning to anyone who isn't aware of the problem.

Tony
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Old 16th Jul 2019, 10:40 am   #13
60 oldjohn
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Default Re: PCB production using toner transfer

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aerodyne View Post
To pick up on John's point made in 8 above, I was aware of the solder flow method, though I've done it without using abrasive paper on the cleaned tracks. It generally seems to work well enough but next time I'll try the abrasive method.


For anyone experimenting, remember NOT to use glossy (coated) inkjet paper in a laser printer as this will adhere to the roller.

Tony

Hi Tony, I try to get a new copper surface as Smooth as possible. I have been known to use Brasso straight on to a newly etched board to remove the toner resist and polish the tracks at the same time. Then clean up with IPA before applying Flux then tinning.


I never realised about the Glossy inkjet paper in a laser printer. I bought a new laser printer 3 months since and don't want to ruin it. Thank You for the tip. Do you mean the Glossy plain white photo paper ? or the used magazine paper?


John.
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Old 16th Jul 2019, 1:31 pm   #14
Craig Sawyers
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Default Re: PCB production using toner transfer

I too used to faff around making my own boards, from age 14 through to quite recently (around five years ago). I even bought a UV light box, printing on special film to make a mask.

But using free layout software (KiCAD) and a Chinese board house in Shenzhen (PCBWay). Five off each of two different smallish boards 100mm square, double sided, plated holes, solder resist and silk screened - USD1 each. I pay extra for fast shipment using DHL which gives a total of USD39 for a total of ten boards. From sending the Gerbers to China to them hitting the doormat in the UK is four days. Ridiculously cheap, superb quality and five star service.

The nearest I could get to this in the UK was 400 on a ten day schedule for a single board design. Which is not even remotely close to the Chinese price.

Craig
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Old 16th Jul 2019, 6:11 pm   #15
Mike. Watterson
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Default Re: PCB production using toner transfer

A computer controlled "mill" that uses a Dremmel or similar is nice. Also will do the holes.
I've only used Toner transfer to do radio scales. I decided years ago I hated etching. About 12 years ago the place I worked bought a cheap "mill" kit. We used Eagle and then a custom program to generate the milling file. It was 900MHz circuits on 0.8mm fibreglass and using PCB coils & capacitors.

Small PCBs from kiCad or Eagle are cheap to get in China and good enough for fine pitch SMD ICs (easy to solder, tin board and then a 3mm or 4mm flat tip to reflow after tacking the corners. Sometimes a dab of glue first. Also home etched need pins instead of PTH and are rarely good enough for 0.05" or 0.5mm tracks.
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Old 16th Jul 2019, 8:05 pm   #16
60 oldjohn
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Default Re: PCB production using toner transfer

Quote:
Originally Posted by Craig Sawyers View Post
I too used to faff around making my own boards, from age 14 through to quite recently (around five years ago). I even bought a UV light box, printing on special film to make a mask.

But using free layout software (KiCAD) and a Chinese board house in Shenzhen (PCBWay). Five off each of two different smallish boards 100mm square, double sided, plated holes, solder resist and silk screened - USD1 each. I pay extra for fast shipment using DHL which gives a total of USD39 for a total of ten boards. From sending the Gerbers to China to them hitting the doormat in the UK is four days. Ridiculously cheap, superb quality and five star service.

The nearest I could get to this in the UK was 400 on a ten day schedule for a single board design. Which is not even remotely close to the Chinese price.

Craig

I am aware of the very cheap boards from China. but it is quicker for me to make my own. They are very small single sided boards using SMD so no holes. If I need the odd hole I have a 0.7mm drill in a bench stand. It takes around 6 minutes to etch a board with new chemicals. (I gave up on Ferric Chloride a long time ago)
Once I get a working PCB I would consider the experts in China if I needed a few of them.



John.
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Old 17th Jul 2019, 5:17 pm   #17
Aerodyne
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Default Re: PCB production using toner transfer

I'd second John's thoughts. If I needed a quantity of boards or boards on a regular basis then I too would consider getting them made but for the odd one-offs I need, it is more convenient to make my own either by UV or by toner transfer.

The paper that should NOT be used in a laser printer is the COATED glossy ink-jet type. Its the coating that melts and sticks, ruining the drum- or so I'm told, having never tried it myself for obvious reasons. I think normal magazine paper should be fine, semi-glassy or matt.

Tony
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Old 17th Jul 2019, 6:16 pm   #18
Craig Sawyers
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Default Re: PCB production using toner transfer

I know it is counterintuitive to buy the MOQ of five boards when you just need one. But when they are next to nothing each, it makes (at least to me) complete sense.

But hey - horses for courses
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Old 18th Jul 2019, 9:34 am   #19
Aerodyne
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Default Re: PCB production using toner transfer

Quote:
But hey - horses for courses
Absolutely, Craig. I can see the value in having extra boards as spares or replacements for inadvertent damage, too. Nothing wrong with 'belt and braces' especially at low cost. In my case, though, I'd likely find a minor error in board layout, repeated five times! My excuse is, as always, encroaching senility...

Tony
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Old 18th Jul 2019, 10:20 am   #20
Craig Sawyers
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Default Re: PCB production using toner transfer

The process is to draw the schematic and assign the component footprints. Then you can't make an error in board layout - certainly at audio frequencies.

RF is another matter, needs a higher level of skill to get it right, and usually involves iteration.

At Quad, all the classic era transistorised stuff in the late 60's and 70s that used circuit boards (like the 33/303 and FM3) were taped up at 4x and stuck on the end of a dexion storage rack that faced a toilet door. In the door was a camera lens. Mike Albinson (RIP) used to go into the loo and tape a piece of resist coated board on the wall facing the lens. The whole arrangement reduced by a factor of four. After a guesstimated time, Mike would develop and etch the board.

Once he had iterated the layout a few times, he sent the final x4 taped-up artwork to the board house.

Craig
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