Making PCBs

I have not been real satisfied with home made printed circuit boards. No matter how hard I try to duplicate the process as faithfully as possible they never come out the same way twice.

One thing I have learned is that transparencies can be made with an ink jet printer. I have been trying to make circuit boards from art work others have done. The process has not been without flaws and errors for one reason or another, but we have learned from our mistakes.

Terry, WA0ITP, and I used the laser printer at our local library and sometimes we would get good looking boards and sometimes it was a disaster. I donít think it was the transparencies that caused the problem, but a variety of other things. It was inconvenient to use the library printer because in our small town the library is only open for about 3 hours two afternoons a week.

We tried PnP Blue, which was a complete flop.

I read somewhere on the net that you could make transparencies using an inkjet printer and that sounded like an excellent way to go because neither of us has a laser printer which is the one almost always recommended for this type of work.

I have a Hewlett Packard 940C DeskJet printer so I went to our local office supply store and asked for Hewlett Packard transparencies for an inkjet printer. The lady brought out some HP C3834A transparencies, which are made for their printers.

I tried one of the transparency sheets and printed it using the best quality print setting. The transparency didnít look like it would be dark enough to block all the light so I ran it through again. I didnít want to do too much experimenting with the transparency itself at $1.00 a sheet, but the only way to know for sure if it works is to try it. It came out looking about as sharp as it did from a laser printer we had used at the local library and it was quite a bit darker than with one pass.

I did most of the experimenting with paper after I made the first transparency because of the cost. After some more experimentation I discovered that you had to make sure the paper (or transparency) was lined up exactly each time I ran it through. By putting the paper in until it hits the stop and pushing it to the right to make sure it is lined up horizontally seemed to work pretty well. Another thing I learned from trying different settings of print quality is that two or three runs at draft quality is better than any other quality settings. It keeps the lines sharper and makes the black areas more opaque. One thing is a must and that is to let the paper or transparency dry for at least a half-hour before running it through again. I donít know if other inkjet printers will work the same way mine does or not, but itís sure worth a try if you donít have a laser printer.

This has nothing to do with making transparencies, but I did stumble across something which works well developing, etching and tinning circuit boards. I use an old electric skillet with a thermostat control for heating the chemicals. I put about an inch of water in the skillet and set an 8Ēx 8Ē pyrex dish in the skillet to hold the chemicals and circuit board. I use a candy thermometer to be able to keep the chemicals at the correct temperature.

I have a DELL Dimension 4100 running Windows XP. I used Microsoft publisher and Paint to print out the transparencies and both seemed to do a nice job.

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