I very much enjoy making my own circuit boards. It’s a satisfying process that ties together my love of electronics with materials I used back in my art school days. It’s also the most accurate way to build a circuit short of sending away to a PCB manufacturer, and it’s much more fun.
I actually got my start in electronics etching others’ designs I’d found online — long before I understood how they worked! Churning out fully-functional devices early on proved to be a great way to keep me motivated and making. The above video documents the ins and outs of my process, and can hopefully serve as a starting point for your own.
Materials I use for printing, etching, and drilling my own boards:
- Transparency stock for laser printers (inkjet setups are likely as effective)
- Nitrile gloves (thicker reusable gloves are good too)
- Dust mask & eye protection
- Good ventilation (if you can smell it – you’re breathing it!)
- Inexpensive photo frame (or specialized exposure frame)
- Red safe-light (optional – brief exposure to dim light is ok)
- Chemicals – positive type developer, ferric chloride, nail polish remover (or acetone)
- Pyrex dishes w/ lids (plastic storage containers work as well)
- Desk or clip lamp + ~30W CFL bulb
- Drill bits, .8mm, 1mm, 1.5mm (+ others, dependent on source design)
- Small drillpress (or suitable dremel attachment)
- Misc. tools – xacto knife, metal ruler, permanent marker, vacuum, etc.
Additional tips I’ve found helpful:
- Warm developer and etchant do speed up the process, but keep an eye on your board’s progress!
- Orient your design before printing (text should appear reversed in most cases)
- Keep etchant away from any metal you don’t want etched – including stainless steel sinks!
- Drilling holes systematically (i.e. left to right, top to bottom) can help prevent oversights
- Keep the board clear while drilling to improve visibility/accuracy
- Dedicate a workspace & prepare materials ahead of time (plastic drop-cloths are handy!)
As part of their sponsorship of these Circuit Skills videos, Jameco is offering two product bundles to help jumpstart those new to the realm of homemade PCBs –