Suitable printers for PCB etching transfer?

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by JingleJoe, Jan 9, 2013.

  1. JingleJoe

    Thread Starter Member

    Jul 23, 2011
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    Can anyone recommend any models of printer which are good for the toner transfer PCB etching method?
    I'll be using press 'n' peel blue (this is not spam, honest!)
    I know that printers with a toner-saving feature are not very good, they should be liberal with the toner for best results :) I also know that brother brand printers are not compatible with press n peel, found out the hard way years ago :(
    So, any info chaps?
     
  2. Brownout

    Well-Known Member

    Jan 10, 2012
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    I've heard laser printers work best, because the polymere used is easily re-melted so it can be transfered from the paper to the board.
     
  3. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
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    There is some debate whether or not PRESS-N-PEEL is worth the cost. I use paper from a high-quality magazine (not TIME or other WEEKLY's) but my Dentist lets me take things like Wine Spectator or Harpers. This very smooth paper works great. Just run a piece of office paper though the printer first (blank) to heat treat (shrink). then tape the magazine paper to it (leading edge only) and run it through to print the circuit. Remove the office paper and tape. You are ready to iron-on. Dont over heat or don't use the same board too many times for practice - you blister the FR4 eventually. Temp just below steam (polyester) or use a laminator with a few back-to-back passes to heat it well.

    I picked up an HP LaserJet 2100 for $30 from a garage sale. Rumor has it that the HP toner works best and aftermarket toner or HP refills tend to clump or not work well on traces below 0.015 inches.

    Also, make sure to wet the magazine paper as soon as you start seeing wrinkles as it cools down, the thermal stresses tends to pull the plastic traces off of the copper when it is still hot and shrinking.
     
  4. SPQR

    Member

    Nov 4, 2011
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  5. zero10

    New Member

    Sep 20, 2012
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    I tried this with a few small (5x10cm) boards in my garage. I was using an MPI compatible refill cartridge from Monoprice in my HP 2105dn, and an iron set to "linen". I found that using 4-5 folds of newspaper over my transfer paper then spending 2 minutes heating the assembly caused a bit of what I believe to be overheating. The toner squished out in irregular shapes in some areas and I had to correct many run-together traces and pads using a knife before (and a couple after) etching to get a good board. Before printing I tried setting the toner saver settings to different values - it uses 1 for a light print, 5 for dark, I tried every value in between, with that set to 2 using some cheap flyer paper I got a reasonably good transfer, but it did run a bit as I mentioned before.

    I have another laser printer at home, a brother printer (HL-2100) that I will be trying for my next boards to see if it does any differently. It has a genuine Brother toner cartridge in it.

    If this produces poor results as well, maybe I'll sneak a few sheets through the office Xerox printer ;)
     
  6. JingleJoe

    Thread Starter Member

    Jul 23, 2011
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    Thanks for the information chaps :) all very helpful, you all seem to use HP printers so I'll look into them.
     
  7. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
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    I heat the board (copper side) for about 30 sec to 1 min (few layers of paper towel above and below the board. The Laserjet pint sticks to the hot copper immediately so I don't worry about slipping. I heat additional 90 seconds to completely transfer.

    Make sure no burrs from cutting the board prevent good even pressure.

    Also, a piece of clean paper between the board and printed paper let me perfectly place the laser printed paper befor pulling out the buffer sheet.
     
  8. spinnaker

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 29, 2009
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    I have a cheap HP P1102 and it works fine.
     
  9. JingleJoe

    Thread Starter Member

    Jul 23, 2011
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    I was looking at the HP P1102 aswell :) the price is very appealing and with your approval I think it's the one I'll go for. I wonder though, is it easy to change the toner level? I mean, the amount of toner the thing uses in order to get thicker layer transfered to the copper clad board?
     
  10. djsfantasi

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 11, 2010
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    I use an office printer for my transfers, and the printer driver has a "contrast" setting. Higher contrast increases the "toner level". So what you are looking for may be available under a different name.
     
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  11. spinnaker

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 29, 2009
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    Not sure what you mean by "toner level". I haven't seen any that do this. You can change the quality. It does not have true 1200dpi but the "fake" 1200 dpi seems to work well.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2013
  12. SPQR

    Member

    Nov 4, 2011
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    Change the setting on the printer driver.
    "bond" paper setting often deposits the most toner.
    There may also be a "print density" setting in the driver.
    Set "density" = dark, "quality=best", "toner saving=off"
     
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  13. JingleJoe

    Thread Starter Member

    Jul 23, 2011
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    Excellent thankyou both, that's what I wanted to know :)

    I suspected there may be some discrepancy in conveying what I ment :rolleyes:
     
  14. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    If you read the thread I posted it isn't that critical, there is an element of experimentation for everyone at some point.

    The biggest problems I'm had is the transfer process itself. When I first started doing this I used irons, and it worked. Something about irons have changes, I think they are saving a few too many pennies nowdays. This is why I use a laminator. Some people use cooking pans. The trick is a very controlled high temperature with a good steady pressure.
     
  15. spinnaker

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 29, 2009
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    I checked and there is a Type Is setting to select "bond" on the HP P1102. You can also set it as "Extra Heavy" which I am told as extra toner too. There is a econo mode but I can find no contrast setting.
     
  16. stoopkid

    Member

    Mar 3, 2011
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    Stay away from "brother" brand printers, they use a much higher temp toner that doesn't transfer easily... or at all. I use a samsung 2525W and it works very well for transferring toner from magazine paper to copper plate but it is no longer in production.

    If everyone recommends HP then don't let me stop you, but I hate them for their purposely poor product support/zero driver updates for new OSes.

    I got the feeling that mine was shutting off when you laid it flat for more than a moment. I think it's a safety feature. I could be wrong though.

    I use a cheap Scotch brand laminator that you can find in every store, walmart/target/walgreens and it works flawlessly. Only requires 4 or 5 passes.

    The good thing about a laminator is that you can do 2 sided bored extremely easily, just light up the two pages and glue two ends, making a pocket. I've ONLY every done 2 sided boards.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2013
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