# My etching process

#### cmartinez

Joined Jan 17, 2007
7,312
I was thinking about posting these pictures in this thread, but then I thought I didn't want people to think I was hijacking it. So I'm tagging its main participants here, see if they find it interesting.

@nerdegutta, @DerStrom8, @Lestraveled, @jpanhalt, @atferrari, @JDR04, @A_Maine96, @MrAl, @Dr.killjoy

This is how I start my PCB process. First I draw my circuits in AutoCAD ('cause I'm an expert... and I've been too lazy to learn a specialized software... so maybe I'm just drawing pretty pictures, as @WBahn once said, but what the heck. )

Then I print the layout using the magic paper that I described in this thread.

After that, I cut the circuit layout to its adequate size, depending on the board size I'll be using. Like here, with a 10 x 15 cm board:

And then I place it on my press iron, using a 1/8" thick of red silicon sheet as a separator so that the paper won't burn. This also helps distribute the pressure more evenly.

After ironing, I cut the excess board and very easily peel the paper off.

The paper will come off very easily if it's out of a new package. As the paper ages, it becomes a little harder to peel, until eventually, after about 18 months, it just won't work anymore and will stubbornly stick to the board, and will even jam at the printer quite often.

You can tell that the transfer was a success if no ink toner was left on the paper.

It took me several years of trial and error until I came up with a satisfactory design for my etching tank. The tank is made by using 3 layers of sheet glass 1/4" thick, with the middle layer working as the tank's cavity. This helps make sure that the PCB is thoroughly immersed in the etching solution, and it also allows for a 200W halogen light to be placed behind it, so as to warm the whole thing at once and speed things up a bit.

Here you can see the PCB just prior to being dumped into the tank. The PCB is held by a nylon fishing line to make it easy to extract after the process is completed.

If the ferric chloride in the tank is new out of the bottle, and it hasn't been used to etch anything yet, it will allow the light from the halogen lamp to shine right through it.

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#### cmartinez

Joined Jan 17, 2007
7,312
But the chemical will definitely start looking much darker once a couple of PCBs have been processed.

You can see that I'm using bubbles to shake things up a bit in there. This is done by using an ordinary fish-tank air pump, which I placed in the back of the device.

I also installed a PVC valve in the back, to be able to drain the solution after it becomes too saturated with residue after too many uses. Finding the appropriate valve was a pain the the rear-behind since all the commercial valves that I tried to use had a ball that was made of some OTHER material that was not PVC, and that was eventually eaten through by the FeCl₃
It wasn't until I bought a valve from these guys, that the problem was solved. Kind of expensive for a 1/2" PVC valve (more than $30.00 dlls, if you include S&H) but worth every penny. Finally, here are some of my results: Last edited: #### Wendy Joined Mar 24, 2008 22,368 And you didn't invite me! I'm hurt! Thread Starter #### cmartinez Joined Jan 17, 2007 7,312 And you didn't invite me! I'm hurt! You're always invited! and besides, you don't need an invitation, you're a moderator so I know you're always LURKING in the background... Anyway, what do you think of my tank? Maybe I overdid things a little, after I took a look at Lestraveled's economy version. Probably the next thing I'll add is a PWM for the lamp, to control the temperature. #### Wendy Joined Mar 24, 2008 22,368 You can never overdo something like that. It works, and probably much better than my Tupperware. The professional etching tank I worked on heated the FCl to something like 50 degrees C, and sprayed both sides of the PCB. Yours is much easier to work with. I especially liked the press. I want one. #### DerStrom8 Joined Feb 20, 2011 2,390 Very nice setup! Great work #### OBW0549 Joined Mar 2, 2015 3,566 Oh, man... nice setup!!! #### Lestraveled Joined May 19, 2014 1,946 C Excellent excellent post! Wendy, there is a lot of great information on making printed circuit boards on this forum, and the contributions are not stopping. What do you think about a more defined place for this information? @Wendy This is my first tag, did it work?? Last edited: Thread Starter #### cmartinez Joined Jan 17, 2007 7,312 You can never overdo something like that. It works, and probably much better than my Tupperware. The professional etching tank I worked on heated the FCl to something like 50 degrees C, and sprayed both sides of the PCB. Yours is much easier to work with. I especially liked the press. I want one. Thanks... the press is probably the best investment I made. I've never had any problems with it, and I get a perfect print every time. When you get one, make sure that it has an automatic lid-lifting timer. It makes all the difference. #### JohnCase Joined Aug 19, 2015 28 This is....WOW! Really impressed! #### nerdegutta Joined Dec 15, 2009 2,676 Nice setup. I like your iron press. Is that originally to iron graphics on clothing? Thread Starter #### cmartinez Joined Jan 17, 2007 7,312 Nice setup. I like your iron press. Is that originally to iron graphics on clothing? Yeap... that's exactly what it is. Just remember that it's extremely important to use the silicon sheet along with the press. #### atferrari Joined Jan 6, 2004 4,278 Hola César, Worth many lines of text! What is the original use of the silicon? #### Wendy Joined Mar 24, 2008 22,368 C Excellent excellent post! Wendy, there is a lot of great information on making printed circuit boards on this forum, and the contributions are not stopping. What do you think about a more defined place for this information? @Wendy This is my first tag, did it work?? Sorry, don't know why it didn't work. I get likes and quotes very reliably though. I have a couple of 8" 1/4" thick sheets of aluminum. I was thinking of using paper, but the silicon works much better I suspect. My thought was to put it on a hot plate with a phone book on it. Now I'm wondering if I can't make something more similar to the press. While the laminator works, it has problems galore. How much does a press like that set you back? I also need to find a source for the silicon sheets. Any thoughts? #### Art Joined Sep 10, 2007 806 Ok well they are certainly pretty pictures I am in the process now of developing skill also etching art on brass and copper, so it’s probably time to invest in some PCB skills which should flow over to art etching too. #### Robin Mitchell Joined Oct 25, 2009 819 Why was I not invited either? I find this stuff amazing!!! Thread Starter #### cmartinez Joined Jan 17, 2007 7,312 Hola César, Worth many lines of text! What is the original use of the silicon? Agustín, many thanks! The silicon is there to spread the heat more evenly, avoiding unbalanced hot spots in the board. And it also distributes the pressure applied by the press equally throughout its area. Thread Starter #### cmartinez Joined Jan 17, 2007 7,312 Sorry, don't know why it didn't work. I get likes and quotes very reliably though. I have a couple of 8" 1/4" thick sheets of aluminum. I was thinking of using paper, but the silicon works much better I suspect. My thought was to put it on a hot plate with a phone book on it. Now I'm wondering if I can't make something more similar to the press. While the laminator works, it has problems galore. How much does a press like that set you back? I also need to find a source for the silicon sheets. Any thoughts? Give me a few hours and I'll get back to you with that info. Thread Starter #### cmartinez Joined Jan 17, 2007 7,312 Hola César, Worth many lines of text! What is the original use of the silicon? And oh, I forgot to mention that the bubble-generating hose is silicon too! Thread Starter #### cmartinez Joined Jan 17, 2007 7,312 Sorry, don't know why it didn't work. I get likes and quotes very reliably though. I have a couple of 8" 1/4" thick sheets of aluminum. I was thinking of using paper, but the silicon works much better I suspect. My thought was to put it on a hot plate with a phone book on it. Now I'm wondering if I can't make something more similar to the press. While the laminator works, it has problems galore. How much does a press like that set you back? I also need to find a source for the silicon sheets. Any thoughts? Wendy, I bought the silicon rubber sheet (1/8" thick, 12" x 12") from http://www.superiorseals.com/sheeting.asp . It cost about$30.00 dlls a few years ago.
As for the press, it's a 11"x15" and I bought it from these guys. Let me warn you, it ain't cheap. It sells for $1,000 dlls down here... it's probably around$700 in the U.S. but you're gonna have to ask for a quote... I bought it because of its accurate temperature adjusting capability and its auto-release timer... and also because I'm a spoiled brat

But you can get a pretty decent press of the same capacity out there, brand new, for less than \$200.00 dlls. Adding a magnetic auto-release timer mechanism could be a good project to work in this forum, if you're up to it.