PCB Etching

John Tsiombikas nuclear@mutantstargoat.com

2 March 2012

I'm going through an electronics phase at the moment, and I did a few circuits on stripboards (a kind of perfboard), which are ok but it's always a pain in the ass to wire them up correctly. Btw here's a relatively complex one I did a few months ago. So, I thought it would be awesome to create my own PCBs instead of using messy error-prone perfboards all the time, plus I always wanted to try the laser-printer method for homemade PCB creation back from when I didn't actually own a laser printer.

I didn't want to start with a huge complex circuit, so I decided to make a PCB version of my vsync shutter glasses driver.

First step was to draw a schematic in a schematic capture program, and then design a PCB for it. I've never done this before so it might be crap PCB layout, I don't know.

VSync shutter glasses driver schematic VSync shutter glasses driver PCB rev.A

Then I printed the traces with my laser printer and used a clothes iron to transfer the toner onto the copper board. The transfer wasn't perfect but I went ahead to try etching since I planned to scrap my first attempt anyway. Some time (a lot actually) in an ammonium persulfate solution, and my first home-made PCB is done, hurray! And there was much rejoicing...

first attempt at pcb etching

Obviously the result was unusable, so I tried again. This time I didn't feel like waiting forever to etch all the bloody copper off the board, so I modified the PCB design, adding a ground plane, and moving parts around a bit randomly.

VSync shutter glasses driver pcb rev B

Second transfer and etching worked perfectly, and I also repeated the toner transfer process for the "silkscreen" layer at the top of the board.

second-2-etched toner "silkscreen" on the front of the pcb

Turns out soldering on a PCB without a proper soldermask is messier than I expected, but it turned out just fine in the end. My new vsync driver board works perfectly. In the end I skipped the vesa stereo connector because I didn't have an extra DIN-3 handy, and I don’t have vesa shutter glasses anyway.

vsync shutter glasses driver circuit on a homemade pcb What a mess! without soldermask, the solder goes all over the place

The whole process was fun, but I'm not sure it’s really worth the effort. Next time I'll give one of those cheap chinese pcb manufacturers a try.

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