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Homemade PCBs with a Brother printer - 4mil Traces

Toner transfer PCBs with 4mil traces.

Supercap2F

Mar 22, 2014
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Supercap2F submitted a new Showcase Item:

Homemade PCBs with a Brother printer - 4mil Traces

Hey Guys!

Just thought I would share my home made toner transfer PCB results with you, using a Brother laser printer.

So I've done a bunch of tests with different paper, and the best paper for the job I found was this yellow stuff off of ebay: http://ebay.to/1V9jXQ4

It took a couple tries to get the toner to stick to it, but in the end I got it to work by taping a piece of it to another piece of plan paper with kapton tape and then running it through the printer. Like this:
View attachment 24266View attachment 24267

I use a pretty standard way of transferring the toner to the PCB. I just tape down the toner transfer paper to the PCB, put a paper towel over it, and iron it on (two minutes seems to work good). After the two minutes, I spray the towel and PCB with water and iron it out – I repeat that for about one minute.

After that, I let the PCB cool and wash off the toner paper in a stream of water.

For etching I use strait ferric chloride in a squarish plastic container. It usually takes about 20 minutes to etch if a agitate the container every now and then, or less if I rub the ferric chloride on the board:
View attachment 24270

I then rinse off the board in cold water, and remove the toner with lacquer thinner.
And that's all!

Here's a finished test board:
View attachment 24269
(The first trace on the top-left is 2 mil, and the next one is 4 mil)

With this method I have reliably got down to 4 mil traces - I did get a 2 mil trace, but it was starting to have higher resistance (I wouldn't trust it at all)...
Dan

Read more about this showcase item here...
 

chopnhack

Apr 28, 2014
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Wow Dan!
I have had good luck with the foreign yellow paper as well as the steaming of the paper off of the pcb. The one drawback I have seen so far with steaming the paper is sometimes the increased temperature and presence of water does oxidize the copper. Mostly cosmetics as the exposed parts get etched away, but I did see on a few of mine some bleed through. 2 and 4 mil is outstanding work!! Being able to use a Brother laser is interesting as all the internet material I have read said that the Brother toner does not work well for toner transfer. You obviously are bucking the trend and with outstanding resolution. Are you using Brother toner or remanufactured ink?
 

Supercap2F

Mar 22, 2014
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Hey John!
When I tried steaming off the paper with other than that yellow stuff I did seam to get worse results - It probably did bleed through like yours too.

When I do it with the yellow stuff, I didn't go all the way and steam the whole thing off. It seamed to work better if I let the paper and PCB cool down to room temperature before removing it.

The brother printer I used did have a refiled cartridge in it (from Cartridge World), and it was fairly new. I never got to try a real brother cartridge with this method - It would be pretty interesting to see if I would get different results though.
Thanks
Dan
 

chopnhack

Apr 28, 2014
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My best results with non specialty paper was with thin magazine paper. I steamed it off to the point where running it under water lifted it right off! It was very cool. My only issue so far is toner density - I have not figured out how to increase it over the max resolution offered by the machine. There might be a setting that allows for more density.
 

skenn_ie

Sep 7, 2009
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If your layout software can do it, it is well worth printing pads with holes.
 

Colin Mitchell

Aug 31, 2014
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Those 4 thou tracks are totally unnecessary and you are only going to get yourself into trouble by using tracks this thin.
Obviously you have never repaired hundreds of boards and fine tracks from a land can break at the land and it takes ages to locate the fault.
The least you should be is expand the track where it touches the land.
 

Arouse1973

Adam
Dec 18, 2013
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Very impressive Dan, well done. I think the sand paper you used was a bit on the coarse side. You may find some fine wire wool is all you need.
Good job.
Adam
 

Supercap2F

Mar 22, 2014
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If your layout software can do it, it is well worth printing pads with holes.
Yeah, I agree. I did a few without them and the drills turned out kind of bad.. I didn't put them on this board because I didn't intend to drill them out.
Obviously you have never repaired hundreds of boards and fine tracks from a land can break at the land and it takes ages to locate the fault.
Ouch, Colin. :confused: I just wanted to see small of a trace I could get in case I ever need it. I usually keep them at 20mil or larger.
Very impressive Dan, well done. I think the sand paper you used was a bit on the coarse side. You may find some fine wire wool is all you need
Thanks Adam! I did use steel wool but it may have been a little on the course side. :D I have to see if I can find some finer stuff...

Dan
 

Bluejets

Oct 5, 2014
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Brother laser toner usually does not work with toner transfer as it is not re-fusable.
i.e. it is made to melt correctly just the one time.
I must have tried it 20 times or more with no consistant acceptable result.
Since going over to the HP mono laser printer and even with the el-cheapo replacement toner I get a good consistent finish every time.(HP Laserjet P1102w....mono laser)
I use the old Circuitmaker 2000 I've had for many years.
 

Supercap2F

Mar 22, 2014
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What software do you use to make the board design?
For this one I used Diptrace (it's quick and easy), but most of the time I use KiCAD.
Brother laser toner usually does not work with toner transfer as it is not re-fusable.
i.e. it is made to melt correctly just the one time. ...
Yeah, I have heard that it doesn't work but I thought I would try it anyway (since I'm not about to buy another laser printer). It may have worked because I used a non-official ink cartridge. I think that the yellow toner-transfer paper off of ebay is key to making it work this nice though.
Dan
 

Bluejets

Oct 5, 2014
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mmm..ok.
I use the blue press-n-peel normally but I'll give this a try as it is a much cheaper alternative.
Thanks for the link.
 

chopnhack

Apr 28, 2014
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I think that the yellow toner-transfer paper off of ebay is key to making it work this nice though.
I second that - I have had mixed results with other media, including the blue stuff - the dextran coated paper seems to be the best to date for me. I think some of the success is in the fact that the paper and dextran separate when wet vs. the blue paper is more of a transfer off and sometimes small sections don't release. Just my mileage on that.
 

Pieter Kralt

Oct 19, 2016
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My experiments using toner transfer did not work except from the time I could use a HP Laserjet 5. (The big and heavy office machine). All other printers I tried did not leave enough toner on the various papers I tried. The HP Laser Jet P2255dn I am using now, also does not fill the traces. The parts that should be black leaks light like a sieve. Now I am using transparants, fill the sieve holes with indian ink and UV lighting to make the etch mask on the copper. I'd like to try your method but bying a Brother printer for it is at least one step too far.

petrus bitbyter
 

alsmith

Aug 18, 2015
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My experiments using toner transfer did not work except from the time I could use a HP Laserjet 5. (The big and heavy office machine). All other printers I tried did not leave enough toner on the various papers I tried. The HP Laser Jet P2255dn I am using now, also does not fill the traces. The parts that should be black leaks light like a sieve. Now I am using transparants, fill the sieve holes with indian ink and UV lighting to make the etch mask on the copper. I'd like to try your method but bying a Brother printer for it is at least one step too far.

petrus bitbyter
This should work using an inexpensive GDI laser printer- you can usually get generic refill kits for low prices too, so I'd imagine the generic toner would do the job with one if the original toner doesn't work. I know some Brother printers are GDI but don't know if supercap2f's printer is. but Ricoh and others make them too, years ago I had a really cheap Panasonic.
 

FuZZ1L0G1C

Mar 25, 2014
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Nicely done - good resolution!!
Still planning to buy transfer sheets as advertised at our local RS electronics.
Not sure how my Samsung M/F will print them..
 

dukepcb

Jul 14, 2018
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It's cool,but why don,t let a PCB Prototype factory to make it for you?more quickly,more professional,you should focus on the PCB design and the electronic product develop.
 

alsmith

Aug 18, 2015
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It's cool,but why don,t let a PCB Prototype factory to make it for you?


and why don't you stop driving your own car and let a professional do it for you? more time,more professional, you can focus on other things.
and why don't you stop bringing up your own children and let a professional do it for you? more professional,you can focus on other things.
etc.
etc.
...........


some people like to do things for themselves.
 

Bluejets

Oct 5, 2014
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Yellow paper stuff is crap.
It comes rolled up and will not flatten out properly no matter what I tried.

Advised the supplier who obviously comes from another planet as the message just never seemed to sink in.

Savings over the use of press-n-peel just not worth the effort/ wasted time.
 

(*steve*)

¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd
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Jan 21, 2010
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Yellow paper stuff is crap.
It comes rolled up and will not flatten out properly no matter what I tried.

I use a carrier sheet with a hole cut in it where the image is to go and the smaller (and generally curly) piece is taped behind it. When I was doing toner transfer this worked pretty much every time. I only had failures when I put the hole in the wrong spot :)
 
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