Adventures in making PCBs

As part of adding MySensors based sensors around the house, I want to make an integrated version of the Sensebender Micro upgraded with a SAMD21 and a RFM69HCW radio. I’ve never had much success with making PCBs at home, so I thought I’d give it another try and record the experiments.

Try 1: HP M252dw, laminator @ 10 mm, 4 times through, Migros-brand T-Shirt transfer paper. Some transfer but lots left behind. Tape melted with heat? Learn: rotate image to make better use of paper. Transfer paper goes hatches down in paper tray.

Try 2: HP, iron, transfer paper. Iron: max temp, no steam, 30s in place, 2m total. Too much movement, smeared. Transfer paper has a sticky layer (by design?) which melted. Lesson: T-shirt transfer paper is not usable.

Try 3: HP, iron, glossy IKEA catalog pages. Iron: as #2. Paper reports as jammed.

Try 4: HP, iron, HP Q5451A photo paper. I wrapped the paper around the PCB, which makes it rise. Paper sticks to the iron when heated. Result: little toner transferred.

Try 4: Samsung, iron, HP Q4551A photo paper. Result: little toner transferred.

Try 5: PCB coated with blue spray paint, 40W laser to remove the paint. Result: a thin film is left on the copper. Trying to remove the film also removes the paint. Too higher power also shrinks the tracks. Result is insensitive to power level so lower is better.

So, no luck yet. I’ve ordered some PCBfx toner transfer paper and TRF foil. I’ve also ordered a small batch from Dirty PCBs to see what the turn around time is like. It may be worth it for the detail and lack of mess.

Michael Hope
Software Engineer