Author: Gretchen Hill

The Basic Process of DIY PCB Fabrication

Designing a simple printed circuit board or PCB for your own personal use is not that difficult. Making one would require a bit more effort, but the process is still pretty easy to follow.

Unlike processes used by big PCB manufacturing companies, the DIY or do-it-yourself PCB fabrication procedure is more streamlined and the materials you will be using are available at your local hardware.

Pcb FabricationThe first thing you have to consider when trying to create your own PCB is the etching process that you will be implementing. There are four common types of etching but for DIY PCB fabrication, two methods are recommended and they are acid and UV etching. The other two types, mechanical and laser etchings, are used in large-scale PCB fabrication as they require special devices and machines for them to be implemented properly.

After you have decided whether to use the acid or UV process, it is now time to proceed to making your own PCB. In the step-by-step procedure below, you can find how each process is used so will know how to do both.

Here is the basic process of DIYPCB fabrication:

1. Make the layout of your PCB circuit using computer-aided design (CAD) software. Gone are the days when creating a PCB design was drawn manually. These days, designing is simply done with a computer whose output can be printed accordingly.

2. Prepare a substrate board encrusted with a thin layer of copper on one side (for single-sided PCB) or on both sides (for double-sided PCB) depending on your design.

3. Wash the board with water to make sure that it is free of dirt and dust. Let it dry for a few minutes.

4. If you chose acid etching, print your CAD layout on glossy paper and place it on top of the substrate board. Make sure that you printed your design in the proper orientation as to not reverse your layout.

5. Iron the paper on the copper surface of the substrate board for a few minutes until it sticks firmly.

6. After that, dip the whole board with the joined paper design in hot water for at least 10 minutes. This will soften the paper so you can remove it easily.

7. Pick up the board from the water and gently peel the paper. You should be left with the substrate board imprinted with your PCB design.

8. The next step is dangerous so you should put on a pair of goggles and a face mask.

9. Pour the acid etchant in a large, deep, and non-corrosive container. The most acid used in this process is ferric chloride. Immerse the whole substrate board into the acid and mix every five minutes until all the unwanted copper is etched away.

10. When you see that it is done, lift up the board with plastic tongs and wash it immediately with running water for a few minutes. Make sure that no copper residue is left in the substrate for it to work better.

11. Smoothen it out with a fine sand paper for best quality.

12. If you chose the UV etching process, follow the acid etching process except that instead of using a clothes iron and ferric chloride for etching, simply place the joined printed design and copper-coated board into a UV etching chamber. Turn on the UV machine and set it to the indicated time before taking it out. You will see that your PCB is already perfectly etched afterward.

UV etching is simpler and easier but the actual UV machine may cost you a lot. Acid etching is still the most economical way of making PCB at home. One just have to be careful and wear the proper protective equipment when handling dangerous chemicals.

PCB fabrication is a multi-step process that is mostly carried by machines.The printed circuit boards are one of the most important components in the world of electronics today.