bothsides How To: Professional Perfboards

detailtop How To: Professional Perfboards

Perfboards are perfect for quick prototypes, but can also be used to build long-lasting circuits. This is a fact that’s easily forgotten in times of cheap commercially manufactured PCBs, although there are still people building amazing stuff using only perfboard and insulated wire.
The advantages of perf are clearly the low price, short design time, instant results, and the possibility of changing the circuit at any time without much trouble.
If you put a little more effort into your design, for example using CadSoft Eagle, you can make a nice perfboard layout. Just stick to a 0.1″ grid and 90° angles and you’ll be fine.
Now you have a plan and you’re ready to produce your perfboard circuits, right? Well, almost. The frustration begins as soon as you pull the first wrong trace, usually because you’re constantly flipping the board around, mirroring the layout in your head, and you end up sticking components in the wrong holes, and so on. Maybe you are also spoiled by manufactured PCBs with silkscreens that make populating such bliss.

In this tutorial, you will learn how to get a silkscreen and a layout template directly onto your perfboard in no time. This will speed up the soldering process and should drastically reduce your frustration.

You will use a technique called “Toner Transfer” which is commonly used to etch your own circuits. The toner is transfered from paper to another surface by applying heat and pressure.

[via HackedFromPieces]

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Steps

Step #1: Print the layout

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  • Find paper that doesn't absorb the toner like the usual bond printer paper. A page from a catalog works fine. Use Scotch tape to stick it to a piece of printer paper or put it directly into the printer, whichever works best. Print directly out of Eagle and do not generate a PDF first, because this will most likely lead to scaling issues.
  • Prepare Eagle for printing. For the layout template, hide the top layer and everything else you don't want on the bottom. DO NOT mirror it, although it's the bottom side, because it gets mirrored when you transfer the toner.
  • Hide everything you do not want on the silkscreen to print the top layer. Now DO mirror it.
  • Cut the printouts into handy pieces.

Step #2: Line everything up

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  • Hold the printout and the perfboard against the light and align the perfboard grid with your layout. You do not necessarily need to cut the board before this step.
  • Once you are satisfied with the alignment, hold both pieces with two fingers and put it on a table carefully.
  • Scotch tape the perfboard down onto the printout

Step #3: Transfer the toner

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How-To: Professional Perfboards
  • Put the perfboard on a table, with the printed page UP. Put another layer of clean printer paper on top and your iron on top of that. Perform some circular movements and apply gentle pressure. After about a minute or two, your first side is done. Let it cool down.
  • Put the ironed board into a bowl of cold water and let it rest for a minute. After that, rub away the paper. Do this under water. The toner should stay on the perfboard. Some remaining paper cannot be seen while the board is wet but will be visible as a white coat when it's dry. Be sure to remove any remaining paper to make soldering easier.
  • For the second side, repeat Step 2. Be sure to put a clean piece of paper under the perfboard to prevent the toner you applied before from being transfered onto the table. Put a clean paper on top and iron everything again.

Step #4: Populate your professional perfboard

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  • If you did not cut your board yet, do it now. Just follow the outline with a jigsaw or any other suitable tool.
  • The usual stuff applies: Lowest parts first. Use IC sockets if in doubt so you can swap broken parts easily. Do not bend the components leads to make traces because removing them will be a pain.
  • To solder the traces, the best thing you can do is use a wiring pen. If you avoided trace intersections in your layout, use non-enamel wire because it is much easier to solder. You can use for example a single strand of stranded wire.
  • A few remarks on soldering through the toner: Use a big tip on your soldering iron. The heat will melt away the toner especially when you apply solder. If there are remains of paper from the transfer process, just burn it away.

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