Circuit Skills: Circuit Board Etching, sponsored by Jameco

Craft & Design Technology
Circuit Skills: Circuit Board Etching, sponsored by Jameco
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I very much enjoy making my own circuit boards. It’s a satisfying process that ties together my love of electronics with materials I used back in my art school days. It’s also the most accurate way to build a circuit short of sending away to a PCB manufacturer, and it’s much more fun.

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I actually got my start in electronics etching others’ designs I’d found online — long before I understood how they worked! Churning out fully-functional devices early on proved to be a great way to keep me motivated and making. The above video documents the ins and outs of my process, and can hopefully serve as a starting point for your own.

Materials I use for printing, etching, and drilling my own boards:

  • Transparency stock for laser printers (inkjet setups are likely as effective)
  • Nitrile gloves (thicker reusable gloves are good too)
  • Dust mask & eye protection
  • Good ventilation (if you can smell it – you’re breathing it!)
  • Inexpensive photo frame (or specialized exposure frame)
  • Red safe-light (optional – brief exposure to dim light is ok)
  • Chemicals – positive type developer, ferric chloride, nail polish remover (or acetone)
  • Pyrex dishes w/ lids (plastic storage containers work as well)
  • Desk or clip lamp + ~30W CFL bulb
  • Drill bits, .8mm, 1mm, 1.5mm (+ others, dependent on source design)
  • Small drillpress (or suitable dremel attachment)
  • Misc. tools – xacto knife, metal ruler, permanent marker, vacuum, etc.

Additional tips I’ve found helpful:

  • Warm developer and etchant do speed up the process, but keep an eye on your board’s progress!
  • Orient your design before printing (text should appear reversed in most cases)
  • Keep etchant away from any metal you don’t want etched – including stainless steel sinks!
  • Drilling holes systematically (i.e. left to right, top to bottom) can help prevent oversights
  • Keep the board clear while drilling to improve visibility/accuracy
  • Dedicate a workspace & prepare materials ahead of time (plastic drop-cloths are handy!)

As part of their sponsorship of these Circuit Skills videos, Jameco is offering two product bundles to help jumpstart those new to the realm of homemade PCBs –

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