HOW TO – Saltwater etch process

HOW TO – Saltwater etch process

Neelandan writes –

“This is a one-off process to produce one printed circuit board by removing unwanted copper by electrolysis in a saltwater solution.

I shall illustrate the process by etching and building a board for 18-pin PIC (for the PC16F54, but any 18 pin PIC will fit in it) in the figure. It has to plug into my breadboard and accept the programming signals from my PIC programmer (just go to and look at it).

To avoid battling with signal conflicts, the two programming pins shall not be brought to the breadboard. To play around with the clock frequency, the crystal shall be made pluggable. The Master clear signal will not be brought out.

These decisions mean a board with two .1″ pitch connectors, one with 13 connections and the other with five connections, one pin spaced apart from the rest.

This is a tutorial intended for the absolute beginner, and almost every step shall be illustrated. I’ve even included a video of the etching process.”Link.


  • 5V stabilised supply for USB hub – Link.
  • USB Li-ion battery charger – Link.
  • Four port USB hub – Link.
  • PCB etching – Link.
  • HOW TO – Turn your EAGLE schematic into a PCB – Link.
  • HOW TO – Direct to PCB ink jet resist printing – Link.
  • HOW TO – Make PCB’s with a laser printer – Link.

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From the pages of MAKE:

6 thoughts on “HOW TO – Saltwater etch process

  1. morcheeba says:

    The electrolysis version looks a lot safer than acid. Someone at my company once left the heater on in the acid bath over the weekend and we ended up rusting all the metal in the room — including all the very expensive test equipment.

    The Primer headline picture is one of those things I love about Make magazine … most people would have just taken a stock pcb photo and slapped a headline. But, no, etching a headline is much more creative and so much cooler!

  2. DGary says:

    My buddy’s been playing around with using conductive ink and depositing a layer of copper on, electro-plating his board, and so far results have been promising, the copper is pretty resilient once its laid on, more so than the ink is anyway, too bad copper sulfate is such nasty stuff in solution.

    I was thinking about roughing up the surface before laying down the ink, hopefully getting the ink to soak into the fiberglass a little, or at least give something to “grab” onto.

  3. japroach says:

    interesting but WAY too much work for anything but a very simple circuit.

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