# Printing PCB Layout Directly on the Copper Clad

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#### EvilGenius

##### Member
Hello
1- Has anyone made the attempt to print directly onto a copper clad board using a laser printer?
2- Has anyone attempted to build an affordable laser printer for the market which prints directly onto the copper?
3- How about a printer that prints conductive liquid on plain fiber glass board?
4- Any interest?.....

I have seen high-end machines that does this and have seen CNC milling of traces, but have not come across an affordable laser printer that is produced for mass hobbyist.

EG

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#### EvilGenius

##### Member
Trying this was popular a few years ago. Don't know if it went anywhere though. They were using inkjets to do it, the laser doesn't heat the PCB fast enough to make the toner stick, if I remember correctly. https://www.google.com/search?q=hacking+a+laser+printer+for+pcb&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8
Your link does not go anywhere, but point well taken. I leave the thread open just in case. I was thinking of talking to a laser printer manufacturer like Epson, HP, etc... I know if the printer is cheap enough ($100-150), a lot of people would want one! Just a thought... #### alec_t ##### Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member A major problem is finding a printer with a straight-through paper path rather than the usual wrap-around path. I doubt any manufacturer is going to make one at an affordable price for a relatively small number of hobbyists knocking out pcbs (although I believe there was a printer a while back that could print on CDs). #### EvilGenius ##### Member A major problem is finding a printer with a straight-through paper path rather than the usual wrap-around path. I doubt any manufacturer is going to make one at an affordable price for a relatively small number of hobbyists knocking out pcbs (although I believe there was a printer a while back that could print on CDs). I believe you are under estimating as how many people out there would utilize this printer if it was available and affordable. I am leaving all the options and suggestions open. I even thought of photo resist or etch resist ink, that could be used in inkjet. It just needs to be precise enough for fine pitch traces and pads. #### shortbus= ##### Well-Known Member Most Helpful Member Your link does not go anywhere, but point well taken. I leave the thread open just in case. I was thinking of talking to a laser printer manufacturer like Epson, HP, etc... I know if the printer is cheap enough ($100-150), a lot of people would want one! Just a thought...
Still works for me. It was to a google search page with results showing the many hits of people trying to do this and how they did it. You could pick from them to read up on how its been tried. From the many, many people that have worked out the toner transfer process that's pretty easy and dependable to do today.

#### EvilGenius

##### Member
You could pick from them to read up on how its been tried. From the many, many people that have worked out the toner transfer process that's pretty easy and dependable to do today.
I see. You sent a link to group of projects. I have not seen one that does not do toner transfer or printer mod.
As Alec said, most laser printers have a loop around instead of straight shot print. That is why I thought of mask printing with inkjet or plotter. Or a brand new laser printer that is flat, allows 12x12" sheet.
I was able to feed thin Clad thru laser, but it requires encouragement.
You can grow material with 3-D printer, but that is an expensive route.
Still hacking ideas.

#### KeepItSimpleStupid

##### Well-Known Member
I think direct printing on copper clad really isn't a viable option when you consider double sided. Even the home option isn't very attractive with th China pricing. Toner transfer works, but you have to finesse with it. Those that have a CNC can directly mill a PCB. Even photoresist and a laser has issues. I did a few boards using the photolithography lab at work. I was limited to 4" x whatever" in 4 x 4 exposures. My spin coating options were around 6" diameter. Ovens, yet another restriction. So, there are pre-sensitized boards.
I used a laser printer with polyester paper with very good results. At the time, I could use a program called Easytrax and actually print the silk screen and then glue it using a spray adhesive like "scotch 90". You now also have to consider the toaster oven thing. So, there is a LOT of effort. CNC, Software, UV exposure toaster oven, 3D printer. Pick what's important. Yep, the Epson I have will print on a CD. Some have made small board holders to hold a PCB in that space. The software would have to be modified to be able to print on the "hole". The pitch on the IC's are really too small for milling now.

The board option that really makes sense is the photoplotter. In that case you place the film on a drum and a laser plots the exposure. If you had a CNC, you could likely place an inkjet head on it and do the silkscreen. At these sorts of intensities, I'd rather pay for "makerspace". The closest for me is about an hour. You have to pay monthly. A 3-D printer at home sounds fun. What about the 3-D scanner?

#### EvilGenius

##### Member
I think direct printing on copper clad really isn't a viable option when you consider double sided. Even the home option isn't very attractive with th China pricing. Toner transfer works, but you have to finesse with it. Those that have a CNC can directly mill a PCB. Even photoresist and a laser has issues. I did a few boards using the photolithography lab at work. I was limited to 4" x whatever" in 4 x 4 exposures. My spin coating options were around 6" diameter. Ovens, yet another restriction. So, there are pre-sensitized boards.
I used a laser printer with polyester paper with very good results. At the time, I could use a program called Easytrax and actually print the silk screen and then glue it using a spray adhesive like "scotch 90". You now also have to consider the toaster oven thing. So, there is a LOT of effort. CNC, Software, UV exposure toaster oven, 3D printer. Pick what's important. Yep, the Epson I have will print on a CD. Some have made small board holders to hold a PCB in that space. The software would have to be modified to be able to print on the "hole". The pitch on the IC's are really too small for milling now.

The board option that really makes sense is the photoplotter. In that case you place the film on a drum and a laser plots the exposure. If you had a CNC, you could likely place an inkjet head on it and do the silkscreen. At these sorts of intensities, I'd rather pay for "makerspace". The closest for me is about an hour. You have to pay monthly. A 3-D printer at home sounds fun. What about the 3-D scanner?
Some great points, but don't rule out options or variations from what you mentioned above. You took the concept out of my mind though. I had this thought this morning regarding Photolithography. I was thinking why not implement concept of chip design in PCB design but less sophisticated.
1- We don't need that high of resolution(100nm precision). 1:1 to 10:1 enlargement might be more than enough given the size of the board, the focal point of the lens and distance from subject.
2- We can bypass the coating process by using pre-preg or photosensitive boards.
3- All we have to worry about is to create (or use a pre-made) UV laser with optics on top (and perhaps on the bottom as well for double sided).
4- A software interface (premade or new) to convert the circuit from your pcb software to UV light (instead of printed dots)
5- Wash the exposed (negative or positive) parts and etch the board.
I am still open to all inputs and suggestions. Thank you for yours!
EG

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#### EvilGenius

##### Member
Here is another idea:
How about a reverse concept of digital camera!
Where you give it a digital image and it converts it to high contrast UV light exposing the sensitized board!

#### KeepItSimpleStupid

##### Well-Known Member
That's about right. There's a guy on the net that did build a photoplotter. The real issue is the resolution. With a spinning drum it's quick and precise for one line. You may also have to phase lock the rotation. Besides that, the light tight box is small.

#### alec_t

##### Well-Known Member
Hack a Blu-Ray recorder. Ok providing all your pcbs are circular .

#### large_ghostman

##### Well-Known Member
I loved making my own boards, but companies like dirty pcb make it pointless. Seriously isnt worth the time for what a board now costs. I have a cnc mill machine, I hate using it for pcb boards, in the end I fitted a fine tip (0.2mm) drawing pen, filled with etch resist ink, then drew the board with the cnc.

Then I found dirty pcbs and decided I used more electric and ink for one board, than they charge for ten boards.

#### Mosaic

##### Well-Known Member
I still make all my boards, being outside CONUS, I can't pay for extra shipping and customs duty for a few PCBs, plus wait 2 weeks for them to arrive.
So I have Toner Transfer down to a fine detail with 10 mil features and double sided SMT PCBs. Also, have a backlit precision drill (no more broken carbide bits or missed vias) and a mini table saw for PCB cutting with a diamond blade and vacuum for dust handling.
Even made a single pass mod. for a 4 roller, metal geared, laminator to do the double sided toner transfer and silk screens.
Sometimes I make solder stencils for solder paste hot air soldering using 5 mil laminator sheets, precision made on a laser cutter. Have an IR oven on hand but I don't use it much. Hot air works fine. I can make up to 1' square boards.

#### large_ghostman

##### Well-Known Member
I still make all my boards, being outside CONUS, I can't pay for extra shipping and customs duty for a few PCBs, plus wait 2 weeks for them to arrive.
So I have Toner Transfer down to a fine detail with 10 mil features and double sided SMT PCBs. Also, have a backlit precision drill (no more broken carbide bits or missed vias) and a mini table saw for PCB cutting with a diamond blade and vacuum for dust handling.
Even made a single pass mod. for a 4 roller, metal geared, laminator to do the double sided toner transfer and silk screens.
Sometimes I make solder stencils for solder paste hot air soldering using 5 mil laminator sheets, precision made on a laser cutter. Have an IR oven on hand but I don't use it much. Hot air works fine. I can make up to 1' square boards.
Yeah sometimes needs must, i used to make all my boards, I enjoyed it alot but now it just isnt practical. I spent untold amounts of time looking at different printers and toner. For me HP toner always worked best, I used the laminator method, so I had to allow for a little squashing of the traces . I still have everything to make boards, but at the moment it dosnt stack up for me personally.

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