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Successful PCB artwork everytime without blowing money

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mik3ca

Member
For the first while when I got my new brother HL-L2320D printer with genuine toner included, I could print decently on transparencies and create PCBs. Now I recently replaced the toner with recycled toner (that the computer store claims produces excellent quality) and printed.

In all printouts, I put two copies of the same circuit on one sheet, cut them then try to line them up which sometimes is also a pain. Now I noticed that as I line them up, some of the toner comes off the bottom transparency.

Ever since I bought a professional exposure box I never had problems with PCB developing or etching. My problem now is making the artwork black.

What's worse is that alot of printers now have no direct support for transparencies (at least mine doesn't).

Is there a way I can fix this issue? I mean I don't want to run to a printing shop to have them do it everytime I need something printed.
 

jpanhalt

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
Seveal years ago (2008), I developed a method to get very dense transparencies with a LaserJet printer (LJ4 and LJ4101mfp). Basically, I went over the transparency with a Dry Erase marker (Expo brand), such as is used on white boards for presentations. That worked great, until I replaced the HP with a Brother HL2270DW.

As you point out, the toner is softer and comes off easily. I think that will be a problem with all of the LED-based printers. There is a "sort of" fix for that. The problem with the original method was that the felt tip was too hard for the soft toner, and it created scratches.

Here is a link to the original and to an EEVVlog description:
Description:
https://forum.allaboutcircuits.com/threads/project-improved-laserjet-pcb-transparencies.12474/
Images:
http://www.eevblog.com/forum/beginn...nsparencies-for-uv-pcb/msg1107747/#msg1107747

EEVBlog apparently deleted the link I gave.

The Fix:
I opened the marker in a resealable plastic bag. Removed the tampon-like felt that contained ink. Expressed that ink with duck-bill pliers and poured it into a small medicine cup. Then, I used a soft camel hair brush to paint the transparency (use the softest brush you can find). Let it dry thoroughly -- a hair dryer helps. Then rub off the ink as before.

That revision was only partially effective. I still got good resolution around thermals and such, but the difference between hard enough and too hard was critical. About 1 in 3 tries worked to my satisfaction. You can also try heatig the film before adding the dry erase ink, but you will get some dimensional changes. Those changes are not huge when compared to 805 SMD devices, but they did make a difference when I did double sided boards with vias.

Final Solution:
I broke down and bought a cheap (ca. $50 USD) Canon PIXMA MG3620 inkjet, and it works great. A later post by me in that EEVBlog link describes some of the conditions. I am addicted to the Pictorico Premium OHP film. Early on (circa 2005), I tried other OHP films without the same success. I have not tried more recent products. Drafting vellum, as used for old fashioned "ink" tracings, may also work, but I have not tried it.

For me, the decision to go to the best solution (i.e., ink jet) once I saw the price was easy to make. I also now have a color printer for the occasions when I need it. I think any difference between pigment ink (i.e., the black with that printer) and dye-based inks (i.e., color with that printer) is still an open question. Some of the best transparencies I got with my older HP ink jet printer were done using the color cartridges alone. Yellow and other colors are pretty good at blocking UV light.

Regards, John

Edit: Here is an example with the Brother printer and modified dry erase method showing before and after:
Brother PCB 020317 #2.jpg

Unfortunately I do not have a good macro lens on this camera.
 
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mik3ca

Member
So basically I should throw my new printer out and buy an older inkjet and use that instead?
What about paper? I also read that transparencies were once made with acetate but the ones I am currently using are made with polyester. I wonder if polyester is a problem
 

jpanhalt

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
See edited post above.

I don't think I would ever buy a used ink jet printer again. Did that 10 years ago when playing with direct printing on the PCB. They (x3) were Epsons. None worked very well, even on paper.

John
 

Ian Rogers

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My mill has cost me..

Arduino and shield £13.00
NEMA17 steppers £29.00
Dremel (decent one ) £35.00
Several dremel end mills £51.00
Power supply £12.00

The old engraving machine was chucked out!! So no frame needed..

All software is free, but CopperCam cost 80 euro's ( to convert to GCode )..

I have had several successes and a few.... well.... Non successes...

So about £200 all in... But no exposure unit and no messy etchant..
At least I can see within a minute if its a success, if not the red button come in handy!!

( Well if fibre board powder all over the place constitutes as messy!!)
 

mik3ca

Member
ok so this time I bought acetate transparencies instead of polyester ones. and I tried it with my printer. it refused to take the sheet from the printer tray but both types of transparencies scrunch up when I feed it through the front feeder
 

jpanhalt

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
Not all transparencies are the same. I have been using 3M brand #CG3300. Tried others when I first began and have never been tempted to change. 3M might make something better today, but I didn't want to experiment when I last bought a batch. They feed just fine in my Brother HL2270 laser, either from the single sheet slot or the main paper tray.

What brand/item are you using?

John
 

mik3ca

Member
I tried various. Staples multifunction transparencies were fine and so is MGchemicals transparencies. The problem with Staples is that they came with a white tab that I had to peel off first before printing and even after peeling it off, the part underneath was somewhat sticky.

I seem to have the best luck with MGchemicals so far, but they are expensive and sold as a 5-pack for $11 CAD. Today, I bought 10 sheets of acetate (thinner transparency) and my printer refused to print right on them. At best, they would scrunch up inside the printer and I had to manually remove each sheet.

Transparencies are hard to find in my area at a reasonable price. This 3M brand #CG3300 that you speak of, is it just a standard transparency for lazer printers? I mean if there's a special transparency I can use where my printer can print dark on it on the first print, then I'd go for that.
 

jpanhalt

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
The 3M product is recommended by Brother. In fact, from Brother literature, it is the only recommended transparency medium.

What transparency does your refurbished toner recommend? You will waste a lot of time re-inventing the wheel.

John
 
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