Posts tagged ‘howtos’

Making Home-Made PCBs

A PCB is much more desirable than just a mess of wires, or even the little breadboards you can get @ Radio Shack. They’re not always the best way to do it, might not be worth the effort, but when you have a fairly complex wiring project, a PCB is VERY HANDY.

So, what do we need to make a PCB? Well, it’s not TOO much stuff… This method is the Iron Transfer method of making a home made PCB or PC Board.

Supplies

El-cheapo glossy inkjet paper

  • Some way to draw the board. I use Eagle from CadSoft. It has a great free version available for download at their site.
  • Copper-clad board (we’re doing single-sided, 1oz.) these run around $5 @ Radio Shack or online for a single/double sided, 6″x6″ board
  • Glossy Ink Jet paper (I use JetPrint Photo, HP Glossy does ”’NOT”’ work)
  • Laser Printer or Photocopier (need the toner to transfer)
  • Iron (normal, household iron) & Ironing board
  • PCB Etchant Solution (there are several)
    • Ferric Chloride
    • Ammonium Persulphate
  • A ”’PLASTIC”’ tray (metal is a BAD IDEA)
  • A drill of some kind (Dremel Tools work great)
  • Some little tiny drill bits (hobby stores have ’em for like $5)

Process

Design and print the PCB Layout

An example layout

An example layout

2-up sample layouts

2-up sample layouts

First you draw your board, with whatever software you want. If you are using a PCB layout software package, then you already know what to do.  You can also just use any old drawing program, but I’d stick to 1 layer for that.  If simply drawing it, keep in mind you are drawing the BOTTOM of the PCB, so all pinouts, and arrangements are REVERSED (Unless you are making stuff for SMT parts, in which case, you probably don’t need this tutorial!). It’ll take practice and patience… Measure, draw, print on plain paper and see how your parts fit… Check, check, check, and check again to make sure all the lines you have drawn will mimic your wiring, you can’t change it without being sloppy once it’s etched…

Tip: Make sure your components have holes for each pad, once etched, it’ll make drilling much easier.

After we have that done, we’re ready to print it on our glossy paper. One thing you must remember to do, is to print this image flipped. You will be printing it to the page, then ironing it on, so to get it the right way, you must mirror it.

My laser printer doesn’t like the glossy paper, so I print it on a plain sheet of paper, then run it through a photocopier… Same result. You just need a flipped image of your board in toner on the glossy paper. The glossy paper lets the toner come off easier when you iron it.

Transfer the Image

Pre-etch copper clad

Pre-etch copper clad

An iron!

An iron!

Cut the paper to size to make it easier to handle and position on the copper-clad. You may also want to cut the copper-clad if don’t plan on using all of it for this board.

Really quick we need to prep the copper-clad to take the transfer. You simply scratch it up a bit, not gouge, just scratch. I usually wet-sand it with super-uber-fine grit sandpaper, or an abrasive sponge pad. It should be nice and shiny and dry when you are done.

Now we break out the Iron.

Turn it up to a medium temperature. I only put mine up about 1/3 of the way, too hot and it’ll smear the toner and burn the paper, no need for that.

Place the image on the copper-clad and line it up. Rub the iron across it holding firmly down til it starts to stick, once you have good contact you don’t need to worry about it moving around.

I usually put a piece of paper or two in between the iron and the transfer paper, so I can run the iron over easier. It helps diffuse both the heat and the pressure more evenly, but will slow the process down a bit.  Check every so often to see if it is transferring. Some areas like the edges might need special attention with the tip of the iron. I usually push down real hard to ensure good contact, and leave it on, moving around for a few minutes. Whatever feels right. If you mess up you can just scrape it off (re-sand as per the prep instructions), so experiment and find what works for you.

Once you think you’re done, remove the iron. Take the board (using hot pads or something so you don’t singe your fingers) and put it in your sink. I use it to cover the drain hole, then turn on a light stream of water.  This will make the sink fill, and let the board soak.

Stuck on

Stuck on

Soakin' it...

Soakin' it...

Transferred

Transferred

After a while, the glossy material gets goopy and slimy and starts to come off, it can be a bit messy but it’s tolerable.

Once it’s pretty loose you can peel off a layer of paper… Some might stay on, it’s fine, just leave it in running water. Eventually it will lose it’s grip and just come right off, leaving (ideally) a perfect image of your PCB layout on the copper-clad.

Etch

Etchant and Tray

Etchant and Tray

Etching the PCB

Etching the PCB

Now that the image is transferred on, we can start to etch. The etchant solution eats away all the copper it can react with, but the toner on there stops it from getting our pattern, the result? An etched PCB.

You want to use a plastic tray of some kind, something you won’t be putting food in or anything. Rinse it out and dry it, then set the PCB in there. Pour in some solution and watch it work. 

Tip: The hotter the solution, the faster it works… Outside in the summer sun really makes it go fast.

Warning: Don’t do this in a closed area, breathing this is bad… Also try not to touch it, it stains quite effectively.

Agitate the solution as much as you can tolerate. :) It gets kinda boring so do it off and on. Just simply lift and set down one end to slosh the solution around so fresh solution can get at the board and continue the reaction.

Keep an eye on the board, I use plastic tongs to take it out every so often and check it, rubber gloves also work well.  Eventually you’ll be able to see how it’s eating away the copper and your board is appearing.

Once you feel it’s done, flood the tray with water, be careful not to spill it, you’ll be quite unhappy if you do. I usually fill it up w/water, then pour it into a bucket. This stuff is hazardous waste, so you might want to find out where to dispose of it with whatever local agency deals w/that in your area. Once you rinse a few times to dilute the solution, take the pcb out, and run that under water for a minute or so to make absolutely sure the  chemical reaction is neutralized.

Once you have that out of the way, you should have something that looks like this:

Etched PCB, bottom

Etched PCB, bottom

Etched PCB, top

Etched PCB, top

Drill

Itty Bitty Bits

Itty Bitty Bits

Completed PCB

Completed PCB

Ok lets drill. I have a little set of bits I found at Hobby Lobby. They’re for crafts or something, anyway they work really well and were cheap. You can also get a Dremel bit set from hardware stores.

Using these with a Dremel makes this process super easy, as the Dremel is easy to handle and nimble. But a normal hand drill should work fine too. Some people even go so far as to use a Dremel with a drill press, I’ve tried it, it’s neat, but no easier than by hand.

Just find the bit that fits your parts, and drill away, using the holes you left in your PCB layout to guide the bit. The material making up most of the board is super soft and cuts like butter w/the drill bits. 

Warning: Hazardous Materials! Be careful not to breathe the dust, it’s fibreglass and some of its other nasty friends, not something you want in your lungs.  Use appropriate masks/ventilation.

After you’re done drilling, I like to wet-sand again with super-fine sandpaper… The toner is VERY hard to get off with a simple scotch pad or other abrasive… But wet-sanding takes it right off and you have nice shiny copper underneath… Acetone (the nail polish remover kind, no need to go industrial here) will also work to remove the toner but some PCB materials may not particularly care for Acetone.

That’s all!  An optional final step is tinning the PCB.  Tinning puts a very thin layer of tin over the remaining copper, reducing oxidization problems you’ll get with exposed copper, and it also helps soldering a bit. You can find tinning solution from electronics shops online or in reality.

Making Home-Made IDE and Floppy Cables

After having an electrical tape rounding job for a while, I decided it was time to have something nice looking if I was going to window my case. I don’t really care for any of the pre-made cable solutions available so I figured why not make my own. Turns out they’re super easy, look great, and can be totally customized to fit your case!

First off you need to find your cable… There’s 2 kinds (probably more, that’s all I bothered looking at) you got your gray ribbon and your rainbow ribbon. Depending on the purpose you need different conductor amounts, 34 for floppy, 40 for up to ATA33, and 80 for ATA66+. There are also different spacing, .050″ for Floppy and ATA33, and .025″ for ATA66+. Of course you have different widths for different flavors of SCSI, etc, pick what ya need…

I have yet to find a decent supplier for 80-conductor .025″ center ribbon. If anyone knows of any, let me know.

Jameco # Description
643655 34-conductor flat rainbow
644033 34-conductor flat gray
643697 40-conductor flat rainbow
644113 40-conductor flat gray

Next you need your IDC’s (insulation displacement connectors)… Pretty cut and dry, you need either 34, 40, or 80 contact ones to match the cable.

And again I’m still looking for the 80 contact ones. I’ve heard places like Fry’s have them, but we don’t have Fry’s out here, nor is that too useful since I usually mail order, so if someone finds them somewhere online, please let me know!

Jameco # Description
32768 IDC plug for 40-conductor
32644 IDC plug for 34-conductor

And finally you need some type of crimper… You *can* use a normal table vise for this, maybe even vise grips and maybe maybe maybe maybe pliers but I wouldn’t recommend it since you’ll get uneven pressure. The best thing to do is to use IDC crimpers.

Jameco # Description
73252 Insulation Displacement Crimper

Here are some pictures of the stuff I got…

Most of the stuff I used

Most of the stuff I used

IDC Connector (40-contact)

IDC Connector (40-contact)

IDC Crimpers

IDC Crimpers

For an IDE cable, we need not modify the cable to get it to work, but for a floppy cable we need to do a small tweak. If you want to have a 1 floppy drive cable, then you must put a twist in somewhere between the two connectors. The twist consists of wires 10-16 being swapped: 10 -> 16, 11 -> 15, 12 -> 14. These images will provide more detail:

Single floppy drive cable

Single floppy drive cable

Dual floppy drive cable

Dual floppy drive cable

Single floppy drive cable

Single floppy drive cable

Dual floppy drive cable

Dual floppy drive cable

Bare ribbon cable  

Bare ribbon cable

As far as the maximum length for an IDE cable goes, it would seem 18″ is the max IDE/ATA spec. although I’ve seen 36″ and higher work so it’s trial and error. Also it really doesn’t matter how close your two drive connectors are to each other, so just put them where you want them to be for your particular need.

I basically measured up the distances between my IDE connectors on my mobo and added a little for slack and to account for a bit of shortening due to rounding the cables later on. Here’s what I got for one of my IDE chains. It’s about 10″ or so (the perspective is skewed a bit).

Now we clamp on the IDC connectors, these little guys have 80 little teeth (2 for each wire) that penetrate the insulation (displace it as it were) and make contact with the wire inside, pretty slick if you ask me, just line them up and crunch ’em down.

Here are some pics of the cables as they were added into my case. You can even see the remnants of the electrical tape rounded cable that were being replaced.

Partially complete cable

Partially complete cable

 

Floppy done

 

Floppy (close)

Floppy (close)

 

Floppy + 1 IDE (Zip)

Floppy + 1 IDE (Zip)

 

Done, 1 Floppy, 3 IDE Cables

Done, 1 Floppy, 3 IDE