Printed circuit boards are boards made of non-conductive material (such as glass or plastic) which are used to provide mechanical support and connect electronic components using conductive pathways or traces (either etched or printed from laminated copper sheets). These electrical components are connected using a conductive material such as copper (which is commonly used since it is cheap and common) below a non-conductive board. Printed circuit boards are essential among almost all electronic devices and appliances that are used today.
Before proceeding with learning how to make a printed circuit board, it’s important to first look at the advantages of making one as compared to purchasing a ready-made project board. The first reason to make a customized PCB is that it is cheaper as compared to already made boards. The second reason is that it is convenient to use, since people who make their own customized PCBs can decide where to put spaces on their board. The third advantage is that it will be more compact because the design is made to be compact. Lastly, the customized PCB will be stronger than ready-made ones which are full of holes everywhere, making them weaker.
So how does one make aprinted circuit board? As contrary to what most people may think, creating a customized PCB is not as difficult as it may seem. This article discussesthe process of making a customized PCB using acid etching method. Using this technique requires extreme safety measures and precautions as acids can be very harmful when accessed by the wrong hands. Try to store your acids in a glass container in cold, hard-to-reach places away from children.
The first thing that needs to be done in order to create a PCB is to plan and create a layout of the circuit. For acid etching, draw the circuitry using an etchant resistant material. There are many available software that can be used to create and layout the design and convert the circuit’s schematic diagram into a PCB layout. When satisfied with the layout, match the size of the diagram on the software to match the circuit board and the paper to be used. Print the design on a glossy paper (such as a magazine paper) using the software’s File menu. Avoid touching or getting in contact with the ink after printing as it can get to the hands.
Next thing to be done is to align the paper (with the circuit diagram) on the top of the circuit board and carefully iron it in place for about 30-45 seconds depending on the iron. After lifting the iron, take the circuit board and place immerse it on a hot water for a few minutes (up to 10 minutes) then slowly take off the paper by peeling it from the circuit board and if everything was performed accordingly, the result will be a copper board with PCB pads and signal lines traced out in black toner.
Before acid etching, make sure that all the water in the board are completely dried up either by slowly wiping it with a napkin or just letting it dry on its own. It must not take long and should take at most 30 seconds only.
For acid etching, first thing to be done is to choose the acid that will be used. Common choices for an enchant are ferric chloride and Ammonium Persulfate crystals. After selecting the acid to be used, pour acid into a container (again, strict safety measures should be observed) and submerge the circuit board in it. Stir the circuit board continuously for 3 to 5 minutes. Afterwards, remove the board from the container and wash it after all unnecessary copper are etched away from the printed circuit board. Lastly, remove the insulating material used by using a sandpaper or a special solvent.
To finish the circuit board, drill the mount points using a drilling machine. Although there are customized drilling machines used especially in making PCBs, a usual drilling machine at home can also do the job. The final step is to mount and solder the electronic components on the printed circuit board and that’s it! A printed circuit board has been made.
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