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Hints, Tips and Solutions (Do NOT post requests for help here) If you have any useful general hints and tips for vintage technology repair and restoration, please share them here. PLEASE DO NOT POST REQUESTS FOR HELP HERE!

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Old 6th Feb 2021, 10:14 pm   #1
Wendymott
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Default IRON METHOD for PCB's

Hi peeps.
For prototypes and none critical pcb's I have started to use the Toner / Hot Iron method.......... but I was still having one or two issues with Toner creep............ that is where the movement of the iron seems to "swage" out the toner so that pads seem to grow and in some cases the gap is reduced to zero. I was thinking about this then.. light bulb moment..... I place the pcb material onto a piece of aluminium sheet to stop the bench top from being burnt...then tape the pcb firmly then the artwork face down..... heres the best bit...I use another thin piece of ally as an antirub interface on top of the artwork, then place the hot iron on top of the sandwich.. Voila... no more toner creep I increased the iron time from 2 mins to 3 mins to allow for heat lag.
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Old 6th Feb 2021, 10:29 pm   #2
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Default Re: IRON METHOD for PCB's

Ever tried passing it through a laminator? I've done this once in the past and it seemed to work ok - even with two passes.
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Old 7th Feb 2021, 11:57 am   #3
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Default Re: IRON METHOD for PCB's

Hyas Kelly..... "I" ...... I had thought about a laminator..but as the Iron thing works... I decided not to... Did you modify yours ?? as in increasing the temp ? and if so to what ?
Please advise the make or model of yours... I might give it a try Oh heck.... just ordered an A3 machine
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Last edited by Wendymott; 7th Feb 2021 at 12:03 pm. Reason: Additional text
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Old 7th Feb 2021, 2:14 pm   #4
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Default Re: IRON METHOD for PCB's

Mine is a Rexel LP30 and shows 125C as the max setting although I haven't measured it!

Two passes is usually enough but I preheat the boards (pass them through a few times) before laying up the laser print and running it through twice.

I also use old backing paper from the CDROM label sheets, one left over after printing a CDROM for the laser print. It takes the toner easily on the shiny side and it comes off with a wipe of the finger (!) but, with care, can easily be stuck to a bare pcb.
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Old 8th Feb 2021, 11:31 am   #5
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Default Re: IRON METHOD for PCB's

I use glossy photo paper.. relatively cheap... when I make a final pcb it will be the usual photo sensitive pcb material.
Watch this space
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Old 10th Feb 2021, 10:13 pm   #6
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Default Re: IRON METHOD for PCB's

I use a toner transfer paper and laminator and get good results. It does depend what kind of mood my laser printer is in.
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Old 11th Feb 2021, 1:33 pm   #7
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Default Re: IRON METHOD for PCB's

When I saw the title I thought the "iron" method was something to do with the etching solution
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Old 12th Feb 2021, 3:36 pm   #8
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Default Re: IRON METHOD for PCB's

Well I said I would report back.. I bought a Cathedral Laminator "A3"
Knocked up a quick artwork to test the method.
Persuaded the laminator to accept pcb material... was a bit reluctant at first.
Pre heated the pcb material with 3 passes, without the artwork..... then I added the artwork and passed it through 4 times. Artwork on top.
Went to the sink to remove the paper..... See Photo..... as can be seen the artwork is still on the paper.. not transferred.

As I had another artwork I tried feeding again with the paper underside, as it was topside in run 1. Again preheat runs... then 5 passes with artwork........ results as before.

To me the laminator is not reaching a sufficient temperature, but as the "stat" is a mechanical one, I am reluctant to go up...... unless someone can suggest a suitable stat.
Back to the Iron Method... at least I know that works.
Anyone want to buy a Brand new A3 Laminator ?
Just bought some of that paper / material on "T" Bay.... lets see how that goes.
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Old 12th Feb 2021, 5:27 pm   #9
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Default Re: IRON METHOD for PCB's

Not sure why that happened.....

Do you know if the laminator has one or two heated rollers and, if only one, whether it is the top or bottom roller? If yours has the heated roller on the bottom then you'd need to put the paper 'under' the pcb material - not, as I presumed, on top as you probably did??

My laminator makes the pcb material too hot to handle after a few passes and although I'm not even sure if mine has a hot top roller (it may even be both!) I manage ok with the paper face down on the top of the pcb.

YMMV.
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Old 13th Feb 2021, 11:25 am   #10
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Default Re: IRON METHOD for PCB's

Hi Kelly. I dont know if it has one or two...... as I tried it both ways and neither produced the results. Even with 5 passes after pre heat I could handle... with care..the pcb. I have ordered some of the Toner release film....... so I will see where it goes...I need a pcb today so I will revert to the Iron for now
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Old 17th Feb 2021, 4:08 pm   #11
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Default Re: IRON METHOD for PCB's

Hi peeps. Theres this old saying... "if it aint broken... leave well alone" or something like that.
While I am not saying other methods dont work.. they dont work for me.. I bought a Laminator, and some of that "special laser paper"....... but unfortunately for me..not reliable and certainly not with the Laminator machine.
The laminator had a tendency to "jam" when the pcb was exiting the heated rollers...I think this is due to it tilting downwards on exit, thus hitting the plastic guides..... so.... I reshaped the plastic guides to give them a chamfer ....... that seemed to work. Pre heating the pcb material with several passes........ I then added the artwork...again several passes........... the artwork seemed to be adhered to the copper, thus a trip to the sink.
Again disappointment, a small area of toner was adhered but mostly not.
I then tried the Iron method using the new paper....... again using my normal timings the toner was sticking.. mostly but not reliably.
I will continue with the iron method for the forseable future.

One thing I tried was measuring the temp of the Iron and the Laminator rollers.... both were within 6 degs C...... Iron 155.. Laminator 149 deg C

One thing against the laminator... I think..is the constant movement of the rollers, maybe moving the artwork, so it will not stick properly. However some of you members have success but not me. Worth a try though.
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Old 17th Feb 2021, 5:13 pm   #12
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Default Re: IRON METHOD for PCB's

Hello Wendy your not far from me I used to live in Huddersfield

I probably get a 70% success rate using the laminator method. Silly question but I assume your printing on the shiny greasy side of the transfer paper. This is definitely more art than science. Double check my video you may see something useful, this shows me making a board step by step. The acetone cold transfers method claims good results but not tried it. Oh did you roughen and degrease the PCB. Did you tape down the art work I normally give it ten passes through the laminator.

https://youtu.be/rGUgt_2gXy8

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Old 17th Feb 2021, 5:53 pm   #13
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Default Re: IRON METHOD for PCB's

I’m using the cheapest laminator on eBay. I think it gets plenty hot enough but it’s a tight squeeze through the laminator rollers I think some people have modified these to slightly gap the rollers but I’m going to runner until she busts. You look like a experimenter if you give the acetone transfer method ago let me know how it works for you.
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Old 17th Feb 2021, 7:38 pm   #14
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Default Re: IRON METHOD for PCB's

I watched a Youtube on the process last night - a lot of that users emphasis was on cleaning and polishing the laminate copper with a clean using IPA before application of the artwork.
The paper they used was simple (albeit expensive) HP 'glossy'. They used the services of a local printers to get the artwork printed using their densest toner setting (normal requirements for a good result).
After judicious cleaning(!) the bare board was passed through a laminator at 150C (measured at the rollers and achieved by setting the heat adjustment pot accordingly) to pre-warm it and then through 10-12 times (as I counted) at various angles to ensure it was covered properly.
The usual 'rinse and set' revealed a perfect result.

This is no way a lesson (in boiling eggs) but simply a recitation of what I both saw and it co-incides with exactly how I do mine and in each case the results were perfect.

My own laminator is an A3 'monster' that takes pcb material rather easily - perhaps the roller has more 'give' due to its length? - and although the temperature dial on mine shows 125C as the max I suspect this isn't correct. Even though I haven't measured it and the only test I gave it was 'it's bl00dy hot when you touch it!' - lol - it seems more than adequate.

I'm slightly disappointed that your own results weren't successful since it (sort of) makes me feel like a fraud! and I'd have much preferred to hear that your results were as mine.

I'm sorry for your disappointment Wendy - it's almost as if it was my own....
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Old 17th Feb 2021, 8:09 pm   #15
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Default Re: IRON METHOD for PCB's

Oops I think i misread your post Kelly. Well at the end of the day it’s what works for you. That paper I use Is very shiny like the peel off backing on a sticker. The laser printer ink normally wants to transfer so I can only think your running cold. The paper I use works better than the photo glossy as I have also tried that.

I’m thinking of buying a small laser cutter and trying to burn off paint directly of a PCB. I have also been looking at Mono LCDs as used on the Resin 3D printer. I think it would be possible to directly photoplot on a UV sensitive board.

I also built a CNC router but I’m put off by all the noise and dust etc

Good luck on whatever method you use. If you are ever near Barnsley way let me know and you can have some of the release paper I use.
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Old 17th Feb 2021, 8:59 pm   #16
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Default Re: IRON METHOD for PCB's

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChristianFletcher View Post
That paper I use Is very shiny like the peel off backing on a sticker.
As I mentioned above, I have very successfully used the old backing paper left over from CDROM label sheets (the print-your-own variety).

When you pass it through a laser printer the image sticks well enough to survive the printing process but you can quite easily wipe the print off with simple finger pressure so its adherence to the paper is very, very tenuous but, with care, the transfer process works wonderfully.

Maybe it IS down to the type of paper used. I've never used the toner transfer stuff widely advertised preferring to stick to the delicate paper process described.

It's been a while since I've rolled my own - perhaps I'll have a go this weekend just to satisfy myself (at least) that my previous success wasn't down to pure luck!

Watch this space!
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Old 17th Feb 2021, 11:50 pm   #17
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Default Re: IRON METHOD for PCB's

Hi Christian and Kelly. Yes I printed on the shiny side of the paper...but 10 passes is not what I call productive......the copper is cleaned with soapy brillopad.... no problems with glossy photo paper....I tried IPA... got about a litre in my cupboard.... the process didnt like it..Artworks are taped down to copper....... I feel as though the laminator is not giving enough sustained pressure. Not tried the cold acetone method... its either Glossy photo paper and Iron, or photo resist from now on...... Kelly PLEASE do not feel responsible for anything I have tried..... somethings work for one and not another.
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Old 18th Feb 2021, 11:42 am   #18
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Default Re: IRON METHOD for PCB's

LOL - my responsibility is only on the basis of disappointment - I hate to see anyone disappointed over replication of methods that 'seem' to work for so many others.

All said and done it is now - certainly in my time of life when weeks seem to pass in days - easier to send off to have one professionally made at a far cheaper cost than the equipment needed to do them at home.

I follow your posts quite avidly Wendy and am enthused at the work you do which is why I was so keen to try to assist. I'm sure you'll find a method that works - you always do!
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Old 18th Feb 2021, 11:06 pm   #19
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Default Re: IRON METHOD for PCB's

Hi Kelly... Now Im blushing LOL. I dont consider myself to be "up there" with lots of other forum members.. Im a "tryer"... some of it comes off....but in no way am I a theorist.. in year 2 of my Tech days.. it was based on AC Theory.. come exam time.. I did the long answers.. as in practical theory.. not the quick mathsy stuff. Anyways back to the hot iron LOL .
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Old 21st Feb 2021, 11:01 am   #20
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Default Re: IRON METHOD for PCB's

When using an ironing method and also using hydrochloric acid as etchant, for touching up missing bits of toner, I make up a solution of ABS filings with acetone. I've discovered that the 'etch resist' pens are no good with HCl, as the acid attacts the pen material. The benefit of the ABS mixture is that it is easilly cleaned off after etching with acetone - which is in any case, best for removing the toner.
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