Electronics hobbyists who have never ventured into the realms of making their own circuit boards, are missing out on half the fun. Here, we present a quick step-by-step guide to the UV light transfer and Ferric Chloride etching method for making your own printed circuit boards.
Home DIY electronics projects can be a lot of fun for discovery and learning. They can also be extremely useful for those extra buttons and remote devices in your home.
What is even better, is being able sit the project components on a printed circuit board (PCB) that you also made yourself.
It is extremely satisfying seeing a finished DIY electronics project which looks so professional it could have just as easily come from the nearest electronics store. Learning the skill of etching your own PCBs will help you obtain that same satisfaction in your home electronics projects too.
Another handy aspect of making your own printed circuit boards is that you can totally customize the size and shape of the finished circuit.
Adding a CNC cutting machine to the mix can make things very interesting. Not every project demands or allows a boring rectangular board. With a CNC machine, you can cut your boards into fun shapes, or design your board to sit securely in that oddly shaped plastic box you found for the project.
We were recently involved in designing, developing and etching a small batch of circuit boards here at Home, DIY & Stuff. By coincidence, at the same time we also came across an interesting set of sample board designs which really showed how easily a complicated looking design can be transferred to a PCB. It was the trigger which made us think we should do our bit in sharing DIY electronics methods with the world.
There are various techniques for transferring circuit designs to PCBs. There are also various methods for etching, printing and routing the Copper circuit tracks. Here, we have chosen to show you the standard Sodium Hydroxide / Ferric Chloride etching process using UV sensitive PCB blanks (see photo above).
Honestly, printed circuit boards are not all that hard to make! And they don’t really require much in the way of equipment of materials either.
We must warn you however. Some of the required chemicals for the PCB etching process can be quite nasty. Suitable safety precautions are a must! You also need to be responsible with how you dispose of used chemical afterwards, as it is illegal to dispose of these chemicals down the drain in most countries. Doing so can seriously pollute and damage the environment as well.
If dealing with chemicals and etching of PCB’s is too much effort or hassle for you to consider, perhaps the Fritzing’s Open Source initiative can still help get that DIY PCB made for you. Throw your board design their way through their site and they can have it professionally produced for you in as little as a couple of weeks! We have no affiliation with them, but we support open-source initiatives that make the world a better place! Check our blog about that out here.