PCB manufacture using Oracal vinyl film + laser printer

in DIY, how-to, PCBs by the machinegeek | 25 comments


Drones refers us to this short but informative video demonstrating the manufacture of PCBs using a laser printer and vinyl stickers. He notes that the video shows laser printed toner being 100% transferred to a PCB using Oracal brand 651 adhesive vinyl film which is relatively inexpensive and widely available from online distributors and and Ebay.

The producers of the video have a detailed post atElectronic City blog outlining the process.

Via the contact form.

This entry was posted in DIY, how-to, PCBs and tagged , , .

Comments

  1. dieter says:

    most inexpensive is:
    print with laserprinter to usual A4 paper. put food-oil to backside of paper and use UV light and photoresist pcb. this is cheapest way, trust me :) have been producing some boards in hurry with this method and no problems with something like tqpf100 (0.5mm pitch).

    using films and heating it to bring laser toner over to board – there are no quaranteed (best, ideal) results. just “plausible”, not that what you expect.

    but myself, i am usinq for self produced pcb-s laser print to special transparency material, ususally meant for graficalprojektors. almost cheap as A4 paper. and photoresist pcb and UV light.

  2. Drone says:

    @dieter, UV requires more equipment and chemicals that many of us have, especially when only doing boards locally from time to time.. For occasional toner transfer boards, I’ve had decent results with the typical magazine page transfers, but with the usual pitfalls like inconsistency of the paper used, traces bleeding, and paper floss remaining on the transferred traces.

    What intrigues me about this vinyl method is that it looks like almost all the toner gets rapidly transferred from the film with seemingly little or no issues typically encountered with the paper transfer method. The down-side is I need to find some of the recommended film, not so easy as I live in the third-world. But it does seem the recommended film, is readily available online.

    I think I’ll go over to the Homebrew PCB Yahoo group and see what they’re saying about this.

    • magetoo says:

      This method certainly looks sexy, with those super smooth fine lines. (although point taken on the UV/photoresist options)

      Luckily for me, I have a friend with some insight in the signmaking business who can probably give some hints – or even scraps of vinyl to experiment with.

  3. Andrew says:

    HOLY MOLY. This works FAR better than I’d ever imagined.
    I have a vinyl cutter, and so had a roll of this laying around:
    http://www.specialty-graphics.com/4725_FDC_Sign_Vinyl_8x10.html
    Note that it’s absurdly cheap.

    I printed out an old board that I had in Eagle and did the fingernail test on the toner while it was still on the vinyl, before attempting any transfer. When I did that, a little of the toner came off.

    I then used a garbage iron, but followed the procedure shown in the video. I believe i ironed for about 30 seconds on “high” If people have less luck, I can turn my iron on again and IR thermometer it to see what “high” really means.

    I prepped my water bath by throwing a couple (actually two) ice cubes in it, and after pulling it out, I got the results you see in this image.
    http://tinypic.com/r/15f3l3l/6
    And here is an image under my DinoXScope
    http://tinypic.com/r/2pt11r5/6

    I’ve been using transfer paper (Pulsar) for a long time, and while one success does not mean my search is over, I can say for CERTAIN that the toner has adhered FAR BETTER to this board than I’ve ever had with the other transfer papers. Further, I cannot seem to scrape it off with a finger nail! FURTHER, as you can see, the board is FILTHY! It had fingerprints in it that I was certain would ruin the process.

    I’m ecstatic, and so glad you posted this!!!!

  4. Andrew says:

    OH – one more bit. It’s important to note that the holes in the print were there in the original printing. There was no failure to adhere at any point, so if you see an uneven trace, it’s because the printer was low on toner and not printing very well. This is also aftermarket toner (on a Laserjet 2420N)

    • Drone says:

      Hi Andrew,

      This is great news! The pics you posted look quite good, especially for a first try. Please keep at it and see if the results are consistent. Let us know how it goes. I’m looking at how to get some of this vinyl film out here in Asia (Jakarta).

      Regards…

  5. toxic239 says:

    This method is confirmed – best results ever. I’ve used magazine paper and had lots of problems with getting right toner quality on the PCB. With vinyl first PCB came out with crisp lines and solid copper blocks with no holes.

  6. Andrew says:

    I have had further luck, and can report that for PCB style transfers, I’ve never gotten a better result.

    I ALSO use the transfer method for larger patches of resist for art projects, and this is NOT the best for that. Transferring large blocks of SOLID toner can be very troublesome. Here’s a hint based on my rather extensive experience in this area:
    You know that vinyl you’ve just bought a bunch of? EXCELLENT resist. Instead of creating large black fill areas (like large ground planes), create a thickened line outlining that area. Then cut the vinyl to that shape, and apply it to the board. This will act as a very effective etch resist, and you won’t have to worry about holes in your transfer. I personally cheat by owning a Silhouette Cameo vinyl cutter and cut it to PRECISELY the correct size, but scissors will do in a pinch.

    FWIW I also use the vinyl method to create large tracks in boards such as power tracks that are traditionally too wide for the toner transfer method.

  7. Andrew says:

    I also just want to reiterate that the boards I’ve been testing with have been frankly filthy. Whereas I have had to carefully scrub and clean and use tarn-x and all of that in order to get other transfer mediums to work, this worked on a board that was so awful, it should have never stuck at all!

  8. Matseng says:

    Can you reuse the vinyl a few times or does it need to be virgin for each pcb?

    @andrew, did you use the proper ‘ 651 vinyl or was it just any random vinyl that you could get your hands on?

  9. Andrew says:

    @Matseng I used EXACTLY the stuff I linked to above:
    http://www.specialty-graphics.com/4725_FDC_Sign_Vinyl_8x10.html.

    After the transfer is complete, the area of vinyl where the toner was has a decidedly different look to it, leading me to believe that you couldn’t just reuse it over and over.

    The thing to remember is that the vinyl is VERY cheap, far, far cheaper than the alternative products I’ve seen, and with far less waste.

    • Matseng says:

      Ollright. I’ll see if I can get my hands on it locally here in Malaysia or Bangkok, otherwise I’ll have to ebay it.

      • Drone says:

        @Matseng, Let me know what you come up with. I’m in Jakarta and haven’t been able to find a local supplier of this stuff yet. I have seen similar films in Singapore though, but I can’t remember exactly where. Maybe it was the shopping complex with all the stationary stores across from the National Library on Victoria Street.

  10. Mincior says:

    Hello. I’m the owner of the youtube movie about vinyl sticker pcb. I can tell you that if there are large areas of copper this method doesn’t work very well, especially with low resolution laser printer. You need at least 1200dpi. I’ve tried Oracal 640, 651, 8300 with best results at 0.15 narrow pathways. Oracal recommends the glossy vinyl type for toner transfer. You can try any other vinyl sticker with simillar properties as Oracal 651. Not all laser printers work. Some printers like Aculaser M2000 do not accept glossy paper (vinyl). You can see the romanian version of my site (about vinyl sticker pcb) with more pictures at : http://electroni-city.com/photo-gallery/

    Do not reuse vinyl sticker. It is very cheap and doesn’t worth.

  11. Jeff says:

    Of the three you used, Oracal 640, 651, and 8300, do you suggest one over the others?

  12. Mincior says:

    For Jeff:
    The smallest width achievable is 0.1mm but 0.15 is for sure. The minimum spacing available is 0.15mm, 0.2 for sure.

    Be more specific at the number 2 question. You can print screen at the right picture (the address is about one gallery) and send it to me via mail mincior@yahoo.com . Even better you can highlight the trace in Paint and send it to me.

    Oracal 640 is cheapest but not so widely available. 651 is more available but some more expensive. There are no differences observed by two types. The last one I used 8300 I can tell you a little about it. I tried it two or three times with good results.

    Do not try to make pcb’s with large area of copper (ground plane). Will not work with ordinary laser printer. Even worse if total area of pcb is more then 120x120mm.

    • Heather says:

      Why is a large area of copper a problem? Is it an issue with depositing enough toner in the area for coverage? Or is it a transfer (vinyl->copper) issue?

  13. Andrew says:

    I can only confirm everything that Mincior is saying. I have now tried with two different cheap vinyl options, and both have worked equally, and very well. I am a believer for sure.

  14. James says:

    Interesting, Oracal is quite expensive around these parts, the Ebay sellers are all quite expensive shipping (several times the cost of the product).

    I’d try some other vinyl which is more readily available but I’m worried about it melting on the fuser roller, even on my backup laser printer.

    But looking at the data sheet for the Oracal product, I don’t particularly see it being high temperature resistant, indeed the datasheet lists it’s temperature range only up to 80 degrees C, far lower than the fuser.

    Hmm.

  15. James says:

    Ok, this Oracal vinyl is hard to find, but I did an experiment with something MUCH easier to get (any stationery store) and probably cheaper, and seems every bit as “scrub free”.

    TLDR? Self adhesive school exercise book covering film from your local stationery store works!

    I don’t know about other countries, but here in New Zealand, kids have covered their school exercise books in a self adhesive film for at least 3 decades (since I was a kid) to protect them. Common brand name “Duraseal” – eg http://tinyurl.com/9kx7yb5 – a meter roll of it cost me $1.50 NZ (about US$1.20) because it was slightly torn.

    I did two precautionary things, first, I heated my clothes iron as hot as it could get and applied it sandwiched between two bits of paper for some time. It held up without any problem. And second, well I was still not keen on risking my good printer, so I bought a second hand laser printer for… $1.50 NZD (again about USD$1.20), perfectly working, complete with cables, it’s not hard to find them. That way I didn’t care if it all went bad.

    I pre-heated the (lightly cleaned with acetone and a scrubbing pad) board by sitting the iron on it while I prepared everything else. I stuck a square of the book covering into the center of my paper, I ran this through the printer to out the image on it. Then after inspecting that the print “looked right”, I applied it to the heated board and then ironed it on for about 30 seconds.

    I then put it into water. The board literally fell off as soon as the water hit it, I just dropped it in the water, the paper floated, the board sunk, and the toner had transferred excellently and very well adhered.

    The transferred image wasn’t 100% perfect (it etched perfectly usably though, but that said it was only an SOIC breakout board so not very fine detail) some of the traces had some pin holes in them etc, but considering it was on a groady bit of copper coated board that was bought back in the early 90s and has been sitting in my shed since, and from a printer I bought for a buck which is of unknown quality, and that I’ve never done toner transfer before at all. Well, pretty damn good if you ask me, I think with a couple more tries and maybe using one of my better printers I could get it very very good indeed.

  16. Ross_Down_Under says:

    Hi James,

    Your book cover material is “made of standard polypropylene” according to your link. The Oracal material is vinyl. I agree it is worth trying the cheaper stuff because the vinyl material, especially the transparent 640 needed for the double sided pcbs, is impossible to get in Australia.

    Cheers,

    Ross

  17. villamany says:

    Great! thanks for share.
    Tested with “Ritrama series L&M” standard vinyl and also worked perfect!

  18. Tom Price says:

    I had some success just now with “Kittrich” clear liner which is cheap glossy adhesive vinyl sheet. I used a clothes iron at 160 oC pressing over a rolling pin. Less heat, pressure and time is required than for paper transfer. Very good detail. Some hollowing inside filled areas and thick traces, but no paper fluff means it is much easier to touch up with a Sharpie. Perfect for the silk layer too. I did a few test strips and had better results peeling the vinyl off while it was still hot rather than dunking it in water. In short this is easy cheap and quick.

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