People today are starting to learn how to DIY (do-it-yourself) almost anything under the sun. Even printed circuit boards (PCBs) which usually look like green complicated-looking devices with small electronic components attached to them are being “DIY-ed” by people.
With common household items, over-the-counter items, and the right instructions, one can proceed in creating simple printed circuit boards. Common materials used for a do-it-yourself PCBs are magazines, laser printers (or a photocopying machine), a simple household clothes iron, an etching solution, thinner, hand drill, etc.
The first step in the procedure for creating your own boards is creating and designing a circuit design. Once a design is finalized, it is then printed by a laser printer to a magazine page. Magazines are suggested as the paper to use since they are usually glossy and glossy papers are needed for this procedure to work. Once the design is printed in the magazine (or any type of glossy paper), you can transfer it to a copper clad laminate which will act as the main board. The main board is where electric components and other items will be placed. To transfer the newly-printed circuit design, put the printed material face down and use the household clothes iron. The circuit design should be touching the surface of the copper clad laminate. The heat of the iron will transfer the design from the glossy magazine paper to the copper clad laminate. After that you almost have your PCB and it only needs to undergo a few more procedures for it to be finished. After cooling the board, the final step is to place it in an etching solution. Remember that etching solutions are made up of chemicals and may have adverse effects when it comes in contact with your skin. You could use any material that has a strong grip to dip the copper clad laminate (now containing the circuit design). Applying a thinner (few drops would suffice) will remove the toner. Finally, the printed circuit board can be rinsed and dried by a piece of clean cloth.
What are the advantages of a DIY printed circuit boards over ready-made printed circuit boards? Well, for one, the printed circuit board is fitted for whatever purpose you have in mind since you will be the one who will construct the circuit layout and design. Also, it will help you cut your expenses since almost all of the materials are readily available and can also be reused. Another cool reason is the knowledge and experience you gain from doing this. Not only are you able to produce your very own PCBs, you also now gain another skill which can be important especially if you plan or have a career in engineering.
On the other hand, there are still benefits from buying ready-made PCBs. Those that are produced by machines are still safer and durable since the boards, once created, will undergo industry accepted safety measures. Also, the need for hundreds of printed circuit boards can never be matched by DIY processes. Quality of the boards can also be assured when purchasing commercially available ones. Larger and more complex circuit designs can be easily made by machines compared to DIY ones. Since complex PCBs involve hundreds to thousands of tiny electrical components which need to be perfectly soldered and attached to the board, computer-aided software ran by the machines are perfect to ensure the quality of each and every electrical component attached to the board. A machine specifically designed for soldering also cuts the process time production.
In the end, it is the needs of a person that will determine the production process that PCBs should undergo.