Create PCBs with the direct toner method

A simple and fast method to create PCBs without the exposure step. Instead of photo-resist, toner of a laserprinter is used as etch-resist.

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1. Layout

The layout is printed with the laser printer on a page of a "Reichelt-Catalog (it's a german Distributor, the pages of some magazines also works well). If there are problems with paper-jam, use Scotch tape to stick the catalog side at the top of a page of typewriter paper.
The Layout should be mirrored (i.e. typo not readable).

printed layout

Bild 1: printed layout

2. Crop and align

Remove dust and fingerprints on the board with acetone. That is important, otherwise the toner will not retain.
Cut out the layout an put it with the printed side on the board. If necessary, you can fix the layout with Scotch Tape.

layout with printed side on the copper

Bild 2: layout with printed side on the copper

3. Ironing

Put a linen cloth (i use an old purchase bag) on the board.
Iron the layout on the board with circling movements and light pressure.

Thereby the correct temperature is important. If it is too high, the toner becomes too liquid and the strip lines become blurred. If it is too low, the toner does not retain on the copper.
A setting between “wool” and “silk” works good for me.

laminating with clothes iron

Bild 3: laminating with clothes iron

4. Remove the paper

Wait until the board has cooled down. Put it in a plate with cold water and somewhat soap.
After some minutes you can carefully remove the paper by rubbing it. The toner should remain on the board. If not, you can remove the toner with Acetone an try it again.

removing the paper

Bild 4: removing the paper

5. Burn in (optional)

After removing the paper roughly, one can "burn in" the toner optionally. Set the Iron to the maximum and put the dry (!) board on it for a few minutes.
The toner becomes again liquid thereby. Thus smallest holes are closed and the toners connect themselves optimally with the copper.

burn in on clothes iron

Bild 5: burn in on clothes iron

6. Etching

Now the plate is put into the etching bath. I use an old bucket.

etching with Sodium per sulfate (Na2S2O8)

Bild 6: etching with Sodium per sulfate (Na2S2O8)

7. Finished

After etching, you only have to remove toner. This can be easily done with acetone.

conductive strips with toner

Bild 7: conductive strips with toner

conductive strips without toner

Bild 8: conductive strips without toner


I have made several PCBs with this method, partly with TQFP SMD parts.
In a test i have etched 3 mil (0,0762mm) conductive strips (!).

3mil conductive strip

Bild 9: 3mil conductive strip

Video Tutorial

The Tonertransfer-Method as a Video-how-to (single-side, fuser, laminator, tin-platet). The Video is in 4x time lapse.

Video 1: How to create your own PCB's

Note: in the video i use the heater of a document laminator instead of the clothes iron. It was modified to reach a constant temperature of approx. 220 degree Celsius. More information can be found here: modified document laminator (german)

Tags: tonertransfer-method gootee pcb etch etching
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