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AU$20 Laminator for PCB Toner Transfer



Stumbled across this article while searching for a laminator to use for toner transfer.

Lowell A4 Home Laminator LOOL280 - $19.47


My local officeworks in Perth had a huge stack of them in store. 1.6mm copper clad board fits through perfectly due to the spring loaded roller. Inside it has two thermostats for control, both Normally Closed, one is 125° C and the other 150° C. Each one controls one half of the AC wave going to the heater, while the lower temp one controls the ready LED. So between 125-150° the heater is only operating at half power. I haven't totally confirmed this but the control board is pretty basic with a few diodes, and zener/resistor combos for the LEDs. If you follow the article you can simply connect bother sides of the diodes to the replacement thermostat, and the LED will switch on and off with the heater which operates at full power. My alternative idea was to simply replace the 150° thermostat for a 170°, and put the 150° in place of the 125°, effectively keeping the same mode of operation but ~25-30° higher. It also avoids having to resolder the connections (handy in case you want to return it to stock condition). I suspect I will still have to replace the thermal fuse though. Anyhow, I will let you guys know how it goes when my thermostat arrives :)

Thanks to Ahmad Tabbouch @ www.UltraKeet.com.au for the article and heads up

 I'm genuinely curious and I would not like to start a debate but I would like to ask what are the advantages of toner transfer vs. UV exposure?

I'm quite familiar with the two methods. After quite a number of tries, my own opinion is that while perfectly acceptable, the toner transfer method fails to produce the same results as an UV approach, from a quality perspective. In addition, the UV method is much more repeatable.

The costs are comparable in my opinion, at least in a DIY setting.
You need an UV box on one side, but it looks like you also need a laminator on the other side.
One could argue that you can do without a laminator and use a simple iron. Well, you can also forget the UV box and use the sun.
You can buy nice transfer paper, but you can also re-use the shiny paper you can recycle from magazines (although I'm curious about the long-term impact on the printer roller)
The pre-sensitized copper clad boards are (in my opinion) a reasonable expense. Metasilicate developer costs extra, but you can also use inexpensive caustic soda.

I know that UltraKeet guys have a very good experience and results with the toner transfer method, as described here but it still intriguing that they get better results with the toner transfer vs the UV exposure, as quoted here:

--- Quote ---The Pulsar and Photofab methods are extremely close here. The Pulsar method is able to produce finer traces (easily 8mil spacing/8mil width), photofab using cheap equipment causes the same traces to bleed into eachother and short during exposure.

--- End quote ---

I was also reading this guide: http://www.makehackvoid.com/projects/pc-pcb-under-30-minutes-quick-n-easy-pcb-fabrication

I've already got a good laser printer (Dell 2330d) and a bunch of this HP photo paper. It just seems like a nice easy clean way to make PCBs. I can't really argue the merits of either way. If one way works to your satisfaction and needs then you should stick with it.

I imagine that the photo method is better (it's what PCB houses use, right?) if you have good equipment. I doubt that the professionals use cheap laser printers and overhead projector transparencies.

I've found PulsarProFX to work very well, and it's good for thin traces with some tweaking, but cheap PCB prototyping services are very compelling these days.

I have used both methods, and once you can get the toner transfer method to work, it is simpler and cheaper.

Boards with the photo resist applied are an expense, and are difficult to a small board of a big sheet without damaging the resist. Usually I end up with a lot of board wastage.

Applying your own resist - forget that. Just too many things to go wrong.

Given a choice, I go for the laser printer transfer method as it means I can use any old scrap on PCB and the laser print costs me almost nothing. I need to stock nothing more then the PCB etchant, some suitable paper and I can always get some acetone from the hardware.

I have to admit though that it is dead easy to do double sided boards with perfect registration using the photo method.  It is a bit harder with the toner transfer.



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