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A UV Light Box For Making PC Boards

Even though SILICON CHIP publishes most PC board patterns and/or has them available for download, making your own PC boards has for many been put in the "too hard" basket. Here's one reader's way of producing commercial-quality PC boards at home. He starts off by building an exposure light box with timer.

by Robert Scott

I have been using Autotrax* 1.61 to design PC boards for my own creations for a few years now, ever since it became available at the right price (free!). Before that I used Easytrax* and way in the past I used Bishop Graphics tapes and pads.

LIGHT BOX CONTROL TIMER

Click for larger image
Fig.1: the light box controller is built on two PC boards and this circuit diagram is split in two vertically, each part containing the contents of one of the boards. They are joined by two short cables, one 4-way and one 12-way, which plug into connectors 1/3 and 2/4 respectively.

That at least got me a PC board artwork. Now the challenge was to convert that to a PC board.

I tried using "PressnPeel", a photo-sensitive film which transfers a toner direct to the PC board surface using a hot iron. This then acts as the resist for etching.

However, despite the glowing reports I’ve seen on this product on the ’net, I found it had its limitations.

First, the blank PC board must be extremely clean for the toner image on the film to stick to it. Second, if the PC board artwork is quite a bit larger than the iron then it is hard to get the blank board up to the correct temperature all over for the toner to stick again.

Quite often you would pull away the film only to be left with a result where, Dalo pen in hand, you would have to repair the pattern as best you could.

It wasn’t a very satisfactory situation and to make matters worse, PressnPeel at a retail level adds quite a lot to the finished board cost.

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