For a number of years I have been manufacturing PCB’s at home.
Nothing complex, small voltage converters or easy to solder projects to either teach myself how to use LED’s or sensors on technology such as Arduino.
In the past I have always started my design on graph paper, marking out where the physical components need to go and then fitting tracks to them. Which at a basic level works, and works well. You know if you have enough space, where the tracks will go and what overlaps / jumps you need where.
From graphing paper the design is transferred to a digital form and is mapped out using a graphical editor – I use Adobe Illustrator. I know its not designed for PCB layout’s but when you need something simple and quick its fits the bill perfectly!
Once I have a digital copy of the layout, I invert the image and print onto ‘Press n Peel’ toner transfer paper. Traditionally from here I have used an iron (no steam setting) to melt the toner onto the copper-board, however after speaking with plenty of people at a recent MakerFair, I purchased a laminator and haven’t looked back!
Embedding the board and template in a laminator sheet seemed to work very well to retain the heat and ensured even temperature distribution across the panel.
As you can see from above the process works exceptionally well when you need to scale up from one (single) board to a multiple set.
Things to note.. PCB Etchant is dangerous stuff!! Its sole purpose is to dissolve metal! There fore when your done do not tip the waste down the sink..
I’ve found that being able to produce a quick and simple circuit for a project / fix it around the house has been a great help. Granted, I’ve prob not saved money over all (after chemicals, board, laminator etc) but its great to know the things I have built are being used every day in my household.