I've had a sudden want and need to print a few PCBs. I'm not going to re-hash the toner transfer method that everyone else has documented, but I will note three things that I've learned:
- Sanding the PCB with 600 grit sandpaper and cleaning with denatured alcohol is a must (you could probably use acetone or isopropyl alcohol too, the idea is to get any oil or dirt off the copper
- HP Banner and Flyer paper works fine for this. That may be documented somewhere, but everything I see says to use a photocopier and manually feeding magazines through it. I'm using my own laser printer, so the idea of feeding magazine pages through it is a bad idea to me... now, if I was using a copier at the library or drugstore or gas station, I would have no reservations.
- This method is never perfect. Never.
- Drilling sucks. Design for SMT, if you can.
I'm working on several things, including a small guitar amplifier and an upconverter for my RTL-SDR. The upconverter is one where the PCB layout was supplied and I printed it. I put it on larger PCB than it called for, hence the crappy looking surround.
Prior to this, I did print two other PCBs. These were designs I did in Eagle. Both look like the PIC16 below (okay, the other, a real-time clock, was larger!). In both cases, these are just breakouts so I can use them with a breadboard. I forgot that I have a set of small drill bits somewhere.
Moving forward, I will be using both the software and techniques used by Contextual Electronics as noted on this page on kohanbash.com. The videos are EXTREMELY HELPFUL! I may still print prototypes at home, but with all reality, I may just print the layout on normal paper and set the parts on the paper to fit them and then send the PCB off to a service.
A side note on printing these things at home. Rocking trays full of dangerous chemicals for long periods of time is only fun when you're developing photos, and that ship has sailed (with my film camera, developing tanks, dark bag, and bulk film loader on the boat). If I do this a lot, I may end up building something that rocks the tray, as it would be pretty simple to build.