One of the primary reasons why individuals undertake a DIY PCB etching is due to the rising costs. Hiring experts can quickly break the bank, not forgetting that a lot of money spent on labor and materials.
On the other hand, etching PCB on your own might turn out to be a costly mistake as well. If you aren’t sure what you are doing, you’ll end up doing even more damage, and the outcome may not be as you intended.
DIY PCB etching can be the worst. In this article, we point out ten shortcomings of engraving printed circuit boards on your own.
( you can perform a DIY PCB etching at home)
1. No Professional PCB Etching Equipment
Without a doubt, undertaking a DIY etching process can be fun and exciting. There’s nothing more satisfying than having a creation of your own that goes ahead to function as you desired. But before you go ahead and etch your PCB at home, you must have the necessary equipment.
Do you have the right materials to undertake the etching process on your own? Some of the professional equipment that you need in this case includes the following:
- Soldering iron
- Laser Printer
- Drill machine
- Steel wool or Sandpaper
- Cloth iron
- Permanent marker
- Glossy paper
- Ferric Chloride
Unfortunately, a majority of DIY PCB enthusiasts lack the professional equipment necessary for carrying out PCB etching on their own. For example, if you don’t have rubber gloves, your hand may end up getting strained. Therefore, having the right equipment is essential to etch a PCB that will function as desired.
(To accomplish your DIY PCB etching, you need the necessary professional equipment)
2.PCB Etching Reagent Time and Temperature Control
In PCB, etching is the process where you use a reagent or strong acid to effectively cut into unprotected sections of a surface to come up with the intended design. In modern production, there is a need for several chemicals when creating the proposed layout.
Copper etching a PCB requires reagents such as Ferric Chloride and Ammonium. But to ensure efficient print of copper, the reagent must be maintained at specific temperatures. For instance, ammonium persulphate tends to decompose when heated.
If you want to ensure that the etching process runs smoothly, you must control the etching reagent at specific temperatures.
Unfortunately, such is challenging when etching PCB at home as enthusiasts may lack the time control needed to measure the etchreagent's temperature get.
(To achieve a good etching process, you must select the right etching agent)
3. It is easy to lose the gloss of the PCB surface
The most significant difference between a gloss finish on a PCB and a matte finish is more aesthetically. A majority of individuals feel and think that gloss finishes look better. They are shiny, reflect light, and look lighter. A gloss finish on a PCB is also scratch-resistant.
Again, while it is fun and exciting to produce printed circuit boards on your own, you must remember that you can quickly lose the gloss of the printed circuit board surface. By hiring a professional, you’ll be in a better position of being provided with a PCB containing a high-quality gloss finish.
Professional PCB makers understand how to develop glossy PCB surfaces that come with plenty of benefits such as the ones mentioned above. However, by etching PCB at home, you’ll lose the gloss of your PCB's coatings.
(You can quickly lose the excellent gloss on your PCB when you PCB Etching at home)
4. Etching PCB and PCB Related Functions
Etching printed circuit boards are highly related to the function or the role of the PCB. Engraving gets rid of excess copper to reveal the predetermined desired circuit pattern. There are several printed circuit board etching processes that PCB designers use.
Some of the most common printed circuit board etching methods include chemical etching, laser PCB etching, and plasma etching for printed circuit board manufacturing. You choose all of these depending on the function of the PCB.
Unfortunately, though, plenty of PCB enthusiasts don’t understand that etching a PCB is related to the purpose of the PCB. To ensure the quality of your PCB, you may have to seek the services of etching experts since DIY at home is difficult to guarantee.
(Depending on your need of your PCB, you can PCB Etching)
5. PCB Etching Complex Process
A majority of printed circuit board enthusiasts and manufacturers don’t understand how to etch copper on PCB. Etching printed circuit boards is not an easy process, as you may imagine. It is a highly complicated process that, when done wrong, may lead to the production of ineffective printed circuit boards. Doing it on your own is risky, and therefore, highly discouraged.
Since etching printed circuit boards is a complex process, you may need to seek a professional's services for assistance. Do you have the necessary tools and chemical reagents essential for etching your printed circuit boards? If not, then you’ll be unable to complete some complicated steps associated with printed circuit board etching.
(Creating a complex PCB, you might need the assistance of an experienced designer)
6.Thickness to control
Do you know the standard width necessary for a printed circuit board? A majority of printed circuit board designers believe that the standard thickness should be 1.57 mm. To a certain extent, this is somewhat true. Even though there’s some truth here, such are the dimensions used earlier in PCB fabrication. Therefore, we can regard 1.57 mm as the actual thickness of the PCB.
Today, though, many changes are taking place with a lot of people and industries demanding thinner electronics. With this, there’s a surge in demand for smaller PCB, such as 0.2 mm, 0.4 mm, and 0.5 mm boards. So, how do you specify the thickness of your PCB when making it by yourself? How do you effectively control the width of your PCB?
When finalizing your PCB's depth, you need to consider factors such as flexibility, weight, cost, and impedance matching, all of which you might not be aware of when undertaking such a project on your own.
(PCB thickness depends on the historical thickness of PCB)
7. Carcinogens Produced During PCB Etching
The PCB etching process involves using several chemicals, plenty of which may be harmful, precisely when poorly handled. Again, while etching your printed circuit boards at home is fun, you need to ensure that you protect yourself or the people around you. If you aren’t aware yet, chemical reagents that you use contain carcinogens, a chemical substance capable of causing cancer.
When undertaking a DIY PCB etching or etching your printed circuit boards at home, you will interact with reagents, not forgetting that you’ll have to do with issues regarding recycling. All of these will see you wasting a lot of time and resources. To ensure that you don’t deal with chemical reagents that may harm you or continue spending valuable time, you may find it suitable to seek the services of professionals for assistance.
(The chemical reagents used to etch should be carefully selected to avoid damages)
8.Reduced product life
All products have to be durable enough and last for a reasonable length of time. The same is true when it comes to the manufacture of printed circuit boards. Printed circuit board manufacturers have to ensure that the products they release to the market last for a reasonable time. If you scrutinize this, you’ll notice that printed circuit boards sourced from manufacturers tend to last a little bit longer.
Unfortunately, printed circuit boards etched at home do not last long when in use. A good number of them function for a while before failing. There are plenty of reasons for these failures, such as using substandard materials and equipment or not following the right etching process/steps. To ensure that your PCB lasts long, you may have to source them from manufacturers since they possess high-quality PCB knowledge.
9. PCB Etching Process Cannot be Reworked
When it comes to PCB, rework or rework is a term for refinishing a specific operation or repairing electronic components of a PCB. More often, this process involves re-soldering or soldering of surface-mounted parts. Rework consists of replacing resistors and capacitors, modifying wires, or changing SMT components on a printed circuit board.
As noted earlier, there’s nothing more satisfying than undertaking a DIY PCB etching. But you need to be aware that if you cannot rework, then a little error during the design and manufacturing of your PCB will compel you to start everything all over again. To avoid such, you may need to seek professional assistance.
10.Use of poor technology
Lastly, the moment you attempt etching your PCB at home or by yourself, you must be prepared to spend a lot of time doing so while expecting low-quality PCB the moment you complete etching. But why, you may ask. By seeking professional's services, you will have some peace of mind knowing that your boards will be etched using the latest technology, equipment, and experienced staff. Better yet, you manufacture your boards quickly, not forgetting that they will last for long.
It is fun and exciting to etch your PCB by yourself. But as you may have noticed, there are plenty of pitfalls associated with etching by yourself. You’ll manufacture PCB with reduced shelf life and interact with harmful chemicals, among others. To avoid such, you may need to seek the services of a professional.
OurPCB is a service provider that specializes in the production of several designs of PCB. We understand the etching process, having been in the field for more than a decade. With us, your boards are etched to some of the highest technical standards.
Unlike other firms, we at OurPCB ensure that your board etching is timely, thorough, and cost-efficient. We align ourselves based on your needs and specifications when etching your board(s). Do you have any questions regarding our PCB etching services? If so, feel free to contact us for assistance.