PCB Fabrication: The Etching Process

One of the easiest yet trickiest steps in PCB fabrication is etching. Drawing a layout can be easy but finishing it requires you to take the necessary precautions since this will involve using chemicals.

PCB Fabrication involves printing a layout showing the connection of each electronic component that will be used. Once it has been drawn and drilled and even cleaned, these components are placed and soldered on the circuit board. It is tested afterwards to see if every part works well.

PCB Fabrication
Each printed circuit board or PCB has functions. It may either be a single function or multi-function. To make sure that each component mounted on the board produces the desired function; its designer must etch the layout properly.

Etching

Printing the layout on the circuit board is called etching. To make the definition clearer, well etching is a method that produces printed circuit board. It is done by removing all unwanted copper and leaving only the prefabricated laminate. To make sure only this part remains, a temporary mask is placed to protect the laminated parts from the acid. This leaves only the desired copper layer.

The desired copper layer shows the part which connects the electronic components to be mounted. You can etch the layout yourself either in your lap or at home. Doing this can be made simple and inexpensive especially if you are doing only one prototype. However, if you are to produce multiple of it, you may need to prepare the design and have a company manufacture massive copies. These companies have machines that directly print the layout’s design on the circuit board.

The etching process is only for small workshops. Before you do the etching part for your PCB fabrication, you need to take note of the following issues.

1. The injuries you may attain

Since etching involves the use of chemicals, you need to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself from these. Because these are strong abrasives, using gloves, goggles, and masks is a must.

2. It takes practice to make it perfect

If it’s your first time, you can’t get your etching done perfectly. Don’t be frustrated. In case you really want to have a perfectly etched circuit board, you can always use machineries. But if you want to do it on your own, make sure the copper area you want saved is well covered to protect it from the chemical.

3. Prepare items that can help you properly dispose of chemicals

You can’t just throw it in the sink. The chemical dissolves conductors which may include your pipe if you are using metallic ones. The same is true with your sink. Know how to dispose your chemicals properly.

Safety Procedures

In etching, safety should be your utmost concern. Here are some practices to make sure your PCB fabrication project doesn’t turn into an awry event.

1. Wear safety equipment

As said earlier, have gloves, goggles, and masks. You should also wear an apron or a lab coat if needed. This way you are protected from any chemical spills, even the fumes emitted when soldering.

2. Have an eyewash station, a first aid kit, and a phone close by

Chemicals are dangerous. When these come in contact with your skin, attend to it immediately. The chemical can burn your skin.

3. Become familiar with the tools and equipment in PCB fabrication

Etching is a tricky process when it comes to using chemicals. You can’t just drop the circuit in a basin filled with chemical. There is a right basin to use as well the same with other equipment that can help you dip and pull out the circuit board. You can also use an etching tank. It allows you to safely place the circuit in, thus helping you easily dip and remove it from the chemical solution.

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