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I have been looking into homemade PCB etching, since ordering PCBs takes longer than I would like. I have seen PCB stencils for applying solder paste, and I am wondering if it is possible to use a stencil instead of using an iron to transfer the trace image to the copper board.

I assume the steps would be as follows:

  1. Order a stencil with all the traces and pads cut out (basically everywhere you want copper
  2. Secure the stencil to the copper board
  3. Use a permanent marker to color in all the traces and pads, using the stencil to keep the lines neat
  4. Remove the stencil
  5. Etch the board

Would this be a reasonable way to make PCBs at home? I thought that this would be a better way to transfer the trace image to the board because based on what I've seen, the iron-on method isn't always that easy to execute. It also seems like the stencil would take less time to use each time you needed to make a new PCB.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Who would create that stencil, and what will they do with islands? And why will those be faster to produce than a pcb fab? \$\endgroup\$ – PlasmaHH May 14 '17 at 20:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Beyond the geometric limitations, if you were going to try this, use spray paint not a marker. But you can probably get better results by experimentally refining a toner transfer process; and of course the capability and durability won't begin to match that of a commercially produced quick-turn board with plated through holes. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton May 15 '17 at 4:00
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No, it wouldn't be possible to make a one-piece stencil except in the most trivial designs, in which no copper completely surrounds any other copper. You certainly couldn't do a board that has a "ground pour" surrounding all of the circuitry — the center of the stencil would simply fall out.

Besides which, if you have the technology to make the stencil, why can't that technology be applied directly to the board in the first place?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I would order from a place like oshstencils, then use that stencil for drawing the traces on the board, but I overlooked the other issues with this method. \$\endgroup\$ – AngryCupcake274 May 14 '17 at 20:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd be curious to know whether anyone has tried using a layer of resin from a 3-D printer as resist for a PCB. Does it stick well enough to the bare copper? \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Tweed May 14 '17 at 20:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ I had a friend who experimented with the opposite (of a 3D printer), he painted a copper clad board and used a laser (mounted on a 3D printer) to etch away the ink. IRC he wasn't very happy with the results and stopped experimenting with it. \$\endgroup\$ – Wesley Lee May 14 '17 at 20:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @davetweed: a couple of years ago I saw some video on YouTube where someone was doing that with a rather soft 3d material called ninjasomething. It worked ok, but could not get fine details. There are better options like ink jets converted to print UV resist directly on pcb \$\endgroup\$ – PlasmaHH May 14 '17 at 22:31

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