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The Artwork

The next step in the process, after getting a basic idea of the tools, comes the art.

 

I know, the next logical step would probably be explaining how to use the tools and materials. However, without art to work from it is a slightly moot point to know how to use it so bear with me.

I won't use any specific examples at this point, mostly because I have no pictures to relate to.

There are several ways to create the artwork for photoetched parts. The biggest factor in deciding how to do your art depends on your talents and the tools at hand.

You can use the traditional method of pen (or pencil) and paper to create your original art. You can use a CAD program to create the art, assuming you have a reasonable knowledge of the program you are using. Or, you can use a computer Graphics program such as JASC Paint Shop Pro or even Microsoft Paint, included with Windows. Use of these programs is a skill I will not go into here (at least not yet) as there is a wealth of information available on the Web concerning graphics programs and creation.

 

Resist Coating
Once you have created your art, the next step is determining how you will transfer this to the material you plan to etch. There are a number of ways to do this:

1. Once the metal is coated with resist you can simply scratch away the resist to expose bare metal. This is really only an option if you have considerable artistic skills with sharp objects or are making a fairly simple part.

2."Photosensitive" resist. This is a chemical that can be applied to the metal (usually pre-coated or available in spray-on form from Jameco among others) and will leave a protective coating on the metal when exposed to bright light. After exposure it is placed in a bath of developer to finalize the resist process.

3.Direct toner transfer. This method involves using laser printer or copier toner as the resist. Using this process you make copies of your art, either with a laser printer or a quality copier, onto transparency film, available from an office supply store (Kapton seems to be the preferred choice here). These copies are laid face (toner) side down onto the metal and , using heat from a household iron, the toner is "melted" onto the metal forming an etchant resistant barrier.

 

Putting it Together

The method of turning your art into a suitable pattern for the resist depends on which method you are using.

If you choose to draw or scribe directly onto coated material, of course there is little involved in transfering, beside your own artistic skills. The same goes for "drawing" your patterns in resist directly to the board. These options are pretty straight forward and I feel they need little explanation.

 

When using the direct transfer or photosensitive options, the transfer method has a direct impact on how the final art should look.

 

Using the photosensitive method: The art should be done in a negative. All areas exposed to the light source will be left in place, meaning the outlines and filled areas on your parts should be see through on the film carrier.

Using the direct transfer method: All areas covered by the toner (resist in this case) will be left behind. See though areas will be etched away. However, any lettering must be done backwards, as the transfer procedure reverses the direction of the text.


This is generally the way your original art will be drawn.

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UPDATE: another source for etching products! Check out the online catalog from Electronix Express. Their PCB Development section contains all of the products you need (except the metal) to etch parts following the information contained here.