A Printed Circuit Board (PCB) is usually plated with copper because the metal has a high conducting capacity, allowing electricity to flow more easily. Still, because of the need to add copper, PCB fabrication usually requires a lot of effort. PCB fabrication also takes a lot of time.
•PCB fabrication is usually done by plating an ounce of copper per square foot. Remember, boards are defined by how many copper layers they have. The more layers they have, the more capable they become.
•Electroplating (or simply plating) is deposing a metal coating onto an object by putting electrons and immersing it in a solution containing a metal salt.
Now that those have been clarified, it’s time to discuss the steps in PCB plating.
1.Create an electrolyte which suits copper. It has to have positive ions so that it will be attracted to the negative ions found on the unplated board. Be cautious for some electrolytic ingredients are toxic or volatile. It is advisable to use gloves and a nose and mouth mask while doing the process.
2.Prepare the laminate made from copper. Use a laminate which is slightly larger than your board as it needs to be fixed at the sides during electroplating. Make sure that you have already fixed the sides (smoothened them) before proceeding with the next steps.
3.Drill the laminate according to the layout of the PCB and make sure that the holes are precise so that they will perfectly fit your PCB.
4.Prepare the PCB for plating. Make sure that your PCB is dirt-free and fingerprint-free to ensure a good finish.
5.Immerse the laminate in the electrolyte. While doing this, never touch the laminate with your hands (even if gloved) for it may cause problems in the process. Wet the holes evenly and check for discoloration. Discoloration occurs because the laminate is activated with the electrolyte and is distributed throughout the surface. Put the laminate in the electrolyte for only 2-3 seconds and let the excess electrolyte flow back to the container.
6.Heat the laminate to 257 degrees Fahrenheit (125 degrees Celcius) for at least 11-15 minutes. Hold it at that temperature throughout the duration. Afterwards, increase the heat to 347 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celcius) for at least 6-8 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the board stay until the heat goes down to 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celcius). The laminate should be implanted on the board at this point. The board will have a thin copper layer covered with the remnants of the electrolyte.
7.You can clean the plate using a soft sponge and liquid soap. Remember not to use steel wool or strong abrasives because the copper layer might get damaged if you do. The copper will likely be thin. When you implant it on the board by electroplating, the connection will rely on good copper deposition. The lack of connection can be a problem if the copper is displaced on the board.
•Always wear gloves throughout the process. Some ingredients may cause harm upon direct skin contact. If ever some of it end up on your skin, flush the area with water and consult a physician if irritation occurs.
•Be careful when handling the laminate because it is thin enough to be broken easily.
•Always take your time while doing these steps. Be precise when it comes to measurements and precisely follow all the given parameters.
•Consult a certified PCB engineer if you have any more questions regarding the topic.
•PCB fabrication is a precise work so you need to be careful when doing these steps.
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