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16.3.2009

LP-120 laminator and Toner Transfer PCB making troubles

Ive been choosing a laminator for Toner Transfer for quite a long time. Finally I have decided to buy an LP-120 laminator.

This LP-120 thing is made somewhere in China on unknown factory and is sold in many countries under tons of different brands, but the model name is always the same: LP-120. It is pretty cheap. You can probably get one for around 50$.

It can roll up to 2mm thick material (1.5mm base + 2x250um layers of laminating sheets). So, you can pass a usual 1.5mm PCB laminate with photopaper on top without any modification to the device.

LP-120 allows pretty good control of the temperature from 100 to 160 C. This is just great because it is very important to choose the right temperature for toner transfer.

It is very compact. Width: 22 cm, depth: 17cm, hight: 9cm. Max laminating width is 12cm, but I doubt that a pcb wider than 10cm will fit. For a narrow pcb it passes the copper clad laminate without any problems at all. For wider laminates (6-10cm) you need to give it an initial push, so the rollers can grip the pcb. After the initial push the board goes smoothly without any help.

Though it is not specified anywhere, I can see 4 rollers on the scheme. So, two rollers are for heating and other two rollers are the pressure rollers. I dont know how much pressure the heating rollers apply.

Here is the demo video:

I have tried doing test PCBs with this laminator and Lomond photopaper I have mentioned before in my toner transfer method. I have successfully achieved 0.08mm track on a small board (it was 0.05mm in the layout). For a small board 130 C / 4 passes gave me the following results:

  • 0.1mm track 0.11mm
  • 0.2mm track 0.19 mm
  • 0.2mm gap 0.26mm
  • 0.3mm gap - 0.35mm

This is a very good result. It is better than anything I did before.

However, I have discovered a problem related to the photopaper itself. At least I think it is related to the photopaper. If I set the temperature lower the photolayer sticks less between the tracks (in the gaps) and on the edges, but the toner also sticks less to the copper. If I rise the temperature the toner sticks better to the pcb, but the photolayer also sticks a lot more and covers the gaps up to 0.2mm. And it is really hard to find balance for this. I use a toothbrush to clean out the excess photolayer, but this is not always 100% successful.

I have resolved this issue for small width board. But for 10cm wide PCB I always have some spots where toner does not attach to the copper hard enough and is detached when the paper is detached after being in the water. And the toner in such spots stays on the paper. I have checked and I can tell that in those spots the toner is attached to the photolayer so well that I cannot scratch it with a nail. Basically, for unknown reason in random spots the toner prefers to fuse with the photolayer a lot harder than with the copper. I have tried sanding the copper with sandpaper, but it did not help at all. This issue does not occur when I use an iron.

I dont see any solution to the problem so far but to get rid of the photolayer itself. A very promising technology from www.pulsarprofx.com is using dextrin covered paper for toner transfer and special TRF foil or sealing the pores.

I have ordered a set for myself, but it seems that it got lost somewhere in the lousy Russian mail system. Frank from Pulsar Pro FX was so kind that he resent the order again. So, I am waiting for it again and really looking forward to testing it.

Meanwhile, in order to make sure that this is the photopaper problem I have tried to do toner transfer on this laminator using glossy paper from Cosmopolitan (finally I good use for this waste of trees). After 4 passes at 145 C I have no bad spots! Not a single spot! So, this is the photopaper problem afterall. This temperature is a bit high (toner flows more), but I will provide the results anyway:

  • Track 0.05 mm: 0.09 mm and fully working, pretty good.
  • Track 0.1 mm: 0.15 mm
  • Track 0.2 mm: 0.24 mm
  • Gap 0.1 mm: 0.15 mm WOW! This is the first time I see that 0.1 mm gap turned out well
  • Gap 0.2 mm: 0.22 mm
  • Gap 0.3 mm: 0.33 mm

Measuring error is +/- 0.03 mm.

Overall quality is very good. All edges are very clean. All gaps are clean. Nothing is broken or distorted. I am sure i can do better if i set T to 130, but that does not matter for now.

This paper is really not a good idea because it stick itself with the toner and needs to be cleaned thoroughly with a brush in water. Cleaning need a lot of force and you can damage the tracks. Further more, we dont have any layer covering the pores. But this is the best we have for now.

Waiting for the dextrin paper and TRF foil. My hopes are high for it.

Comments

2009-09-05 03:17:42 Nikolaj ()

Did you ever get the pulsarprofx sheets? Did it work out OK?


2009-10-11 20:49:36 Bill (castlegar, canada)

I would like to buy a laminator soon. When you use photo paper for your laser jet, try and take a piece steel wool and gently
take some of the shine off the photo paper, try to use only light strokes. Now I have toner on the transfer paper that is very
dark which results in a very nice transfer to the board.


2009-10-14 22:19:58 Artem Kuchin (Moscow, Russia)

I have tried pulsarprofx sheets. It is no good. They are too thick for my laser printer pinter. I have tried two printers: HP LJ 1200 and LJ 3055. None works. Also, the surface is too slick and the tonner smudges all over. I have also tried press'n'peel blue - it is a lot better i maybe worth it. However, i feel no need to make anything less than 0.2mm wide and that can be done with coated paper or a base from selfadhisive lables.

As for photo paper: i am done with it. It plain sucks when you tried to some something larger than 10x5 cm and the results are unpredictable as you go
down to 0.2-0.3mm tracks.


2009-10-28 04:15:49 Mike (Oakville, Canada)

it sounds like the Cosmo mag was working very well - why not try different mags - possibly thinner ones that degrade more easily in water (but not too thin for your printer)


2009-12-22 06:14:30 Jorge (, Brazil)

Hi,

I'm using a laminator with something very cheap and very easy to find, with wonderful results:
- the glossy side of the paper which holds label stickers like this -> http://www.pimaco.com.br/pimaco.asp?language=2

You'll need only one pass (use two or three to be sure) and every single trace of the toner will be tranfered to your pcb.


2010-01-29 16:51:39 Artem Kuchin (Moscow, Russia)

Thinner magazines will not go through the laser printer. I will get jammed.

And yes, the back paper for sticker work very well until you go bigger sized. Then the tonner starts to go weird ways in a laser printer.


2011-01-27 02:12:16 Daniel (Zagreb, Croatia)

Hi,

did you try regular carbon paper for sealing pores instead
of TRF Green (or white)?


2011-05-02 18:37:06 Artem Kuchin (Moscow, Russia)

No, did not and will not. The ink is wax bound, it does not melt and it is not powdery to seal the pores.


2011-06-02 08:14:54 Brad (Houston, USA)

To get thin paper (e.g. magazine pages) to go through the printer, use this procedure:
1. Determine the feed orientation and direction for your printer. (Draw an arrow on the paper with pencil and print a page to determine this).
2. Print the layout on a normal sheet of paper.
3. Cut a sheet of the thin paper that covers the full area of the layout plus a "hinge" area on the leading side of the design (12mm is enough). The hinge must be on the side that feeds into the printer. If it is not, it will get peeled back and will not work. Also there is the potential to get spray adhesive on the inner workings of your printer. Don't do this.
4. Mask the thin paper with a piece of regular paper, exposing only the "hinge". Just hold the pieces of paper together - no need to tape or glue.
5. Apply spray adhesive to the thin paper "hinge" area.
6. Press the "hinge" area of the thin paper to the preprinted layout page. Be sure to cover the entire printed area. Be sure the glued area does not cover part of the layout.
7. Put the preprinted layout page with the thin paper glued to it into the printer in the correct orientation (the same orientation you used when you did the first print.
8. Print the layout again. This time the design will print on the thin paper.

Another tip: If you have a generally good transfer with a few minor flaws, consider using hobby enamel paint to do touch up. This is the kind of paint you use for plastic models. Sold under the Testors brand in the US. Holds up well to Ferric Chloride. Does require a steady hand and maybe a loupe for small traces.


2011-11-10 17:56:30 Artem Kuchin (Moscow, Russia)

I just use SHARPIE market, it can withstand ferric chloride just fine.


2011-11-27 17:50:56 Khaled (Cairo, Egypt)

Thanks for the review, but where do you order the LP-120 from?


2011-12-26 01:19:50 Artem Kuchin (Moscow, Russia)

That i cannot tell. I buy it here in local internet shops.


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