I setup a laminator at MITERS for etching a few months ago, but forgot to write about it until now. So here’s some pictures and a little info on the modifications to make it into a fantastic PCB etcher:
It is a GBC 9″ laminator (pretty cheap, $45 on amazon usually, I’ve heard you can get it for $10 or even less if you get lucky on sales or search around a lot). Out of the box, it’s an incredibly low quality laminator that can’t do much more than paper. If you put a circuit board through it, the gears in the motor strip themselves out and it quickly destroys itself. You can kind of force it to keep going by pushing the board in, but it’s totally not worth it after how great it performs with some modifications.
All I did was take it out of its case and put a new motor on it. I put a slower motor on, something like 2RPM instead of the stock 6RPM motor (I forget the exact numbers). You can’t really go too slow since you want lots of heat and pressure to get a circuit board to transfer well, and multiple passes aren’t ideal since it can lead to blurring if thin paper is used.
I threw together some mount brackets which weren’t quite strong enough to prevent the motor drive gear from skipping, so I made a little bearing to keep the motor shaft lined up with the gears. That prevents the gears from slipping away from each other, and it easily feeds standard PCB thicknesses.
The capacitor on the front is a motor start cap which is overkill in size for this motor, but it was laying around so why not use it.
Transfers come out 100%, every time. There’s no longer any guess work involved with the time and pressure of using a clothes iron. It makes it a real treat to etch boards.