If you’ve ever wondered how PCBs are made (and why it’s probably not a fun business to be in), you might find these photos interesting showing the different steps of PCB manufacturing from drilling to curing the solder mask. Read more.
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For me, the least fun step was the one not shown. We used to etch boards with liquid ferrick chloride, which would stain any and everything it got onto. Once that was done we’d wash and scrub the boards in preparation for tin stripping.
And ferric shouldn’t have a k, but I can’t find an edit/delete.
There are a couple of interesting summaries of PCB fabrication out there. This one at thinktink covers a semi-pro process; the sort of thing a general electronics manufacturer might do to have an in-house PCB capability without being a full-scale PCB manufacturer: http://www.thinktink.com/faqs/pcbshop/pcbproguid.htm
And this one at pcbexpress seems to be more typical of the bulk PCB shop: http://pcbexpress.com/technical/tutorial.php
One of the main differences is that the PCB shops apparently use a rather nasty ammonia-based etching process where the tin plating of the traces serves as the resist against the etching.
BTW, it seems that nearly any of the common etchants will do nasty things to any nearby metal, especially if you’re using some sort of bubbler for agitation (and consequently throwing little drops of chemicals into the air.) Stainless steel sinks become less than stainless, chrome plating peels off of sink fixtures, etc… 🙁