Technic to engrave frontpanels, with hydrochloric acid, inkjet photo paper, laser toner, clothes iron and water

Technic for transfer a toner to a surface:

1-Design your front panel inkscape/gimp/ad•be and export it at best quality 300/600 dpi (remember to mirror your image!)

2-Print it on a laser printer at a high contrast over an ink photo paper (Epson Easy Dayly Use seems to work perfekt for this 100 A4 sheets ~ 5€, better way? just write us!)

3-Cut and put it over the surface you want to transfer your design (wood, metal, aluminium, ceramic, etc.)

4-Fill a bit of water on a plastic/metal box for later cold the front panel.

5-Iron it at a high temperature, till gets really stack (with lots of presion takes ~1min) then straight forward to the water (take care its really hot!).

This makes the tonner have a fast cooling and get stack to the highest temperature material (in this case the 2mm aluminium)

6-Remove the paper, it should be really sticky to the transfered surface (this means the complete toner has been stack on the surface). Don´t worry it won´t be damaged even if you screatch it with your nails.

7-Then you can stop the process here if you like just the color/black “serigraphy” on the panel.

If you want an engraved surface, take some hydrochloric acid and start the engraving process.


Engraving a metal surface 

This process should be done on an open and ventilated area, it makes some toxic gases

8-Fill at least 2 plastic recipients, one with 0,5/1cm of hydrochloric acid for the etching and other with water to stop fast the process on the instant you need. You must be ready for a fast transfer of the frontal between recipients.

9-Use a bottle or a third recipient of water to control the temperature on the solution of hydrochloric acid for the engraving recipient and use a non metal tweezer (plastic or wood) to remove from the recipient. The ones used on photo development works really great.


NOTE: Its really important that you control the temperature of the process because over ~ 100*C the toner gets disolved on the hydrochloric acid (so it gets removed from the top of the surface!). The temperature can be controlled just adding water to the hydrochloric acid recipient making its saturation less powerful. You can chack the temperature in many ways, one just touching the plastic recipient with your hands, with a thermometer, etc. This porces can take about 1 minute, starts slow and then goes really fast, depends on the materials and concentration of hydrochloric acid you are using. The one on this documentation took about 40 seconds to etch about 0,5mm deep, but you can start and stop the process as many times as you want to have the perfect etching, just pass it to the water recipient and check it (a lupe its perfekt for this). If you desire a deeper engrave just put it again on the hydrochloric acid.


10-Now you can decide if you want it with the black/color tonner or sand it and leave just the engraved surface.

Ready? some more questions just write me!

Important: hydrochloric acid its a stong acic, take care of your eyes! and of the metal surfaces next to you, also remember to wash your hands with a soap to clean and stop the process over your hands.


Concept, custom electronics & documentation by Victor Mazon Gardoqui | CC BY-SA 3.0