The use of copper coated plates is one of the most cost-effective ways to create hobby or prototype printed circuit boards (PCBs). A copper coated plate is a non-conductive substrate laminate (usually glass and epoxy) and copper, which is used to create printed circuit board tracks that connect components of a circuit welded to it. They are very inexpensive, and they can be made into professional-looking boards with simple household materials.
Creating your board from a copper cladding is usually cheaper than ordering a prototype batch from a manufacturer, since they usually charge an installation fee or base price, which when buying a large volume is not a problem since represents a small percentage of the overall order but by buying one or two boards it can cost up to ten times the cost of a copper coating plus freight.
Ordering from a manufacturer can take a long time. Most orders ship within five to six days for the basic shipping option, but if you need a boarding fast, you can expect to pay a lot more, and it still takes two or three days to arrive. Using the help of companies that offer PCB assembly services, you can make a board from a very fast copper coating, especially if you already have the necessary materials at home or in the lab.
Developing your own copper coated plates has the great advantage of creating custom shapes and sizes, which most manufacturers can not (or do not) do, or charge exorbitant fees. This gives you the flexibility to make your circuits fit into strange shapes, or make really small boards.
To develop a copper coating on a usable PCB, it is necessary to work with some corrosive chemicals to remove the copper in order to create the rails that connect the components. Using protective equipment, working in a well-ventilated area, and proper handling can mitigate hazards, but disposing of used chemicals is still a problem.
When considering using copper coated boards for your project, keep these points in mind and decide if making your own surfboard is right for you. You can find more information and definitions related to printed circuit boards in the Printed Circuit Board Reference and more on copper coated boards by following the links.