Apache AL13P & TL-320b - One Pass PCB Toner Xfer

Single pass Lower Temp Toner Transfers. Now available as a DIY kit. Open Source, Dual laminator compatible! Apache AL18P also.

Public Chat
Similar projects worth following
Build this Project to add these laminator capabilities:1) Can transfer toner at LOWER temps plus adds thermal sensor failure protection2) Speed control using multiple automatic fwd/rev passes suitable for synchronous AC motors.3) Cool down function for rollers that overrides the heater. 4) No other mods required. Safe 12VDC build.5) Under 2 hours including building the kit. Available direct ( Achieve 10mil traces with 1 oz copper reliably.7) Plug n Play operation, no soldering or mods to laminator circuitry.8) Fully reversible mod. Operates at less than 80% OEM maximum temperature!9) Optimizes magazine & PCBFX Pulsar paper transfers & Dry transfer to metal products!9a) USE EBAY Yellow toner paper too!10) The Laminators can be toggled to do 'normal' paper & card laminations at the touch of a button! No loss of original Function. FYI:



Design & DIY files

I've taken a robust document laminator (AL13P or TL-320B) that features all metal construction with metal gears, silicone rollers and temperature control, and added features to make it more suitable and safer for toner transfer using readily available papers, especially magazine paper or PULSAR products & Dry Transfers! Yellow EBAY Toner transfer paper works quite well. Note the thermal image indicating a 6% high roller temperature. Helps for precision work when presetting temperatures to suit different Toner brands. My Printer is an HP1102W. OEM or substitute Toner works fine.

I have been frequently frustrated by having to use a combination of clothing iron and document laminator as reliable results are ever elusive.
Converting a laser printer to direct PCB printing is complex and not a project I wish to entertain. It would be heavily mechanical and the results would still require post printing 'fusing' of the print onto the copper. I decided to bite the bullet and purchase the easy to modify Apache AL13P from Amazon to simplify and streamline my PCB making using non photographic methods. Have a look at my SMT PCB prototyping Hackaday project for more detailed usage pics & videos.

Powerful Capabilities:

Reliable, repeatable, cost effective and time effective toner transfer to single or double sided copper clad board up to 1/16" (or thicker) (1.6 mm) thick. The detail of the toner transfer method can be as good as 5 mil! explains how to do this with 5mil detail with their enhanced papers. Thus, it is suitable for a lot of SMT applications as well. Yellow EBAY toner paper is also excellent.

I do single pass, double sided transfers, aligned/registered via 0.5mm - 0.8mm 'pinhole vias', built in to the layout at each PCB corner and then simple etching of both sides at once. This beats the multiple step, direct printing method which requires tricky, flip over & reprint alignment & resist curing for both sides of the printed board by baking or additional chemical baths before the etching. Also, direct printing requires a dedicated printer to hack apart, literally, as well as additional dedicated inks or toner/roller cartridges adding costs. This project only adds capability, it does not defeat the original purpose of the laminator and does not require expensive supplies, only paper!

1) Thermal sensor failure protection.
2) Speed control using multiple automatic fwd/rev passes suitable for synchronous AC motors.
3) Cool down function for rollers that over rides the heater AND keeps the rollers in motion for a fixed 16 minute period with an alert to shutdown after.
4) No other mods required . No roller tensioning required!
5) It takes less than 2 hours to make the modifications including building the kit.
6) It achieves 10 mil traces with 1 oz copper reliably.
7) Plug-n-Play operation, no soldering or modifications to laminator circuitry.
8) Fully reversible modifications.
9) Optimized for http://PCBFX.COM & magazine paper (eg. Pop. science mags or Harbor Freight Catalogs). Yellow EBAY toner paper is also excellent.

It o
perates between 320 F and 350 F to span the range of board stock from scissors cut-table thru 1/16" (or thicker) double sided transfers. HP Toner temps. Other brands may be a bit different. Use 380F for Brother Toner.
Net speed reduction is approximately 12:1 achieved by using recurring 5/8" forward and 1/2" linear reverse motions cycle with the rollers. Heater is OFF during reverse part of cycle to prevent roller hotspots.
This has the effects of applying multiple pressure and heat cycles to the toner transfer ensuring a good result without tampering with the 60 Hz synchronous motor operation & torque levels.
The net result is a single automated COMPLETE pass of the copper clad...

Read more »

Toner Transfer-SMT version -2.5x2 inches.jpg

A 2.5" x2" toner transfer image for those who want to DIY the PCB. This version uses the SMT 12F675 and a few SMT passives. Note the latest SMT schematic in the files section.

JPEG Image - 220.39 kB - 02/22/2020 at 17:28



PIc code with no repeat beeping for cooldown.

hex - 1.37 kB - 01/19/2019 at 19:44



PIC code

hex - 1.37 kB - 01/19/2019 at 19:43


9h etch layer2.jpg

After etching

JPEG Image - 977.76 kB - 12/28/2016 at 14:39


9f Foil transfer 2.jpg

After foiling, side 2 of doublesided transfer

JPEG Image - 1.82 MB - 12/28/2016 at 14:39


View all 15 files

  • 1 × Beeper (3-5V), (not Speaker) jameco part # 2098523 or 2151216
  • 2 × Capacitor 0.1 uF 50 Volt X7R (10V minimum) jameco # 544921
  • 1 × Standard Regulator 5 Volt , LM7805 Jameco # 786138
  • 1 × IC socket - 8 pin Jameco # 51626
  • 1 × 5 Sq. In. Printed circuit board, 3' of cat5 cable, soldering eqpt.

View all 13 components


    mosaicmerc11/21/2014 at 01:21 0 comments

    Theory of Operation

    A document laminator is tuned to apply temperature and pressure suitable for sealing plastic pouches over paper and card stock. Heavier duty laminators can handle heavier pouches and heavier card and are capable of higher temperature operation. Print Toner is mainly pulverized plastic and melts within the range of laminator temperatures (around 150 Celsius) at the rollers.

    In order to optimize toner transfer to copper clad board of various thicknesses and copper weight, the laminator must increase its temperature{, }pressure or both. This is usually achieved by using multiple maximum temperature passes; up to 20 times for a particular toner transfer to be of good quality with no drop outs on non optimized papers. This method is tedious and prone to repeatability issues based on such factors as the board length & thickness, copper weight, ambient temperature and the speed with which the board is returned to pass through laminator again. The thermal capacity of the copper clad and its cooling between passes is the variable here. Each additional pass increases the net temperature of the board to approach the roller temperature and re-presses the toner onto the copper.

    The modification simply automates the multi-pass approach and adds both time & energy efficiency benefits while simultaneously enhancing both repeatability and safety. Relying on the 60 Hz A.C. synchronous motor speed, the linear motion of the rollers is controlled via forward & backward mini passes to achieve up to a 12:1 speed reduction of the original linear speed. No alteration to the rotational speed or torque is used. No tampering with the 120 VAC power is done. This provides a number of direct benefits such as: reduced roller hot spots as compared to 'stop & go' slowdown methods; repeatable roller speed versus triac based speed control; chopper methods of speed control which stutters a synchronous motor. Lastly, the best benefit is overlapping heat/pressure passes with insignificant copper clad board cooling in between; delivering energy and time savings.

    The effectiveness of the approach is enhanced by the nature of the Apache AL13P control system which offers integral motor direction and temperature control. The modification leverages the features of the OEM control and does a minimum of alterations. Adjusting the tension of the rollers via the 4 bottom screws should not be required, limit doing this to a turn or two of tightening to avoid overloading the motor. The net result is reliable transfers using much less heat and pressure and time compared to other 'popular' laminator instructable type mods done before. Optimizations are possible for faster production by having more OEM temperature headroom in the laminator without hacking the heaters and risking a fire or laminator damage.

    The modification circuit employs a small PIC 12F675 micro-controller to sense the OEM thermal sensor's condition as well as to control the timing of the roller motion and provides a simple man-machine interface for control. A beeper is included to provide for audible feedback or alerts based on the selected operation mode of the system or any alarm conditions. A thermal sensor failure will now result in an alarm sound and failsafe shutdown of the heater for safe operations.

    All the features of the modification are optional and the laminator can serve its original purpose or switch to copper clad lamination or 'dry transfer foil to metal' at the touch of a button. The modification is integrated into the OEM controller seamlessly and utilizes the OEM DC power to operate. The modification's schematic details each pin function of the OEM controllers 6 pin cabling system for convenience of debugging. The mounting of the modification requires NO drilling, cutting or alteration of the laminator as it is mounted in an OEM provided fan cutout in the housing.

View project log

  • 1
    Step 1

    Building the Add on PCB is simple, just a few parts. You can test your build by applying 12V+ on pin 4 and a ground on pin 3 of the 6pin inline wire to board pads. The Beeper should emit a 1 second beep. Building the CAT5 (15") 6pin cables to attach the female 6 pin connectors is critical. Don't mix up the pin numbering. Note the pictures showing pin 6 on both the stock Apache Relay Brd and Display Brd. Also the connector orientation for both cables is opposed, see the pic. Color code: Pins 1 thru 6 as : green stripe, green, brown stripe, brown, blue stripe, blue; on both cables. Org and org stripe unused. Note drawn image in files folder.

    Opening the UNPLUGGED laminator is easy using the four bottom corner screws. Remove the two screws to the LED display first, let the display drop inside. Now u can remove the cover easily.

    Use a hot air supply (hair dryer) to loosen the hot glue holding the 6 pin ribbon cable in place between the stock Relay & LED display seen in the PIC. Note the pin6 identifier on both boards in the picture. Install the new 6 pin cat5 connectors. Match the add on display connector to the display board and the relay/main connector to the relay board. Rout the cables away from the rollers. Install the LED Display back into its cutout and mount the add on board in the fan cutout using a pair of 6-32 x 1/2" screws. Ensure the push button protrudes thru a slot and is operable without sticking. Also the trimmer pot should be accessible via a slot. Adjust the trimmer CCW to provide for best toner transfer (slowest forward speed). Leave the grey roller cover off to observe the roller operation when adjusting the roller forward/rev setting. If the rollers appear to stop and not reverse, your rev. cycle time is too low, adjust the speed control.

    Your modification is complete. Just remove the grey flat piece of metal (with semicircles) on the top cover parallel to the rollers, it is attached via two twisted tabs. It can interfere with the PCB movement.

    Note that Tightening the 4 laminator tensioning screws as per PCBFX etc. is NO longer required OR recommended as it can cause the laminator motor to stall and BURN your rollers making lots of smoke. You can laminate super thin FLEX PCB with no tightening now, thicker boards are also accommodated better.

    See the sidebar on the page for links to CAD & code files.

View all instructions

Enjoy this project?



donald_s_58103 wrote 10/30/2016 at 21:32 point

I added a comment  a short while ago, but it does not show up. I'll try again.

There appears to be a discrepancy between the photo of the add-on board in the pdf documentation and the picture of the two 6-pin connectors showing the sequence of the color-coded wires. 

The pdf document shows the cat 5 cable connected to the add-on board in the following sequence (from right to left, pin 1 through pin 6): green/white, green, brown/white, brown, blue, blue/white. However the picture of the connectors shows this sequence: green/white, green, brown/white, brown, blue/white, blue. So which is correct? I have the kit on order from Jameco and wanted to clarify this issue before building it.

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 10/30/2016 at 22:15 point

The image shown here is correct.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Jim wrote 11/25/2016 at 07:09 point

Hello Ancel.

You recommended item# 311689085628 PicKit3.  That only comes with the icsp cable.  This adapter item# 182330060727  or:

is very useful and makes it easier to program a lone pic.  If you do a lot the icsp cable would work but I find these adapters more convenient but that is just my personal preference.

Also this SOIC8 cable item# 112184952077  might be of use with smt parts.  At least with the adapter board it is easier (at least for me) to program Dip pics.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Mangus Tiranus wrote 10/21/2016 at 19:55 point

Looks likes some ones ripped this how to off and selling it on ebay for a few dollors...

  Are you sure? yes | no

Jim wrote 10/19/2016 at 15:15 point

I am not finding the dropbox link to your latest Hex file.  Can you give us the link to that? I think your project is great and well done.

  Are you sure? yes | no

kimvellore wrote 10/16/2016 at 00:08 point


  I need some help debugging. I just finished the hack and on power up, nothing happens. Is there a timer that I have to wait before the push button is active?. I tried quick push and long push. The laminator was just working as normal but no heat. Please help.



  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 10/16/2016 at 00:34 point

Did you verify the beep on the bench top when power is applied? Is the PIC chip programmed with V2.1 of the hex? No heat implies the relay driving the heater is not engaging so have a look at the wiring of the  main and display PCB 6 pin headers as per the color coded image shown. There is no timer on boot up. As you power up the laminator the unit should beep once. Verify that all the wire jumpers on the circuit board have been installed.

  Are you sure? yes | no

kimvellore wrote 10/16/2016 at 01:05 point


  Thank you for the quick reply. I dont get the sound from the board on power up. As for the programming I purchased a pre programmed kit from Jameco. I will try to program a new chip and test. The one I got just has a blue sticker with nothing written on it.

I rechecked all connections and jumpers and it looks OK. I could send you a pic of the board and connections.

  Are you sure? yes | no

kimvellore wrote 10/16/2016 at 01:15 point

Hi, where do I download v2.1 hex file? I see version 2 at Jameco. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 10/16/2016 at 01:21 point

Note the Yellow dropbox link for all design files (incl. hex code) located under the pics at the top of this hackaday page.

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 10/16/2016 at 01:24 point

Jameco does not supply the wire jumpers on the circuit did you install them using hookup wire?

  Are you sure? yes | no

kimvellore wrote 10/16/2016 at 21:21 point

It works now perfectly after I put in a pic with the V2.1 program. The PIC from Jameco was not programmed. Thanks for the help and making the Hack available for all of us. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 08/20/2016 at 21:31 point

I see these AL13p laminators on sale EBAY #302046270012 as of August 2016.

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 07/14/2016 at 16:21 point

I don't know that brand. EDIT...I purchased the item...and it is identical to the Apache....I transferred the mod and it works with no alterations.

  Are you sure? yes | no

kimvellore wrote 07/14/2016 at 07:09 point

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 07/14/2016 at 16:20 point

That link just provides a hard copy of this info, and helps folks not familiar with hackaday. The laminator is usually sold by Amazon for < $100 but it goes fast.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Mikecay wrote 05/02/2016 at 11:54 point

Thank you for the quick response. I don't have a programmer but I will attempt to program it using a Rpi and this sketch

I have all the part already, and If that does not work I will order a PicKit3.  The whole idea of ordering the kit was to avoid this part.  In any case, with this type of stuff you learn a lot more when there are problems.

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 05/02/2016 at 12:08 point

Juts tell Jameco the uC isn't programmed and they'll send out another for u. It's happened before.

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 05/02/2016 at 18:59 point

Some EEPROM programmers like the Willem PCB50 can do it as well.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Mikecay wrote 05/02/2016 at 02:29 point

I also bought the Jameco kit and have the same problem as hwilliams18.  When I do the 12v test on pin 4 and gnd on 3 I get nothing.  I validated everything, my jumpers are in place but no luck.  Any help would be appreciated. 


  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 05/02/2016 at 02:55 point

I am suspicious about Jameco programming. Do u have the ability to program the processor? Also, I think I  shall offer this as a built & tested item, direct. The 3rd party uC kit and then DIY build seems a bit error prone.

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 02/29/2016 at 05:50 point

Added a new, numbered,  image and video sequence in the 'PICS' dropbox link . Should clarify how it all works to make double sided PCBs in one pass.

  Are you sure? yes | no


[this comment has been deleted]

hwilliams18 wrote 02/25/2016 at 09:39 point

We have beeping!!!  Something is clearly still wrong, but the buzzer now sounds when I first power the board, whenever I press the button, and it goes through a beep sequence if I hold down the button for a few seconds.  It turns out my pickit3 did indeed overwrite the OSCAL value when I erased the board.  For whatever reason though when I wrote out the new code you uploaded (Thanks for that) the pickit3 decided to generate and write a new OSCAL.  Hooray for progress!

The good: Pin 4 of the pic goes ground every time I press the button.  The T1 emitter is ground.  

The bad:  The T3 emitter is always around 4V.  While the board is powered the buzzer constantly makes a low dull grumbling sound.  If I turn the pot all the way to the low side the buzzer beeps at full volume nonstop.  Turning it anywhere between the high side and just above the low side seems to have no effect.  Pin 2 and 7 never alternate.  Pin 2 has 4.95V at all times and Pin 7 is always ground.

So all that said...I am lost.  Pins 1-3 are constantly between 3.5 and 5V  and Pin 4 stays around 5V until i press the button.  On the other side of the board I get pretty much the opposite at all times.  Pin 5 stays near ground most of the time ~300mV.  It jumps to about 3V when the buzzer goes off.  During cool down mode it holds steady at .5V then peaks to 3V as the buzzer sounds.  

The weirdest thing to me is the sound of something oscillating constantly. It's impossible for me to replicate the sound via text, but its sounds as if the buzzer is a DC motor that isn't getting quite enough power.  If I hook up my multimeter to just the ground (MP3/DP3) I can watch as the bar graph at the bottom pulses constantly.  I'm having a very hard time describing it, but I'm hoping this information is useful.

I'm eager to hear what you think I should try next.

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 02/26/2016 at 17:59 point

Ok, this blog makes it tuff to maintain a thread, so email me  at so we can walk thru the probs. Pin 3 is an input that reads the 'voltage' from the speed pot to adjust the fwd/back motion of the rollers.

T3 emitter will be 'floating' until connected to the laminator so that's normal, UNLESS you have connection to the laminator...then there is a connection ffault.. Pin 5 ops looks normal. The best way to debug the thing is disconneted from the laminator. We can setup artificial 'relay' loads with  LEDs etc so everything is easily seen. I can also generate & supply code to  verify the operation of each 'pin' of the PIC, but  that's a last resort.

  Are you sure? yes | no

soffee83 wrote 02/21/2016 at 16:56 point

Hi again Mosaicmerc,

I just had a couple quick questions if you've got a minute. I haven't been needing to do any PCBs lately, but apparently am still having the trouble I last had with poor adhesion. I tried a bunch of stuff and am fairly certain at this point that it's a lack of heat issue, although I usually run close to the max around 370. Boards that exit the machine (in mod mode) are warm, but not really hot, and the clothes iron technique still works fine with all the same materials and toner.

Is there anything I might want to know about that sensor I mentioned a few months ago? It appears to be set up for adjustment with that long cutout in the bracket, and if I carefully move it while the unit is running, there's a huge swing in the displayed temp with even the smallest amount of front to back adjustment. Is the little diode looking thing supposed to press against the roller? If so, how tightly, and if not, how much of a gap should it have? I saw in some of the docs that you could run a little over 330F for our PCB transfers, and everyone mentions single pass transfers, but if I did either of those, the paper would probably just fall off the board afterward with no toner making it to the copper.

I also bought an AC power meter, as that rapid relay clicking thing seemed to be tied to excessive current draw and was really bad in one particular area of the house. If it's accurate, it's showing that my Apache is pulling around five and a half amps, and almost 700 watts. The current spec in their book is less than half that at 2.4A. Do you have any idea if their figure is accurate, or does 5.5 sound reasonable for this sort of heater?

Lastly, when I was just in it, the outer housing of the motor gets too hot to touch. Does that sound out of the ordinary?

Thanks and sorry for all the questions!

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 02/24/2016 at 13:49 point

I did verify that the Apache rollers temp was within 6% of the digital readout. If you have a non contact thermometer you can verify this. The diode 'thing' IS supposed to touch the rollers. I'll have to put a Killawatt on the Apache to verify what it is doing power wise.  The boards are too hot to hold when they exit. I am running about 340°F at the moment for double sided 1 oz, 1.6mm thick board transfers.

  Are you sure? yes | no

soffee83 wrote 02/24/2016 at 16:51 point

Thanks Mosaicmerc,

I'll look into getting one of those thermometers. I had a feeling that sensor was in the right place (touching), and avoided pulling it back as I had read stories of people's machines burning up. If the temp is off, I'll let you know.

I've got a small board to do today and will play around with some lower temps and maybe re-adjust the mod speed pot. Are you running single pass, and do you flip the board on double-sided stuff?

Please post here if you get a chance to check the power consumption, and if you get yours open again for anything, please let me know how hot the motor gets.

Much Thanks!

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 02/24/2016 at 22:06 point

The Apache draws almost 6A , 700W when heating up. I do single or double sided PCBs in 1 pass. I also run up to 3 boards side by side at the rollers are wide enough.

  Are you sure? yes | no

soffee83 wrote 02/25/2016 at 17:45 point

Thanks again Mosaicmerc,

I had a feeling that spec in the book might have been a bit low. 

I ordered a thermometer, but it will take a few days. I've also got eBay yellow paper on the way. I'm hoping to get my setup as consistent as yours. For the heck of it, I tried disconnecting the mod for one yesterday and manually alternated between forward/reverse. I did get decent adhesion with two or three passes, but was still up around 370F. Should the mod have any effect on the temperature when it's not in "cool down" mode? I'd like to get to the bottom of that relay clicking while heating up issue too, so I'll probably look over my mod and maybe blow another PIC just to be safe before it goes back in.

Take Care

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 02/25/2016 at 18:26 point

The relay shouldn't click during heat up. Don't activate the fwd/back passes until the Apache has reached tgt temperature. The  heater relay clicks on/off to manage the tgt temp. When the mod is activated , the heater  is 'clicked' off to prevent roller hotpots during the backward pass. If you're getting ok adhesion after a few manual passes and NOT with the mod then something is wrong.

  Are you sure? yes | no

soffee83 wrote 03/04/2016 at 03:24 point


I just got a chance to check that temp with the new thermometer. It does appear to be quite low. Thermometer is this- 

I'm hoping I'm using the thing correctly, as I'm not sure how accurate it is on a non-flat surface. I would point it directly at the center of the top front roller after the temp had stabilized, usually at close range (sometimes 3 inches, and up to about a foot). At 370 (according to the Apache), the readings were in the 320 to 340 range, but weren't very consistent, and sometimes a bit lower. Worse yet, the ends of the roller were very much cooler (below 300), as was the bottom front one. At 300, it did the same and measured something in the 250 or below range.

Is there anything at all I might be able to check for, or any possible way to adjust it (I remember a trim pot on the display board or something)? Also, was your thermometer similar, and how far away was it? When I first got it, I checked a furnace pipe which was too hot to touch, and that also gave a  too-low reading. I'm wondering if it's just the curved surfaces.

I'll probably check the clothes iron next.


  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 03/04/2016 at 03:32 point

I used  a FLIR E8 passive IR camera., as per the pic in the project showing the temperature range of the rollers. There is no 'adjustment' for the temp range other than the digital display, but I seem to recall adjusting the heat shields which reflected heat from the heaters back to the rollers when I dismantled the assembly to inspect its operations.  There are two heaters, top and below the rollers. If one of them is out of action you could get inconsistent temperatures. Although the 6A current draw seems to indicate they are both running.

  Are you sure? yes | no

soffee83 wrote 03/04/2016 at 03:47 point

Man, that's a nice camera/thermometer! I'm guessing you've got it for something else as well. I'll go in the Apache soon and try to see if anything looks out of alignment. I thought I remembered another mod page actually doing something to those shields, like cutting a hole in one or something.

FWIW, the iron just now didn't even seem to get over 200 degrees at almost the highest setting (where I usually run it). I don't know what to think now, but I won't give up on it. I may try to verify the thermometer readings on something of known temperature if I can work that out.

Take Care

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 03/04/2016 at 04:32 point

Shiny surfaces do not emit accurate infra red temperatures, dark matte surfaces do.  Colour a part of the surface with a sharpie to make it dark and measure that spot or use a multimeter thermocouple contact sensor.

  Are you sure? yes | no

hwilliams18 wrote 02/07/2016 at 21:21 point

Thanks for the project.  I ordered the Jameco kit and I finished assembly today.  When I put everything back together and turned on the apache it was clear I have a problem.  The rollers spin, but nothing heats up.  I set the apache to 350, but it holds steady at 85.  The machine also makes no beeping sounds and pressing the tact button on the new board doesn't speed up nor slow down the rollers.  The board seems to have no effect other than disabling the heater.  Any ideas what I've done wrong?  I didn't program the pic because one of your comments suggests it comes programmed from Jameco.  Also I used a 6 pin ribbon cable instead of a cat5, because it seemed cleaner.  

Side question:  I followed the instructions sent by Jameco to tighten the rollers :(  I didn't know not to until I came to this site and read the update.  Any idea how many turns will get me back to default?

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 02/08/2016 at 00:49 point

There are several jumpers marked on the PCB that must be installed, but don't come as components...they are just wires. If you get no beeps or activity etc.,it is likely they may not have been installed.  Loosen the rollers by about  3 turns each.

  Are you sure? yes | no

hwilliams18 wrote 02/08/2016 at 01:24 point

Thanks for the reply.  I have jumpers J1, J2, and J3 installed already.  I have verified I have everything on the board and I believe it is all oriented properly.  

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 02/08/2016 at 05:54 point

Did you get the circuit to beep during the 12V, power on, bench top test before installation? That is an indicator that the uC booted and is running. If that did not work check the 5V supply/ & gnd to the  uC pins 1 & 8.. Do the usual...observation checks, polarity of the transistors, beeper and the 5V reg. Since you used your own ribbon cable for the 6pin connectors you must ensure the pin for pin matching as the color coded pic won't match your build.. Note that the cable is wired 'backwards' on one of the 6 pin connectors. With all that done and all is well, then I'd suspect the uC may not be programmed properly. If you have a PIC programmer this is a DIY fix using the hex file from the dropbox link. If not, Jameco will have to send you a new uC.

  Are you sure? yes | no

hwilliams18 wrote 02/08/2016 at 06:23 point

The one step I haven't done is the 12v bench top test.  I don't have a bench top power supply to do the test with and I'm too novice to just grab some plug lying around the house.  I guess I'll grow a pair and try some random 12v power supply.  I'll get back to you on that.  

I can use an Arduino to reprogram the pic if I need to.  I'll try that after the 12v test once I figure out how to do that.

As for the ribbon cable I made sure that one of cables is 'backwards'.  So MP1 and DP1 are the same color wire, but the connectors are opposite one another.  It matches the pictures in the guide.

  Are you sure? yes | no

hwilliams18 wrote 02/17/2016 at 03:27 point

Hey sorry for the long delay.  I went and got a bench top power supply.  If I put 12v + on pin 4 and gnd on pin 3 nothing happens.  No beeps or anything.  I'm not sure if this means anything, but the current readout on my power supply raises and lowers as I turn the potentiometer on the board.  

As for the "5V supply/ & gnd to the  uC pins 1 & 8" test I did what I assumed that means.  (again I'm very very novice).  I left the power supply connected to the board and put one end of my multimeter to pin 1 and the other to ground.  I get a reading on 5v.  If I try pin 8 I am getting nothing which I assume means its grounded.  At one point I accidentally shorted pin 1 to pin 8 through the multimeter and the buzzer started ringing.

I've checked double checked and triple checked the polarity of everything.   The only thing I'm not 100% sure of are the diodes.  The black line on the diode should be on the same end as the white line of the silk screen right?

I am assuming all of this means my pic is not programmed.  I'll get my Arduino set up as a programmer and see what happens.  Let me know if I'm throwing up any red flags here.  Thanks again.

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 02/17/2016 at 09:00 point

Ok, remove the PIC and reprogram it using the ICSP connections online. I don't know about using the arduino for this..

  Are you sure? yes | no

hwilliams18 wrote 02/24/2016 at 04:41 point

I picked up a PICkit 3 programmer to make sure my Arduino method wasn't the cause of any troubles.  I programmed the pic with Lam_Mod_V2.hex and used the debugger in the pickit to verify that the programming was successful.  Everything went smoothly, but it hasn't fixed anything.  I have also checked every 5v pad I can find to ensure it is getting the proper voltage.  I think in doing so I might have found a problem, but I don't understand circuits well enough to know.  My voltmeter is showing that both the + and gnd pins to the buzzer are constantly at 5v.  Is that normal?  I assumed they would both be at 0v until the buzzer is intended to beep.  

Is there anything else you'd recommend I check?

Thanks again for all of your help!  I'm trying to learn to print PCBs so I can learn how circuits work, but I'm learning a ton just trying to install this mod haha.

EDIT:  Either I am improperly programming the pic or the pic is faulty.  With the pickit3 I can only erase the chip.  Every attempt I make to write out the hex appears to succeed.  However if I try to read in or very the code written to the pic I can see that all I managed to do was fill the pic with zeros :(  If use the "Erase" feature then read it back in I can see that the chip is now filled with 3FFF from top to bottom.  So all I can do is write all zeros or erase.  That...that cant be good haha.

  Are you sure? yes | no

hwilliams18 wrote 02/24/2016 at 10:59 point

Sorry for bothering you so much.  I am extremely grateful for the help and I am thrilled to finally be working with a pic.

Further Update:  Google seems to think that I was unable to verify or read the code out of the pic because the CP bit is set.  I tested this by creating a new project in mplabX and uploading some simple test code.  After writing the test code to to the pic I can read it back out.  So now I'm sure I am able to program the pic successfully.  

So I suppose I have 2 or 3 questions.  Does Lam_Mod_V2_1.asm or .hex contain code that sets the cp bit?  Every time I write it to the pic the cp bit gets set regardless of what I tell the IDE to set it to.  If this is normal should I be able to read the memory with the cp bit set?  I have no way of knowing if the mod code is actually being written and I cant read it, or if there is a problem with writing.  

My last question is related to the code on lines 137 and 138 in the V2_1.asm.  Pasted below:

call       h'3FF'              ; You have to manually enter this value in the calibration input - sect pdf.

movwf      OSCCAL              ; h'3FF' is where the calibration value is stored. Usually 34xx

I have no idea what this means or how to acquire the value that I am supposed to be putting there.  I've erased and overwritten the pic multiple times so if this is a value I was supposed to read out of it than...I might have bit the pooch.  Do you have a suggestion as to how I should obtain the value?  It looks like there is a comment suggesting details are in some pdf, but I cant figure out what pdf that is a reference to.

Thanks and sorry again.  

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 02/24/2016 at 22:11 point


wrote 9 hours ago


Not getting option to reply so I am doing it this way.
I recompiled the hex code (use version 2.1)  to permit read back and verification.
Pickit series of programmers automatically do the OSCAL (oscillator
calibration)  protection by not overwriting that  value which comes in
each 12F675 PIC chip.
You can find out more about it from the 12F675 PDF spec sheet.
will see 5V on either side of the beeper as it is ground switched by T1
fed by pin 5 of the PIC chip. When the PIC pin 5 (output) goes logic
hi the beeper will sound as T1 will short its collector to ground and
the beeper will see a 5V Differential across its pads.
Verify that the emitter of T1 sees ground ( zero V). T3 should also be grounded.
T5 won't see ground unless its connected tot he  laminator via the 6pin connectors.

The beeper sounds upon power up and upon any button press.
4 (input) of the PIC detects the button press by reading a ground
instead of 5V. Ensure that when you press the button pin 4 goes to

Pin 7  (output) of the PIC drives the motor direction
relay via T5. A Logic high on T5 base switches this transistor collector
to ground like T1.
Pin2 (output) of the PIC powers the Heater
coil Relay (via T3) and switches the (normally closed) Relay to cause
the heater to go OFF  when the Motor Relay is reversed. Otherwise it is
on by default for normal heating.
So If you check the voltage on
Pin 7 vs the voltage on Pin 2 they should not be the same at any time.
Either near 0 or near 5V. If you place your voltmeter across pins 2 and 7
you should see a +/- 'near' 5V alternating every time the motor
toggles. BTW did you adjust your speed control to make sure the  motor
is not in 'reverse' most of the time?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Tom D wrote 01/30/2016 at 15:56 point

The looks great but where is information on what is required to program the PIC??

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 01/30/2016 at 16:18 point

See the dropbox link under the pics on the left sidebar. Use version 2 of the hex.

To program a PIC you require a programmer such as a Pickit 2,3 or Willem EPROM programmer. There are cheap Pickit clones on sale on or Ebay as well.

  Are you sure? yes | no

HauslerB wrote 12/16/2015 at 02:02 point

Quick question. If you buy the kit from Jameco does the PIC come programed? I don't have a programmer and to buy one for this one off project would push the price up considerably. Thanks.

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 12/16/2015 at 02:18 point

Yes, it comes programmed. So the kit is ready to build!

  Are you sure? yes | no

HauslerB wrote 12/16/2015 at 02:24 point

That was FAST. Thanks

  Are you sure? yes | no

David Hackenbracht wrote 12/02/2015 at 15:22 point


Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Answer, No, the 1 mil I was referring to was in this case was board thickness. My results were so great I transferred several projects to copper. Several projects were log-jammed because I was unable to make any reliable PCB's. So while looking as stock size related to transfer size I used (in this case) a much thicker board. So while I am making some documentation of different size, thickness, etc. I wasn't clear on my notation of the 1 mil thickness of the board. Sorry.   Seemed to me that making a chart of such things may make reliability of transfer a little easier. On a different note, I am re-doing my web site where I had been working on a similar project. May I include links to your work? 

Jumping back to mil size - I have made traces of 0.024 without any problem so far. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 12/02/2015 at 15:32 point

A link is fine . My best reliable results have been 5 mil trace thickness on 1 oz copper with about 8 mil spacing, using commercial transfer paper and foiling and fresh etchant. Same speed & temps as mentioned before. When doing copper pours a minimum .016 isolation is best though.

  Are you sure? yes | no

David Hackenbracht wrote 12/02/2015 at 16:07 point

Thank you. 

I have been using some transfer paper from china, for cost purposes. (got 200 sheets of the stuff) It works pretty well they claim it is A4 size but it isn't. I have to trim about one half an inch from the length and width wise it is a little short making it rough putting it in the paper tray. The blue stuff just got too expensive for me, however that was when the transfers were not working with the iron. May reconsider.

First time with the foil. I like it.!!!!! It all cleans off so well. So many projects log-jamed because of orginal poor transfer. I'm a little like a kid in a candy store right now............must control self......

Thanks again man ! You saved me so much time. I didn't even know they made laminators that reversed and you had the guts to rip a brand new one, impressive.   Must......control.....self......

  Are you sure? yes | no

David Hackenbracht wrote 12/01/2015 at 03:36 point

mosaicmerc, Thanks so much for the extra heads up on temp and speed. WoW..... Works like a charm. Made 3 boards today, ready to etch tomorrow. (little behind on some projects). With the iron I was never able to to that. Can't express how great this is. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. Did the foil thing, impressive (and needed for spots where toner is weak, (ground pour)). Your suggestions were right on, saved me some time. I tried a 1mil board (have a few small ones), upped the temp and ran two extra times. (5 total) It came out great. It failed the first time but after the changes noted worked. Will etch, drill and tin tomorrow. I use two 12volt fans to cool my unit down. Really works well. I can't open the schematics in Eagle (Ver.6) so I wonder is 12 volts available from the laminator?

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 12/01/2015 at 05:20 point

If u look at the pic (2nd one) of the laminator OEM PCBs in this project above,  the blue relays (heater & roller direction) run on 12VDC common positive, ground switched.

Now when u say 1 mil. board, is that trace thickness details?

  Are you sure? yes | no

David Hackenbracht wrote 11/30/2015 at 03:52 point

Just finished my mod today. Did a quick print as a test (just had to) before going to bed. Nasty. Need to do some adjustments for sure. Temp needs to be higher, need to slow down also. I'm looking forward to this, conditions are more controllable. Will post my results if anyone is interested. Thanks for your work, great project. I had been working on some "old" broken laminators before this and a microprocessor control system but using a new laminator is so much better. Thanks again for all your work.

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 11/30/2015 at 04:11 point

Try to adjust for about 1/8" progression per roller 'cycle' @ 350°F temp. I use this for stock 1/32" to 1/16 " dbl sided copper clad, 1oz. Same setting when I do the 'foiling' pass afterward to eliminate pin holing due to printer toner inconsistency.

  Are you sure? yes | no

soffee83 wrote 07/17/2015 at 17:06 point

Man I don't know what I've done wrong here, but my past three or four boards seem like they've gotten progressively worse about toner adhesion. On this last one, I ran my usual multiple passes at almost maximum heat, and it still only stuck in splotches. I've also retightened the rollers using that "reverse the screws three turns" method to make sure I hadn't screwed that up when I was doing aluminum. It also seems like when it does stick, I'm not getting that same amount of fuzzy paper residue embedded in the transferred toner that I normally get from the Staples stuff I use.

I did recently replace the toner cart, but I *think* I got a couple decent transfers after that happened. I've got a couple other types of photo paper here. I'm going to try one of them, and if it's no better, I'll do a clothes iron transfer to try to rule out the Apache.

Take Care

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 07/17/2015 at 17:21 point

Could be the copper clad itself.  Use some 220+  to 320 grit sanding on it to prep. it. I changed a cart and the pitting increased after a few boards. Which indicates the shaking of the cart during shipping makes it dispense toner better. So shake up the cart some and try again as well.

  Are you sure? yes | no

soffee83 wrote 07/17/2015 at 19:30 point

Thanks Mosaicmerc, I'll shake the cart up before my next board. 

On the plus side, somehow the transfer to a different paper came out almost perfect. It almost looks like I could have gotten by with fewer passes, as the toner is a bit heavy in spots (some of the pad holes are a bit smaller than they printed). This stuff was "Kodak Premium Photo Paper" 61 lb 230g/m 8mil Cat 824 5276. I'm wondering if somehow my Staples stuff may have gone bad or dried up in all this heat. It's been serving me well for years.

Take Care

  Are you sure? yes | no

soffee83 wrote 05/23/2015 at 01:27 point


No offense meant by this, but you are running the same version of the firmware (Lam_Mod_V2_2.HEX) and the same Eagle layout (ApachePCB_modV2.brd) from the files section, right? I got my 12F675 a couple days ago, but out of the laminator, it does the same thing the 683 did. It puts out 4, 15mS chirps with one second between each, then waits about four seconds and repeats (no beeps). I've watched PIC pin 5 on a scope and seen no "buzzer type" activity. I've also now gone over the board and re-checked all connections, and just finished replacing all 3904's and 1N4148's just for the heck of it. I also breadboarded the PIC with nothing but Vdd/Vss, but pin 5 does nothing there (I guess it needs signals on some other pins to run?).

Out of curiosity, I tried it last night in the laminator, but the rollers just seemed to run continuously. I don't really know what to expect there, so I may read up on it and try it again, but there still weren't any beeps.

Sorry for all the hassle. : (


  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 05/23/2015 at 04:15 point

I am here to support all users. Something isn't right and we'll get it sorted.

Use version 2.1 Hex as 2.2 is supposed to be the same EXCEPT it beeps each time the rollers reverse. I am still running 2.1, so use that and let's get on the same page. There is a readme that mentions the changes.

The mode you're mentioning sounds like the 'cooldown' where the unit chirps every few seconds and then switches to longer beeps after 16 mins. That is triggered by a 'long press' so validate that your push button isn't stuck or shorted. The rollers will run continuously in cooldown, but your heater won't work until you power cycle the laminator.

  Are you sure? yes | no

soffee83 wrote 05/23/2015 at 04:35 point

Hi again Mosaicmerc,

That sounds about right. I did lots and lots of button pressing when I was trying to get it going, so there's a good chance it was in cooldown. I actually put 2.1 in there at one point, but ironically, it was to try to hear it beep. I'll go ahead and put that back and try to get it back in the laminator and figure out how to use it.

Take Care

  Are you sure? yes | no

soffee83 wrote 05/24/2015 at 06:04 point


Seems it is doing OK. Starts in normal mode and goes into your FW/Rev mode with a button press. The two second hold also starts the cooldown chirp sequence.

A couple questions if you've got a minute: Am I correct to assume that it's still up to us to knock the temp down with the panel buttons after initiating cooldown? I put mine at zero degrees while it was chirping. Mine did not seem to change after the sixteen minutes though. It kept doing that 4 chirp/pause thing I mentioned. That metal strip over the rollers also stayed hot enough that I couldn't touch it even after about twenty minutes at zero degrees. Not sure how long the machine normally stays hot, but I had run it at 370 right before that. I mainly just worried that something hadn't properly turned off the heater, but if it takes that long, I can live with it. I ended up power cycling the machine for a second then letting it sit for a few minutes on zero. At what point is it safe to stop the rollers? Speaking of which, "power off" is the only time they ever sit still, right?

I was also wondering if the function of the original panel's reverse switch is supposed to change with the mod. Their docs state that you press it to get into reverse, then hit it again to go back to normal forward rotation. Mine only remains in reverse while the button is held ( in normal or FW/Rev mod mode), but I didn't pay attention to it before I put the mod board in there.

I did try one small board. The first transfer at 350 didn't take at all. Next, I bumped it up to 370 and ran about five passes to be safe (under mod mode). I also knocked the trimmer down to slowest after a couple passes. I started with it around mid-point. I'm guessing it doesn't need five passes, but I'll work that out later. You state that it's no longer recommended to mess with the pressure. You think there's any chance that these machines aren't consistent from one to the next, and that some of them need adjustment? I did see a comment or two to that effect on Amazon.

Sorry for all the text and much thanks for all the work!

PS- Please keep me posted if you can figure out what that v2.2 no-beeper thing was all about here.

PS2- This thing really knows how to stink doesn't it  ;-)

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 05/27/2015 at 16:50 point

Once you trigger the 'cool down' mode the display shows the actual temperature of the rollers and disconnects (over rides) the internal heater. No temp adj is required to cool down which makes it easier to set a temp that works with your toner transfer and just leave it.  16 mins is just a time that gets the temp under 300°F or so. It can take 2 hours to cool to room temp. I have adjusted my settings so each roller cycle moves the PCB 1/8 to 1/4" , thus a 4" PCB will take perhaps 20 fwd/rev cycles to pass thru.

The rev. button on the LED display only works when held down. Its operation is unaffected by the mod. I generally wait until the PCB has completely passed the first set of rollers and then reverse the rollers to collect it.

The mod doesn't stop the rollers. Only powering down does that. If the rollers stop/stick and the heater is running they get badly burnt, make white smoke and crumble.

If you want to tighten the rollers,  run up the screws perhaps two complete turns. The extreme tightening is unnecessary and caused my laminator to stick and burned my rollers. I had to swap out the hot and cold rollers and wrap the burnt ones in kapton tape to keep them from crumbling.

  Are you sure? yes | no

soffee83 wrote 05/28/2015 at 02:40 point

Thanks for the info!

300 degrees is higher than I would have guessed, but that's a lot easier than waiting two hours or something. I didn't like the idea of having to keep the motor running so long.

I did have an issue a few days ago where there was a really odd sounding "rapid fire" thing going on with a relay while I was heating the unit up (in normal mode). It was clicking sporadically the whole time. You haven't run across that have you? If it's the on/off sound for the heater, I can't figure why it would be doing it at a time when the unit was nowhere near it's target temp yet. I'll recheck my connections if I go in it for the rollers.

I'll be needing to do that aluminum soon, so I'll probably be looking to loosen things rather than tighten. Any guidelines on that adjustment for eighth inch you mentioned, or will I just be able to tell?

That thing did great on this last board BTW. I've never gotten such clean solid transfers of large ground pour areas with an iron. It also did a wonderful job of transferring labels onto the top with normal Staples photo paper. I do still do multiple passes to be safe though.

-Thanks Again

  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 05/28/2015 at 03:07 point

I'd say loosen 3 or 4 turns all around for the 1/8" material, also remove sharp edges from the aluminum or it might cut the silicone rollers. Send the material down the center as that's where the temp sensor is. You'll probably have to ramp the temp up to handle the thermal mass and conductivity of the aluminium.

I do have plans for a more advanced mod that tracks the A.C. motor current in the event of a stall to handle overload alerts  and do a safe shutdown. Your needs make me wonder about adding a pressure sensor pair to the hot roller screws for accurate torque setting feedback to handle different material thicknesses predictably.

  Are you sure? yes | no

soffee83 wrote 05/28/2015 at 05:46 point

Any mods you can come up with are appreciated. I was thinking today how nice it would be if it worked like my thickness planer, and you could just crank the rollers up or down to your desired thickness on each run. I'd love to be able to do quarter inch on it, but I have a feeling that would be pushing it. The main thing that messed up my 1/4" plexiglas trials was getting uniform heat across the material without melting it. The laminator seems like it would be perfect for that.

Take Care

  Are you sure? yes | no

soffee83 wrote 05/29/2015 at 18:44 point


I had that rapid relay thing again last night pretty bad and think I may have found the culprit. If it happens, it starts while I'm setting the temp, right when it passes the unit's current room temperature, and keeps clicking for most of the heat up time. I went in it today to look at the roller adjustment setup and check things, and I noticed that the sensor you mentioned is just sort of "hanging" in that bracket with the screws almost all the way out. I probably should have looked at all this stuff when I installed the mod.

I'm guessing that thing is supposed to be screwed tightly against the bracket and the distance is set by the part fastened to the floor. Could you give me an idea on how close it's supposed to be to that roller?

<EDIT> I went ahead and pulled that thing out and noticed it's spring loaded, so I guess they're supposed to be loose. It does still seem to have the ability to rock from side to side. I may see if a wider spring would help. Does it normally contact the roller as mine does?

Also, the aluminum took a couple tries and I still had some touch-up. I backed the rollers out four turns as you suggested, but still had a couple occasions where the workpiece stopped and I had to reverse it out. Is it easy to tell if you've done any damage? I only got a very brief smoke smell once, and that could have been from the tape. I also noticed that with the rollers loosened up, I sometimes see that the top rear roller isn't moving and needs to be tapped back down to make contact (not sure if that matters).


  Are you sure? yes | no

mosaicmerc wrote 06/14/2015 at 05:34 point

Sorry to respond so late...

The mod doesn't change the heat up cycle. It will cut the heat if the sensor gives an out of range value or when it reverses the rollers. i'd try to see if this clicking prob occurs with the mod unjacked.

Your thermal sensor seems physically normal.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Similar Projects

Does this project spark your interest?

Become a member to follow this project and never miss any updates