Tag Archives: Electronics

My First Printed Circuit Board

Update: My first printed circuit board doesn’t work – to see how it all when wrong look here.

My first printed circuit board has just been designed. I’ve been creating a couple of circuits now on a breadboard, but each time I wanted to try something else I would either have to dismantle the circuit to reuse the breadboard, or buy another breadboard (I have 3 now).

Sure I can always put the circuit on a protoboard or stripboard, but I find they tend to get a little messy and they aren’t as neat.

To try out this workflow I thought I’d do something really simple to start with.

I will be sending off the design to be manufactured rather than etch my own board. It gives it a professional look and you don’t have to deal with usage and storage of corrosive  chemicals.

Here are the steps I used to create my printed circuit board. Hopefully it can be helpful for someone else wanted to give it a try.

Creating the schematic

555 flasher circuit schematic
555 flasher ‘railway crossing’ circuit

I created my schematic using the EagleCAD software. The ‘light’ version is free for hobby use and it works on my mac. 🙂

The circuit is just a simple 555 timer that flashes 2 LEDs. I think the secret to learning and testing a new workflow is to keep things simple. Remember that this is my ‘helloworld‘ of a printed circuit board. Don’t judge me 🙂

Breadboard the circuit

555 flasher circuit breadboardIt is important to test out your circuit by building it on a breadboard first. This allows you to swap out components and change your circuit around much easier. It also saves you time and more importantly money as it costs money to manufacture a printed circuit board externally and you want to make sure there are no mistakes.

Design the Printed Circuit Board

printed circuit boardI designed my PCB Layout using EagleCAD. This is my first ever printed circuit board design, so there are probably some things wrong with it. I’ve got a ground plane for the bottom later, and a power plane for the top layer. I managed to route all the nets on a single top layer. If anyone is interested then I’ll post up my source files.

Upload to a PCB Manufacturer

I took the final board file and uploaded to a PCB Manufacturer. I’m using OSHPark.com as I can simply upload the Eagle brd file without messing with Gerber files that most other manufacturers use. Perhaps in the future I’ll pick a different Manufacturer (suggestions anyone?).

OSHPark.com also seems to be reasonably priced given the size of the board I created (1″ squared = $5USD for a 2 layer design), and you get 3 boards for your trouble (some places want a minimum of 100 boards – who wants 100 x 555 flasher circuits?)

Now we wait…

Now that the board has been uploaded and approved I now need to wait until it gets manufactured, and delivered to me. From the website I’m estimating about 2 weeks. When it shows up I’ll take a few photos and comment on how awesome (or crap) it is.

While there is a bit of a wait, it saves me having to deal with the messy chemicals and cleanup if I was etching my own printed circuit board.

I’m rather excited to see how it turns out – Let the waiting begin…



Arduino Adventures.. the begining

This month I thought I would try something different and explore the Arduino that everyone is talking about.  I purchased an Arduino UNO starter kit from Australian Robotics and with a few electronic components I’ve collected over the past few years (plus a few extras that I’ve gotten recently) I’m starting my Arduino Adventures.

I had played around with electronics in the past (like when I was about 10, my uncle bought me a “Dick Smith’s Funway into Electronics”) but most of it was just following along some diagrams and plans. I never really ‘got it’ or understood what was happening. Fast forward about 30 years, and after reading about electronics again and hearing about the Arduino I thought I’d give it another shot.

Arduino Adventures
Electronics Lab

To begin on my Arduino Adventures journey, I setup my ‘electronics lab’ next to my computer (as I obviously need my computer to program the Arduino).  Being neat and organised is vital when you have lots of electronic components about. It provides you with an awesome space to do your inventing (not to mention that it is fun to sort out resistors and capacitors in their own unique draws – my OCD was off the chart!). It also makes the space a little bit more cat friendly. 🙂

I’ve been following along some of the tutorials online, however I’ve really been focusing on the Arduino Workshop book and in a short space of time have built some controlled traffic lights. Woohoo! I have found this book to be quite helpful and works well with my already understanding of basic electronics (without dumbing it down too much).

Arduino Adventures
Arduino Traffic Lights

So here is the final product.  The picture doesn’t really do it justice (next time I should upload a video). Most of the logic controlling the traffic lights is coded within the Arduino itself. You simply hook up your inputs (2 buttons, one for each set of traffic lights) and outputs (3 lights for each traffic light). It is quite an awesome feeling when it finally gets working.

I’ll most likely continue with the Arduino Workshop book for quite some time and once I’ve completed it then I should have a better idea on the kind of things I can build with this little device.  I must admit it is quite addictive.  Seeing REAL physical feedback. I haven’t had this much fun with programming for quite a while. I can’t wait until I can play with motors and stuff (which are later chapters in the book).

Also, I haven’t forgotten all my other projects (such as MonsterMovie and AdventureWorld) as I still plan on finishing those at some point. It is good to have a break from them at times so I figured having some Arduino Adventures would be a good distraction.