Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Techliminal PCB design workshop

A while ago, as part of the bay area workshop weekendTechliminal held a 3 hour "introduction to PCB layout" class instructed by Malcolm Knapp.  I'd tried using EAGLE a year ago when I first wanted to produce some schematics for my blog posts, but I found it a bit unintuitive and very frustrating.  I went along to the class hoping it would be a quick and easy way to get to grips with schematic design and board layout.  In short - it was.  Malcolm is a really good teacher and I think everyone in the class got to grips with the software pretty quickly and got a lot out of the session.  This course is being run again this coming weekend; if you're around and want to quickly get to grips with Eagle I strongly recommend signing up (just click here)!

After the class I headed home and immediately created my first schematic and board.  There are a few I want to make but I figured the simplest would be a board for the traffic lights I made for the kids ages ago.  I got a little bit carried away and made designs for a POV writer, an RGB LED night light and for a smaller version of "Dr Boardman's Color Conundrum".  Here's the first schematic for the POV writer:

And here's the board layout:

I was immensely proud to be able to put this together.  I know this is simple stuff for many people, but this isn't the easiest software to work out late at night (the only time I have available).

I submitted my gerber files to the DorkbotPDX PCB order and waited (eagerly).  The boards cost $4 per square inch (for which you get 3 copies of each board) and arrived a couple of weeks later. 

Here they are fresh from the fab:

That's four designs with two boards positioned so you can see the front and back of each (the boards are actually double sided).

I've had a chance to solder parts on to all of these.  Of course I found a couple of mistakes and oversights in these first designs, but that's no surprise really.  This is all a learning process.  They all work though - which is a big shocker!

All in all this has been a great experience.  It's fantastic to go from idea -> design -> PCB -> working device; this is very empowering.  I'll write more about the individual boards later, but for now I just wanted to post something to give a shout out to Malcom and to encourage anyone interested to head over to the workshop.