Ralph S Bacon

MicroControllers, Electronics and IOT

Mode: Beginner [Eagle]

When you’ve been driving a car for a few years, it’s difficult to remember how difficult it was at first. All those pedals, the indicators, the gear shift and to top it all you’ve got to steer the car and not hit anything else whilst doing so!

Photo by Digital Buggu 

Trying to teach someone to drive is quite a skill. What is obvious to you is most certainly not obvious to a beginner. Even the most basic of concepts such as getting the clutch to bite (required for non-automatic cars, 99% of all cars in the UK are manual) is a huge challenge all in itself. I blamed the kangaroo petrol my dad used, but, as we all know, it was my inexperience in clutch control that made the car leap about like a startled frog.

So when PCBWay (my current video sponsor) invited me to do an unboxing of their PCB products to show off the quality of manufacture and silk screening I suggested that I submit a simple PCB design so that I could talk from 1st hand experience rather than just advertise something I’ve never used. They agreed and thought it a great idea.

Imagine my frustration (tinged with excitement, anticipation and creativity) when I loaded up Autodesk Eagle (Version 9.2.2 © 2018 Autodesk, Inc. All rights reserved) with the intention of “knocking up a quick design”.

Basically, I was the new car learner driver without a clue. Key? Ignition? Huh?

After some frustrating attempts at creating something without reading the instruction manual (note to self: if all else fails read the instructions), I followed a couple of YouTube videos just to get me going. In some ways, I succeeded in getting a 2-layer PCB board designed, duly submitted to PCBWay via their easy-to-use website and today I received the finished product.

If I had to mark my own work, I’d give it 2 out of 10. It’s amateurish in the extreme, the PCB tracks are the wrong width, the placement of the components “leaves something to be desired”, some of the text ended up on the copper layer instead of the silkscreen layer, there’s a missing track… you get the picture.

But does it work?

Well, you’ll have to watch the video for that story but even then it’s not the full story. Since I submitted this I decided to design another board and have already increased my Eagle knowledge. So now I can start the car, put it in gear and pull off with just a little kangarooing. I don’t know how to change gear yet and when I try to do so I take my eyes off the road and the car veers sharply to the left. Then we crash.

All this has reminded me very sharply that what some of us take in our stride in the Arduino world is probably very confusing to a beginner. All those buttons! Ports? What are they? C++! Why doesn’t it “just work”?

My channel is ostensibly aimed primarily at beginners, although I realise that some of the subject matter I cover is more suited those with a few driving lessons under their belt. But I must not abandon the noobs, of which I am one now, albeit in the Eagle world!

How many of you are comfortable (and possibly skilful) in designing PCBs. What CAD program do you use? Is Eagle the best choice? Let me know!



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15 replies

  1. Hi Ralph,

    How are you keeping?

    I’ve been following your videos on Youtoob for Arduino control of servos. Lots of servos, I need to control over 100 of the things ( model railway control ) I came across this little unit which is the 32 ch version measures 45 x 65mm and just requires power for the servos, plus usb for control from pc, windows, android etc, or Arduino.

    Very easy commands, no programming for pc, very little for Arduino.

    Hope you find this of interest

    Regards Dave

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m getting there, Dave, thanks for asking. Unfortunately, I have a bad head cold right now (just before Xmas, too) but I’m hoping it will be gone by Xmas Eve. That little unit you describe sounds interesting – if only you had posted a link (hint, hint) we could all have a proper look!


  2. This style of construction is quite popular in the world of HAM radio (I should add I am just a humble SWL (shortwave listener) and not a HAM. Given that radio construction involves radio frequency signals (no, really? lol) this style of construction is very common. The main copper clad PCB acting as the ground plane and the little pads acting as nodes in the circuit. For a very good example of this style of construction see Charlie Morris’ Youtube channel. It is fascinating stuff.



  3. As you can see from the latest photo of my DDS signal generator project:

    I tend towards using boards designed by other people. Art was never my thing and looking at schematic design software reminds me of that, so I stick to old school stripboard mostly, and prototyping boards like the one in my project on occasion.

    In the New Year I plan a project that is going to require me to use the “Manhattan” form of circuit construction. That will be a new adventure but revisiting one of my first ever electronics passions, shortwave receiver construction, but this time with a hint of Arduino.


  4. It’s easy for me. It’s all new. Wherever I go in this new hobby, it’s all new. Fortunately I’m in Australia so kangarooing is not noticeable. Haha.
    Free version of Eagle has limitations like size no bigger than 100 x 100mm.
    There’s Kicad and Diptrace which apparently growing in popularity as they are free or make a voluntary donation.
    Ralph, i come to your channel because you’re a good teacher and I’m a noob. A good match. If I want to learn how to design a PCB or some 3D print gadget there are plenty of channels with experts in those fields.
    There are many subjects covered in this “electronics hobby”. Thankfully plenty of good folk like yourself who are generous enough to share their knowledge. Thanks.


  5. I used KiCAD http://kicad-pcb.org/ for my first (and so far only) PCB design. It’s not easy! Like you, I made so many mistakes (probably a 1 out of 10 for my finished result). I’ll probably switch to Eagle if you are going to do a tutorial 🙂 … hint hint


    • Good grief, no, Bruce, I was looking for a simpler CAD program and KiCAD looks very promising without the foibles (or restrictions) of Eagle. My limited Eagle experience was easily translated to KiCAD, by the way.

      We shall see. If I do progress my skills in this area a tutorial is not out of the question…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Well, Ralph, the only way to teach is by first learning the subject..! And you indeed put lots of enthusiasm in it. In my pre-history, I had a go at PCBs the traditional way: ink, etching, acid and all… results did work, but aestethically awful at the least! Looking forward to learn more about this new opportunity. Thanks a lot for all your work!


    • Ah yes, baths of Ferric Chloride (was it?) that turned my fingers brown, a dark blue etching pen that I still have somewhere as it’s a good marker after 30 years… yes, I’ve been there and some of the results were passable (if shaky, 5mm wide PCB tracks are considered passable) but it was a lot of work. And only single sided.

      The modern way can give 100% professional results (depending on the skill of the designer, so not me then) but I’m already hooked. More in a future video.


  7. You may consider yourself a beginner but your an expert in my book!


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