As many of you will know from my YouTube channel, I’ve recently taken the challenge to design and create a PCB. It seemed the next logical step after stripboard and, as I was being sponsored by a couple of PCB fabs in China, it was as though fate has stepped in.
My first attempt was dire. Although the resultant PCB worked (after two small corrections) it was typical of someone who had dived in, not read how to do things and had produced a lemon.
Yet, as they say, if life gives you a lemon, make lemonade. So I studied long and hard, tried two different PCB CAD tools, hated one, loved the other and produced my second PCB. Whilst not a masterpiece in design it at least looked like a PCB, worked first time and gave me great encouragement that “Hey, I can do this!”
Fast forward a month or two and here I am, making two-sided, SMD PCBs that actually look quite passable. Moreover, I’ve designed custom footprints that worked and have tweaked the work of others to make the PCB work the way I want it to.
All this because I did actually (eventually) read the instructions, in this case “KiCAD like a Pro” from Dr Peter Dalmaris. It was not a cheap buy, in the order of £30-35 but in the end it was worth every penny. But, like building a house from scratch, when you have dug the ditches for water, electricity and sewage, and have even put in the foundations it doesn’t look like much progress. There’s still no house!
There’s just no getting round the fact that you do have to put in the (not inconsiderable) effort up front to get the eventual benefits and I’m glad I did. I will even go over those first exercises from the book again just to drive all the points home – I’m not smart enough to take it all in first time round!
Today, this very afternoon, I’m the proud owner of a hot air rework station (hobbyist standard), some flux in a syringe and a huge bottle of isopropyl alcohol to clean off all the “no clean” flux (confused face). I’ve soldered a single 0805 resistor with flux, solder paste my hot air gun and all is well. More of all this in a future video, no doubt!
If I can do this, anyone can. I’m hoping to encourage others to join this PCB design movement. It’s never been easier or cheaper (the only barrier now is the disproportionate, albeit very fast shipping costs).
Now, is anyone going to support my proposal for a 35-hour day so I can fit everything I need to into my day?
If anyone is interested I’ve signed up to become an Amazon affiliate. This means that sales via my links might benefit my YouTube channel. It’s totally transparent and with no additional cost to you.
Here’s the link to my new Amazon store front, a little sparse right now but will fill up in time.
Have a look!
See you in the next video!