ITek
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DIY Circuit Board Kit

Fri Aug 05, 2016 9:54 pm

I bought a rasp pi 2b a while back with the touchscreen and everything. After playing around with it for a bit I realized programming wasn't as deep as I could go with micro-electronics (as working with/on them was new to me) I didn't think much about it for a while. Then the other night I thought to look up how to print a PCB.

I think Raspberry Foundation should sell a kit that has what you need to make your own circuit board. Or atleast to teach kids and adults (I'm pushing 30) how to make and print and solder their own circuit board. In fact I would have purchased my first Rasp Pi that way (disassembled/blank) over purchasing it pre-assembled the first time around.

Just an idea.

Here's the video I found on it. There's lots more.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9Umk5aG8Y4

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rurwin
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sat Aug 06, 2016 8:21 am

I think Maplin used to do such a kit.

I don't speak for the Foundation, but it seems to me that making a circuit board from scratch requires noxious chemicals and specialised equipment. From personal experience, the drill press is almost vital to get the holes in the right place and the drill you see in the video is too large for any but the massive tracks you see him using it on. 1mm is far more likely for most of the PCB and those are unusual and easy to break.

I would suggest that a Maker group or after-school club was better for this sort of thing, where there can be one-to-one instruction and/or supervision.

If the PCB is provided ready-made, then it is a good idea and there are kits available for use with the Pi already on the market. The Gert Board was supplied like that and I've got a RaspIO AnalogZero sitting on my shelf waiting to be made.

I built my first two computers from kits. An MK14 and an Acorn Atom. These days though most electronics is surface-mount which is near impossible to build without very expensive kit. (Although many people manage it.) If you pick your battles though it is still possible to build your own computer. Designs exist for the Arduino for example.

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davidcoton
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sat Aug 06, 2016 8:42 am

ITek wrote: In fact I would have purchased my first Rasp Pi that way (disassembled/blank) over purchasing it pre-assembled the first time around.
Assembly of a Pi is way beyond what anyone can do at home with a soldering iron. The components are tiny, and there are very dense arrangements of connections on surface mount devices. They are not even all at the edge of the components.

It's a great idea to research and learn about making your own circuit boards, either assembling kits or making your own boards. As rurwin says, board making uses some rather unpleasant chemicals, so you need enough "stuff" to do a proper and safe job. I believe there are safer systems brought into use since I learnt about it, but I have no experience of the benefits and drawbacks of different systems. It is extremely difficult to make a board at anything approaching professional quality, but it is also very satisfying when it works. Many hobbyists still use "Veroboard" or equivalents, where the board comes with a pattern of copper strips and holes on a 0.1" pitch ready for soldering. However this is not suitable for modern components with closer pin spacing. If necessary boards can be designed (software available on the Pi) and made by a prototyping service.

Just as a final note, many professional boards (including Pis) have multiple layers of track and board sandwiched together. I've not seem any attempts at homebrew multilayer boards.
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rurwin
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sat Aug 06, 2016 9:22 am

davidcoton wrote:
ITek wrote:Just as a final note, many professional boards (including Pis) have multiple layers of track and board sandwiched together. I've not seem any attempts at homebrew multilayer boards.
I made double-sided circuits at home using Letraset/marker-pen. You lay out one side then float the board in the ferric chloride so only one side gets etched. Then drill the holes. Those give you the placement for the tracks on the other side of the board. Vias (connections between the two sides) can then be made with short wires soldered on both sides.

Multilayer could be done by bolting two PCBs together. I don't know if anyone has attempted it. The thickness of the resulting board may be an issue.

aBUGSworstnightmare
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sat Aug 06, 2016 10:36 am

... why fiddle around with chemicals if you can have professional made PCB for 10 to 12bucks (10pcs of your design 50x50mm or more for smaller boards in case you make a small panel)?

Look here http://dangerousprototypes.com/store/pcbs

mfa298
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sat Aug 06, 2016 10:41 am

ITek wrote:Then the other night I thought to look up how to print a PCB.

I think Raspberry Foundation should sell a kit that has what you need to make your own circuit board. Or atleast to teach kids and adults (I'm pushing 30) how to make and print and solder their own circuit board.
These days it's probably easier/cheaper to design the board in a suitable design application (Eagle/KiCAD) and then send off the designs to be made professionally in one of the many places that provide such a services. This will also let you design to your soldering capabilities rather than being limited by what you can accurately etch (and with practice I think a range of SMT components can be solder-able with a good iron but might be getting a bit fine for home etching).

ITek
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sat Aug 06, 2016 10:55 am

Hey!

Hail from Canada, I didn't realize all the mods were from the UK or else I wouldn't have posted that post about why its taking so long for my first to go through! :P

Thanks for the responses. Got me thinking about some more.

"These days though most electronics is surface-mount.. "

What do you mean by surface mount?

I'm new to microelectronics, at least in the last few years. Always done general labour in practically any field you can imagine. I've lived around electronics all my life, like many, and was born in the late 80's. Built my first desktop out of hardware pieces when I was 8-10 maybe? But the inner workings always eluded me. Til now! I've found the path to the knowledge so just gotta push. When you guys say multilayered PCB I looked it up. I can think of a few ways that you could homebrew that. Though I'd need to try it out. I imagine it all has to do with how thin you can print a board.

I looked up "multilayered PCB crossection" to get a better idea on google. And got images like this.

http://s3-blogs.mentor.com/pcbmatters/f ... onePCB.jpg

And check out laser soldering.

I see what you mean though it would be difficult to do such a thing with basic tools. But us older folks can (have the gull to save for) afford to experiment with the higher tech toys/processes.
Last edited by ITek on Sat Aug 06, 2016 11:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

ITek
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sat Aug 06, 2016 10:58 am

@aBUGSworstnightmare & @mfa298

Hmmmm..

What is the risk of a company that prints boards stealing your designs? I know everything is open source these days but I am not comfortable with going completely that way. I am new like I said so maybe I don't understand the nuances of all the production, industry, etc. yet.

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rurwin
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sat Aug 06, 2016 11:15 am

The video you posted shows "through-hole" components. They all have leads that go through holes in the board and are soldered on the other side. Especially for mutli-layer boards that is problem, since the space taken by the hole is wasted on every layer. And the components are bigger than they need to be because those wires need to be robust enough. Professional boards have "plated-through-holes" so every layer is connected to every other. With DIY one has to do it with wire and solder.

Surface-Mount Technology uses components that are soldered to the surface that they are on. It's possible to do it with a soldering iron in many cases if one is practised and has a steady hand, but it isn't easy. When done properly, a solder paste is put down on the board by screen-printing through a metal stencil. The components are placed on the board and then the board is put through a "reflow oven". Some people have managed to use one of those worktop ovens as a reflow oven, but they don't tend to heat up or cool down quickly enough to meet the component specifications. Some components, such as the CPU on a Raspberry Pi are connected using "ball-grid-array". They don't have legs like other chips, instead the connections are brought out to a set of blobs of solder under the chip. It is impossible to solder one of those without a reflow oven.

The Raspberry Pi has examples of all of this. The Ethernet, USB, AV and GPIO connectors are through-hole. All the rest of the components are surface-mount. The board itself has six layers. (IIRC, I seem to remember some talk about the Pi3 having eight, but I think that was denied.)
ITek wrote:What is the risk of a company that prints boards stealing your designs? I know everything is open source these days but I am not comfortable with going completely that way. I am new like I said so maybe I don't understand the nuances of all the production, industry, etc. yet.
Tiny. Companies that make boards are not in your marketplace. They don't have any interest in making electronic products, only PCBs. Once your board is on the market other people could copy it but the chances are relatively small. The design of your board is automatically copyrighted to you. The circuit itself is not and it could be copied, but few people would bother and if it is particularly innovative you could patent it. It's more likely that if your product was highly successful a company would design their own version. Then you'll be competing on features and customer relations. Like Samsung and Apple.

tuxen
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sat Aug 06, 2016 11:22 am

surface mount (smd) = component "legs" soldered on the surface, ie. no holes to put them through and solder on the other side.
components are as such much smaller, and a lot more practice is needed to solder them on the board properly without making shortcuts/burning the tracks. tweezers, magnifying lamp and a good soldering iron with a fine tip and right heat transferring (last is specified by a number) is highly recommended if not needed along with track repair kit and a solder suction device should things go wrong.

EDIT:
boards like this are usually made like explained above (sorry the post was not there when I replied heh), solder paste are applied to contact points through a 'screen' with holes matching the points, a robot then places the components, and finally run through a reflow 'oven'.
Last edited by tuxen on Sat Aug 06, 2016 11:37 am, edited 6 times in total.

ITek
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sat Aug 06, 2016 11:25 am

@rurwin

Thanks again!

Very helpful and explained well. Alright so a stencil is required. Micro control of solder points.

Do computer motherboards all use copper? Or is it gold or silver or? A mix perhaps? The board itself is plastic correct? Or a type of PVC? I just stumbled on that video last night. So I am still learning.

Going to look up the "reflow oven" shortly.

ITek
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sat Aug 06, 2016 11:27 am

tuxen wrote:surface mount (smd) = component "legs" soldered on the surface, ie. no holes to put them through and solder on the other side.
components are as such much smaller, and a lot more practice is needed to solder them on the board properly without making shortcuts/burning the tracks. tweezers, magnifying lamp and a good soldering iron with a fine tip and right heat transferring (last is specified by a number) is highly recommended if not needed along with track repair kit and a solder suction device should things go wrong.

Hmm okay thanks. I will have to get some fine tips. I have everything else.

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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sat Aug 06, 2016 11:40 am

ITek wrote:Do computer motherboards all use copper? Or is it gold or silver or? A mix perhaps? The board itself is plastic correct? Or a type of PVC?
AFAIK all PCBs use copper tracks. The thickness of the copper is related to the maximum current needed on any track. Professional boards are usually plated to avoid tarnishing -- something compatible with modern lead-free solder.

The board itself is usually some sort of fibreglass. PVC would melt when soldered!
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tuxen
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sat Aug 06, 2016 11:54 am

Hmm okay thanks. I will have to get some fine tips. I have everything else.
taking a look at the pi will give you a good impression of how small things can be, there are different smd component sizes though.
with practice everything is possible to solder with a soldering iron (+ tools). I have done similar stuff in the past, down to the smallest smd sizes, exception is as said the cpu.
its not easy stuff but there are tricks to solder things such as smd chips. if you can find a evening smd class/friend to help it is also recommend. :)

edit: sorry for the edits (and butting into the thread). I'm not native so I often find I made mistakes.
edit edit: btw. you will most certain also need liquid solder flux. put it in a plastic bottle with a needle tip, it can do wonders heh.

good luck! :)

ITek
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sat Aug 06, 2016 12:29 pm

tuxen wrote:
Hmm okay thanks. I will have to get some fine tips. I have everything else.
taking a look at the pi will give you a good impression of how small things can be, there are different smd component sizes though.
with practice everything is possible to solder with a soldering iron (+ tools). I have done similar stuff in the past, down to the smallest smd sizes, exception is as said the cpu.
its not easy stuff but there are tricks to solder things such as smd chips. if you can find a evening smd class/friend to help it is also recommend. :)

edit: sorry for the edits (and butting into the thread). I'm not native so I often find I made mistakes.
edit edit: btw. you will most certain also need liquid solder flux. put it in a plastic bottle with a needle tip, it can do wonders heh.

good luck! :)
Nah not butting in at all. I came to ask to learn. Every thought from everyone counts. Also I obviously don't have everything. Liquid flux to the mix. Have you ever cast metal? Just curious.

I know what a PLC is, a PCB, Motherboard, GPU, CPU, RAM, CPU Cache, some C++ and a bit of Java. Want to learn some binary coding or atleast processes for CPU creation. I've seen a video or two on youtube on some people making their own cpu's albeit bigger than what we're all used to.

Which brings me to the question. I know I can look it up, which I will anyway at some point very soon. But if anyone enjoys explaining things... Silica or Silicon? For microchips. Is it just sand or a very specific kind of sand?

Edit* * deleted my question about SMD chip. I need to read slower first time around haha.

ITek
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sat Aug 06, 2016 12:34 pm

davidcoton wrote:
ITek wrote:Do computer motherboards all use copper? Or is it gold or silver or? A mix perhaps? The board itself is plastic correct? Or a type of PVC?
AFAIK all PCBs use copper tracks. The thickness of the copper is related to the maximum current needed on any track. Professional boards are usually plated to avoid tarnishing -- something compatible with modern lead-free solder.

The board itself is usually some sort of fibreglass. PVC would melt when soldered!

Ah okay perfect. So I'll check into getting sheets of that fibreglass if available. I was going to try on PVC lol. Or a moulded plastic.

"Professional boards are usually plated to avoid tarnishing"

What do you mean by the above?

tuxen
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sat Aug 06, 2016 1:41 pm

Have you ever cast metal? Just curious.
cast metal? only as in replicating small decorative things in silver and kobber. it was the old school method using a compressed sand mold of the original. I've done metal work as well; just about every kind of welding. building things from decorative metal work up to whole big containers (last thing not for fun, but work) it was many years ago though. my main interest has always been electronic hardware. I always liked to use my hands for building stuff. but since repairing electronic stuff nowadays is not cost effective, and screening pcb's, looking after robots and 'baking' them in a reflux oven is pretty tedious, most of my jobs has been as sys admin. :)

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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sat Aug 06, 2016 2:06 pm

ITek wrote:
davidcoton wrote: "Professional boards are usually plated to avoid tarnishing"
What do you mean by the above?
Copper left exposed will oxidise, making it difficult to solder. So by applying a plating of a less reactive metal, this can be overcome. That is why most boards have silver coloured tracks.

If you want to make your own PCBs, you start with a board already covered with copper. The manufacturing process removes the copper where it is not wanted. As has been said, the home-made approach is only really suited to simple circuits without any high density components. For anything more than that, most people will use a CAD program and a prototyping service.
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Dutch_Master
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sat Aug 06, 2016 2:26 pm

Surprised no-one told you to google this:
http://www.eurocircuits.com/making-a-pc ... ep-by-step

Find more at:
https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=pcb+making+howto

HTH!

PS: if you're new to electronics as you obviously are, forget SMD components for the time being. Stick to the through-hole parts until you mastered soldering (I've been soldering for 30 years and only just got me feet wet in SMT!). Reflow ovens can also be useful for these "standard" components but a reflow oven costs 300+ bucks from China+shipping and import duty. A decent soldering iron with different tips from various respectable manufacturers* is a fraction of that cost.

*sample the likes of Ersa, American Beauty, Antex, et all

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rurwin
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sat Aug 06, 2016 7:39 pm

ITek wrote:Ah okay perfect. So I'll check into getting sheets of that fibreglass if available. I was going to try on PVC lol. Or a moulded plastic.
You don't want to try to make a PCB by adding copper to a plate of something else. That's just a way to fail badly. Get a piece of single-sided blank PCB material and go from there. But really, look into it much more before you jump in with buying stuff and start small, like half a dozen through-hole components.

mfa298
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sun Aug 07, 2016 9:26 am

ITek wrote:@aBUGSworstnightmare & @mfa298

Hmmmm..

What is the risk of a company that prints boards stealing your designs? I know everything is open source these days but I am not comfortable with going completely that way. I am new like I said so maybe I don't understand the nuances of all the production, industry, etc. yet.
I think one of the PCB fabrication companies may publish board designs by default, but most don't (hackvana's documentation is clear on what may or may not be used for publicity), at least some of these companies are also producing boards for various well know brands (think phones, tvs, computer parts). The various companies will work in different ways, some combine lots of smaller orders into one big order (so spreading the cost), my suspicion is that others are using the facilities out of main hours possibly as testing/ training runs.

A few of the places i'm aware of (note I've not used any personally yet, and this is in no way a complete list) http://www.hackvana.com/store/ https://oshpark.com/ http://dirtypcbs.com/

ITek
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sun Aug 07, 2016 4:34 pm

Okay thanks again guys.

Sorry for late reply, got carried away this weekend :P

Alright well I will use a prototyping service until I can figure out a way to do that multilayered on my own. If at all possible.

I still want to make a few of the 1 sided, perhaps even a 2 layer board though.

From the video I posted is it possible to use a home made PCB like that to run a 3D printer or do I require a more advanced board with a CPU like the Pi? I watched a video where someone made a 3d printer portable that just had a small LED screen with a selector dial and would take an SD card and read the 3d file from there and print. But he also connected it to the laptop at one point...

Or like I said am I going to require an arduino or pi for that?

ITek
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sun Aug 07, 2016 4:39 pm

rurwin wrote:
ITek wrote:Ah okay perfect. So I'll check into getting sheets of that fibreglass if available. I was going to try on PVC lol. Or a moulded plastic.
You don't want to try to make a PCB by adding copper to a plate of something else. That's just a way to fail badly. Get a piece of single-sided blank PCB material and go from there. But really, look into it much more before you jump in with buying stuff and start small, like half a dozen through-hole components.

Ya this seems to be my biggest problem. I'm in Canada, and as far as I know there is no comprehensive search database to find suppliers of products like that. Any time I search I find American companies, European Companies, and of course Alibaba that is full of Chinese stuff. It is extremely difficult to find anything in my country lol. Either its all hidden away somewhere or I am not looking in the right places. I was trying to find cheap recycled vacuum formed plastic 1020 trays for growing sprouts at one point and it took me 2 hours to finally find a supplier in Canada, and I'm not sure if they are even a supplier, just a wholesaler. I like to go to the manufacturer/source, where it's cheaper and I can have my concerns dealt with.

Also the exchange rate and my crappy dollar make it really prohibitive, especially if I want to start a business to order things like that across borders, especially from the US or UK. There's the exchange rate and then there is the Canadian Governments duties and taxes on cross border purchases (innovation and entrepreneur killing duties and taxes)

Would you or anyone else that read this happen to know any Canadian blank PCB makers? I will spend the rest of the day trying to find one haha. Will stay logged in here. And anyone aware of any prototyping companies in Canada that will do a multilayered prototype for me should the need arise?

(Also does anyone know if I can set it up so I get a sound notification when someone replies to my posts here? And is there a way to set it up so I am not automatically logged out after not being active on the forum for a while?)
Last edited by ITek on Sun Aug 07, 2016 4:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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davidcoton
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sun Aug 07, 2016 4:45 pm

Google "multilayer pcb prototype canada".

Google really is your friend.
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ITek
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Re: DIY Circuit Board Kit

Sun Aug 07, 2016 4:57 pm

davidcoton wrote:Google "multilayer pcb prototype canada".

Google really is your friend.

Lol thanks, must be the way I searched or what I typed in. All I found originally was american manufacturers. I think I didn't put "prototype" in my searches on friday. That might be why.

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