Tag Archives: PCB

Custom Nixie Tube PSU is a Lesson in Good PCB Design

via Hackaday» hardware

Nixie HVPSU

[Jan Rychter] was sick and tired of not being able to find the right power supply for his Nixie tube projects, so he decided to design his own. [Jan] started out designing around the MAX1771 (PDF) DC-DC controller, but quickly discovered he was having stability problems. Even after seven board revisions, he was still experiencing uncontrolled behavior. He ended up abandoning the MAX1171 and switching to the Texas Instruments TPS40210. After three more board designs, he finally has something that works for him. [Jan] admits that his design is likely not perfect (could have fooled us!), but he wanted to release it to the world as Open-Source Hardware to give back to the community.

The end result of [Jan's] hard work is a 5cm x 5cm board that generates four separate output voltages from a single 12V source. These include both a 3.3V and 5V output for digital logic as well as a 220V out put for Nixie tubes and a 440V maximum output for dekatrons. The circuit also features several safety features including over-current protection, thermal shutdown, and slow-start. Be sure to check out [Jan's] webpage to view out the schematics and technical information for this awesome circuit.

Need some Nixie tubes to go with that circuit? We know some resources for you to check out. Or you could always just build your own. How can you use this board in your next project?


Filed under: hardware

Custom Nixie Tube PSU is a Lesson in Good PCB Design

via Hackaday» hardware

Nixie HVPSU

[Jan Rychter] was sick and tired of not being able to find the right power supply for his Nixie tube projects, so he decided to design his own. [Jan] started out designing around the MAX1771 (PDF) DC-DC controller, but quickly discovered he was having stability problems. Even after seven board revisions, he was still experiencing uncontrolled behavior. He ended up abandoning the MAX1171 and switching to the Texas Instruments TPS40210. After three more board designs, he finally has something that works for him. [Jan] admits that his design is likely not perfect (could have fooled us!), but he wanted to release it to the world as Open-Source Hardware to give back to the community.

The end result of [Jan's] hard work is a 5cm x 5cm board that generates four separate output voltages from a single 12V source. These include both a 3.3V and 5V output for digital logic as well as a 220V out put for Nixie tubes and a 440V maximum output for dekatrons. The circuit also features several safety features including over-current protection, thermal shutdown, and slow-start. Be sure to check out [Jan's] webpage to view out the schematics and technical information for this awesome circuit.

Need some Nixie tubes to go with that circuit? We know some resources for you to check out. Or you could always just build your own. How can you use this board in your next project?


Filed under: hardware

Spin a PCB for Your Most Beloved Sensors

via Hackaday» hardware

sensorstick-breakout

If you follow [Ioannis'] lead you’re going to thank yourself every time you sit down to work on a new prototype. He took all of the sensors which he most commonly uses and spun one dev board to host them all.

As long as you’re willing to wait for delivery, the cost of small-run professionally made PCBs has become unbelievably reasonable. That’s really nice when you need to test your layout before exploring larger production. But it also means you can develop your own dirt-cheap yet reliable dev tools. This example combines three sensors which all communicate via I2C:

  • MPU6050 accelermoter/gyro
  • BMP085 pressure sensor
  • SHT10 humidity sensor

Obviously this is a great idea, but key is the cheat sheet which [Ioannis] included on the bottom of the board. It testifies as to which chips are on the board, but also includes the device addresses for the data bus. We’ve adopted the mantra that if a breadboarded prototype is not working, it’s always a hardware problem. For those oft-used parts this should alleviate some of the heartache at your bench.

You could still make something like this without spinning or etching a board. You’ll just have to be creative with the soldering.


Filed under: hardware

Dirt Cheap Dirty Boards Offers Dirt Cheap PCB Fab

via Hack a Day» hardware

Dirt Cheap PCB

 

When your project is ready to build, it’s time to find a PCB manufacturer. There are tons of them out there, but for prototype purposes cheaper is usually better. [Ian] at Dangerous Prototypes has just announced Dirt Cheap Dirty Boards, a PCB fabrication service for times where quality doesn’t matter too much. [Ian] also discussed the service on the Dangerous Prototypes forum.

The boards are definitely cheap. $12 USD gets you ten 5 cm by 5 cm boards with 100% e-test and free worldwide shipping. You can even choose from a number of solder mask colors for no additional cost. [Ian] does warn the boards aren’t of the best quality, as you can tell in the Bus Pirate picture above. The silkscreen alignment has some issues, but for $1.2 a board, it’s hard to complain. After all, the site’s motto is “No bull, just crappy PCBs.”

The main downside of this service will be shipping time. While the Chinese fab house cranks out boards in two to four days, Hong Kong Post can take up to 30 days to deliver your boards. This isn’t ideal, but the price is right.


Filed under: hardware

Cordwood Puzzle Kit Without Instructions

via Hack a Day» hardware

Cordwoodcircuit.agr

What you see above is a cordwood circuit, an interesting circuit construction technique from before the days of integrated circuits. The circuit consists of two circuit boards arranged parallel to each other with components holding them apart. This was, for its day, the densest circuit construction technique, used in everything from late 50s aerospace tech to huge computers that filled rooms.

The folks over at Boldport have a love for interesting PCBs and are apparently aficionados of antiquated tech, leading them to create their own cordwood circuit. Here’s the best part: it’s a kit, without assembly instructions.

The cordwood puzzle assembles into a bunch of LEDs that will light up when power is applied. Not much, but there’s a few FETs in there that allow you to control them all individually with a microcontroller. The real fun is trying to assemble the kit: both sides of the cordwood circuit are identical, meaning there’s going to be holes that aren’t meant to be filled, components that will need to be soldered, and most likely a bit of swearing.

Still, this is an exceptionally small circuit for something using this construction technique. If you know of a denser and more modern cordwood circuit out there, leave a note in the comments. If you want to know what the kit looks like when it’s built, [Phil Wright] has your back.


Filed under: hardware

The Credit Card Sized GameBoy

via Hack a Day» hardware

arduboy

Think you’ve seen every possible type of Arduino based hand held video game? [Kevin] managed to coax something new out of the theme with a very clever credit card sized console that uses some very interesting construction techniques.

The inspiration for this project began when [Kevin] dropped an SMD resistor into a drill hole on a PCB. This resistor fell right through the hole, giving him the idea creating a PCB with milled cutouts made to fit SMD components. With a little experimentation, [Kevin] found he could fit a TQFP32 ATMega328p  - the same microcontroller in the Arduino – in a custom square cutout. The rest of the components including a CR2016 battery and OLED display use the same trick.

The rest of the design involved taking Adafruit and Sparkfun breakout boards, and modifying the individual circuits until something broke. Then, off to Eagle to create a PCB.

[Kevin]‘s experiment in extremely unusual PCB design worked, resulting in a credit-card sized “Game Boy” that’s only 1.6 millimeters thick. The controls are capacitive touch sensors and he already has an easter egg hidden in the code; enter the Konami code and the Hackaday logo pops up to the tune of [Rick Astley]‘s magnum opus.

Now [Kevin] is in a bit of a bind. He’d like to take this prototype and turn it into a crowd sourced campaign. In our opinion, this “Game Boy in a wallet” would probably do well on a site like Tindie, but any sort of large scale manufacturing is going to be a rather large pain. If you have any wishes, advice, of complaints for [Kevin] he’s got a few links at the bottom of his project page.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, hardware

[CNLohr] Demos His Photoetch PCB Process

via Hack a Day» hardware

etch

If you’re going to learn something, it only makes sense to learn from a master. [CNLohr] is known around these parts for his fablous PCBs, and he’s finally started to document his entire fabrication process.

[CNLohr] is using a photoetch process, where a mask is created with a laser printer on overhead transparencies. He covers the copper clad boards with a Riston photosensitive mask—available here, and they accept Bitcoin—sent through a laminator, and exposed with the laser printed mask and a UV grow bulb. After the mask has developed, [CNLohr] drops his boards into a ferric chloride bath that eats away the unexposed copper. He then removes the photomask with acetone and cuts the boards with a pair of aircraft snips, and they’re ready to be soldered up with components.

Yes, home PCB etching tutorials are pretty much a solved problem, but [CNLohr]‘s work speaks for itself. He’s also the guy who made a microcontroller/Linux/Minecraft thing on a glass microscope slide. Learning from a guy with these skills means you’re learning from one of the best.

Video below, and there’s also a video going over the design of a PCB using KiCAD (!) and TopoR (!!!) available here.


Filed under: hardware, tool hacks

Testing The Limits Of Home PCB Etching

via Hack a Day» hardware

PCB

[Quinn Dunki]‘s Veronica, a homebrew computer based on the 6502 CPU, is coming along quite nicely. She’s just finished the input board that gives Veronica inputs for a keyboard and two old Nintendo gamepads. [Quinn] is building this computer all by her lonesome, including etching all the PCBs. She’s gotten very, very good at etching her own boards, but this input board did inspire a few facepalming moments.

In an earlier post, [Quinn] went over her PCB etching capabilities. As demonstrated by the pic above, she’s able to print 16 mil traces with 5 mil separation. This is just about as good as you can get with homebrew PCBs, but it’s not without its problems.

[Quinn] is using a photographic process for her boards where two copies of a mask is printed on an acetate sheet, doubled up, and laid down on a pre-sensitized copper board. The requirement for two layers of toner was found by experience – with only one layer of toner blocking UV light, [Quinn] got some terrible pitting on her traces and ground planes.

Two photographic masks means the masks must be precisely aligned. This example shows what happens when the acetate sheets are ever so slightly misaligned. With a 5 mil gap between traces, [Quinn] needs to align the masks to within ±2.5 mils; difficult to do by eye, and very hard once you factor in flexing and clamping them down to the copper board.

Even when this process goes perfectly, [Quinn] is pushing the limits of a laser printer. When printing at 600 dpi, the pixels of the print are about 1.5 mils. While GIMP, printer drivers, and the printer itself have some fancy software to help with the interpolation, [Quinn] is still seeing ‘bumps’ on the edges of perfectly aligned parts. This is one of those things that really makes you step back and realize how amazing fabbing PCBs at home actually is.

With most of the hardware for Veronica out of the way, it’s just about time for [Quinn] to start programming her baby. We’re not expecting a full-blown operating system and compiler, but those NES gamepads are probably crying out for some use.


Filed under: hardware

Woodcut Stamps and Conductive Ink

via Hack a Day» hardware

circuit

Even though it’s been a while since the Rome Maker Faire, we’re still getting some tips from the trenches of Europe’s largest gathering of makers. One of these is a 30-minute experiment from [Luong]. He wondered if it would be possible to create SMD circuit boards by using a 3D printer to fabricate a stamp for conductive ink.

[Luong] told this idea  to a few folks around the faire, and the idea eventually wound up in the laps of the guys from TechLab. the Chieri, Italy hackerspace. They suggested cutting a wooden stamp using a laser cutter and within 30 minutes of the idea’s inception a completed stamp for an Atari Punk Console PCB was in [Luong]‘s hands.

As an experiment, the idea was a tremendous success. As a tool, the stamp didn’t perform as well as hoped; the traces didn’t transfer properly, and there’s no way this wooden laser cut stamp could ever create usable PCBs.

That being said, we’re thinking [Luong] is on the right track here with printed PCBs. One of the holy grails of home fabrication is the creation of printed circuit boards, and even a partial success is too big to ignore.

This idea for CNC-created PCB stamps might work with a different material – linoleum or other rubber stamp material, or even a CNC milled aluminum plate. If you have any ideas on how to use this technique for PCB creation, leave a note in the comments, or better yet, try it out for yourself.


Filed under: hardware, laser hacks

Othermill on Kickstarter: a robust, personal CNC machine for milling circuit boards and more

via Arduino Blog

My friend Jonathan Ward and the rest of the team at Otherfab have posted their new CNC milling machine, the Othermill, to KickStarter. This is a robust, low-cost machine for milling circuit boards, wax molds, wood, aluminum and more. The machine is made from high density polyethylene with an ingenious snap-fit mechanism that’s strong, reversible, and easy-to-assemble (although the machines will come fully assembled). There are lots of other clever features to ensure good alignment, minimal / non-existent slop, and quiet / robust performance. The working area is 5.5 x 4.5 x 1.4″ and the machine itself is only 10 inches cubed.

This is a great tool for milling your own circuit boards, something that’s done a lot in How to Make (Almost) Anything and at the MIT Media Lab and Center for Bits and Atoms generally. It handles relatively fine-pitched components (down to 1/64″ or even 0.010″ between traces) and is great for doing arbitrary shapes and cut outs. Here are some examples from the Othermill KickStarter page.

Jonathan has a long history of making milling machines, and I’m excited to see them get out into the world.

Find out more or support the project on KickStarter.

Custom boards at home without etching

via Hack a Day» hardware

PCB

PC board houses are getting more accessable and less expensive all the time. Some of us are even getting very, very good at making our own circuit boards at home. There are times, though, when a project or prototype requires an extremely cheap custom board right now, something etching a custom board won’t allow. [KopfKopfKopfAffe] has a unique solution to this problem, able to create custom boards in under an hour without any nasty chemicals.

Instead of starting his build with copper-clad board, [KopfAffe] used every rapid prototyper’s friend, simple one-sided perf board. The shape of the board was milled out on a CNC machine, and both the top silk screen and bottom layer were marked off using the toner transfer method. After that, a custom circuit is just a matter of placing components and putting solder bridges between all the marked pads.

[KopfAffe] is only using this technique for single-sided boards, but we don’t see any reason why it couldn’t be employed for simple double-sided boards. This would still have the problem of making vias between the layers, but that’s still a problem with proper, home-etched double sided boards.


Filed under: hardware

Finding the cheapest board house

via Hack a Day» hardware

PCB

The prices for custom made circuit boards has never been cheaper, but surprisingly we’ve never seen a comparison of prices between the major board houses. [Brad] took the time to dig in to the price of 10 boards manufactured by Seeed Studios, OHS Park, and BatchPCB. He made some pretty graphs and also answered the question of where you can get your circuits made cheaply.

[Brad] got the prices for boards up to 20 cm x 20 cm from Seeed Studio’s Fusion PCB service, OSH Park, and BatchPCB. These results were graphed with Octave and showed some rather surprising results.

For boards over 20 cm2, the cheapest option is Seeed Studios. In fact, the price difference between Seeed and the other board houses for the maximum sized board is impressive; a 400 cm2 board from Seeed costs $150, while the same board from OSH Park is close to $1000.

Of course most boards are much smaller, so the bottom line is  for boards less than 20 cm2, your best bet is to go with OHS Park. If you don’t care when your boards arrive, or you need more than 10 or so, Seeed is the way to go. As far as the quality of the boards go, OSH Park is up there at the top as well.


Filed under: hardware

Goes to Canterbury! (Collaboration, building communities, surface mount adventures)

via OSHUG

For our 11th meeting, we are visiting the School of Engineering and Digital Arts at the University of Kent. Trains run regularly to and from central London and take approximately an hour. For anyone wishing to stay overnight please see the list of accommodation.

Open Source Hardware Collaboration

An assessment of the current state of the art in hardware collaboration through a tour of a series of Open Source Hardware projects. How easy is it to discover projects, view and understand their designs, build your own version and contribute changes back?

Paul Downey (psd) is a doodling software hacker, former member of Osmosoft — a small Open Source software team where he represented BT at the W3C, a co-organiser of OSHUG and a co-founder of SolderPad, a collaboration platform for electronic design.

Building open, communicating communities

The hardware engineering community is typically seen as fragmented, closed and conservative, shackled by the dependency on restrictive closed-source tools. Thankfully, we are now at a time where this is changing. In this talk, Saar Drimer will discuss his efforts to bring the FPGA community together so we can reach the level of sharing and project integration that the open source software community currently enjoys. The end goal is to reach a state where projects are integrated in a similar way to what Linux's package mangers enable: "sudo apt-get ddr2-controller". [Background reading].

Saar Drimer is an experienced hardware engineer. In the past he's hacked the UK's Chip and PIN payment system, and advocated reproducible research practices in the engineering sciences. Now he's working on boldport, an "IndieEDA" company that aims to make HW/FPGA easier.

Adventures in working with surface mount devices

An ambitious open source hardware project--Amino--recently called for Alan Wood to uplift his home lab to support prototyping, testing and basic production using surface mount devices. Alan will be sharing with us some of the things he has learnt, and giving us a run through what you might require in order to tackle working with surface mount devices yourself. Rather than using expensive off-the-shelf tooling, Alan will be covering a number of affordable approaches that make this possible without breaking the bank.

Alan Wood originally trained in systems engineering, got lost in software engineering and open source for a decade, before returning back to his hardware roots via the open source hardware and makers movement that has gathered momentum over the last few years.

Note: Please aim to arrive for 18:00 - 18:20 as the event will start at 18:30 prompt. Parking is available at the Jennison Building, however, please ensure that you are parked within a bay.

Goes to Canterbury! (Collaboration, building communities, surface mount adventures)

via OSHUG

For our 11th meeting, we are visiting the School of Engineering and Digital Arts at the University of Kent. Trains run regularly to and from central London and take approximately an hour. For anyone wishing to stay overnight please see the list of accommodation.

Open Source Hardware Collaboration

An assessment of the current state of the art in hardware collaboration through a tour of a series of Open Source Hardware projects. How easy is it to discover projects, view and understand their designs, build your own version and contribute changes back?

Paul Downey (psd) is a doodling software hacker, former member of Osmosoft — a small Open Source software team where he represented BT at the W3C, a co-organiser of OSHUG and a co-founder of SolderPad, a collaboration platform for electronic design.

Building open, communicating communities

The hardware engineering community is typically seen as fragmented, closed and conservative, shackled by the dependency on restrictive closed-source tools. Thankfully, we are now at a time where this is changing. In this talk, Saar Drimer will discuss his efforts to bring the FPGA community together so we can reach the level of sharing and project integration that the open source software community currently enjoys. The end goal is to reach a state where projects are integrated in a similar way to what Linux's package mangers enable: "sudo apt-get ddr2-controller". [Background reading].

Saar Drimer is an experienced hardware engineer. In the past he's hacked the UK's Chip and PIN payment system, and advocated reproducible research practices in the engineering sciences. Now he's working on boldport, an "IndieEDA" company that aims to make HW/FPGA easier.

Adventures in working with surface mount devices

An ambitious open source hardware project--Amino--recently called for Alan Wood to uplift his home lab to support prototyping, testing and basic production using surface mount devices. Alan will be sharing with us some of the things he has learnt, and giving us a run through what you might require in order to tackle working with surface mount devices yourself. Rather than using expensive off-the-shelf tooling, Alan will be covering a number of affordable approaches that make this possible without breaking the bank.

Alan Wood originally trained in systems engineering, got lost in software engineering and open source for a decade, before returning back to his hardware roots via the open source hardware and makers movement that has gathered momentum over the last few years.

Note: Please aim to arrive for 18:00 - 18:20 as the event will start at 18:30 prompt. Parking is available at the Jennison Building, however, please ensure that you are parked within a bay.