The world of customized electronics is no longer open only to certified technicians and computer experts.
With a little knowledge, anyone can design and create their own printed circuit boards (PCBs) that can power any number of new and innovative devices.
If you are considering your own PCB assembly project, you will want to know a little bit about designing the layout for your board.
Whether you are a novice, have some experience with DIY Arduino systems, or have a background in electronics, there are a few things you should remember while you try to realize your circuit board dreams.
Define Your Purpose
Rather than move ahead with just a vague idea of making a device, you should brainstorm to figure out what precisely you want your new PCB to do. As you explore its functions, make a list of each possible step and how they work together. Once you figure out all the components to your plan, you can start putting individual circuits together.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
If there already circuit designs that will accomplish some of the functions you want, you may as well use them (providing they are freely available, of course). A variety of websites have collection of free circuit diagrams that you can borrow from to speed up your own designing.
Use the Right Software
This isn’t something you draw out with your usual graphic design software, you’ll need a proper CAD program. Though there are too many options to list, you can take a look at DesignSpark PCB, SoftEagle or EasyEDA for some popular options. If you are planning on using your design files to have your board manufactured elsewhere, make sure you are going to end up with the right file format in the end.
Using dedicated software that is specifically for PCBs means you will have proper tools for organizing all of the components, traces, and vias as well as manage your board layers.
Getting the Board Made
The design and layout are only the first parts of your project; you should have some idea on how you’re going to make your PCB a physical reality once you are done with the design. You actually have more options than you might realize. There are many places that will make prototype PCBs for a very low cost (as in just a few dollars each).
As mentioned in the last tip, if you find a place that does PCB assembly, establish what file formats they need for your CAD files before you begin so you can choose the correct software. It would be a shame to design a perfect board, only to find you can’t get someone to produce it.
If it all still seems a little daunting, you can master the art of board and circuit design with all of the online tutorials available for free around the Internet. You’d be surprised how much technical information you can gather up, and get your PCB project started even if you aren’t an expert.