Wednesday, March 27, 2013

More Nerdy PCB Stuff

So, if you are nerdy (like me), and you're curious about making your own PCB's for your projects, you might be interested in our experience designing the Hall Effect Unit PCB.

There's tons of software out there for PCB development, the consensus among most hobbyists seems to be either Eagle CAD or KiCAD.  My own preference ended up being KiCAD, for one it's free (gpl) and free ($$), also it runs under several Linux distros, and after using it a bit, I liked the component library editor better than Eagle's (critical, since unless you have a large commercial library at your disposal, you are going to be making a lot of your own component models, which is annoying but pretty easy with a good editor).   There are plenty of tutorials available for both KiCAD and Eagle, I won't bore you with details, I found this one for KiCAD to be pretty useful.

The whole process, from an idea, to completion of all CAD work took me about 8 hours (that includes installing KiCAD and Eagle and then deciding on KiCAD, messing around with a tutorial, creating 2 library components, and then creating the schematic and board).  It's really pretty doable / even easy, or at least I hope it was, this was my first PCB design, so we'll see if all the components actually fit on the thing when we build one.

The final output from the CAD design flow is a set of gerber data files (one per board layer) that describe where you want copper or not when the board is etched, plus a drill file for the vias.  This is all that's really needed to manufacture one of these boards.  For a two layer board its very straightforward, but sorta cool looking, see screenshots from my gerber viewer for the Hall Effect board ...

Top Layer

Drill File

Bottom Layer

No comments:

Post a Comment