Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Custom PCB design complete!

It's always exciting when you create something and test it for the first time.  It's not unlike trying a new baking recipe.  Put yourself in that magical state of limbo where all the ingredients have been mixed, the dish is assembled and has just gone into the oven.  You're confident that you've followed the recipe correctly but you just can't quite silence that little voice in the back of your head telling you that you won't know for sure until the oven timer dings. 

That's where I'm at right now.

I checked and re-checked the PCB design, and when I was finally satisfied that there was nothing else I could do from this end, I submitted my order.  I'm using a site called ExpressPCB.  I've talked to a few people who have used them before and they have had good results, so I'm optimistic.  I can say for certain that their schematic capture and PCB layout software is far easier to use than the alternative (*cough* - Eagle - *cough*).  One other nice thing about this particular PCB service is their unbelievably fast turnaround time.  I expect to see my boards within 4 to 5 business days.

If you're curious, here's what a completed PCB design looks like.

This is a 2-layer Printed Circuit Board (PCB).  That means there are actually two layers of "copper", or conductive metal traces.  These are analogous to the "wires" in a wire-wrapped board.  In the picture above, the green layer is actually printed on the bottom of the board and the red layer is on top.  Note the reversed green text, indicating that this text will appear on the bottom of the board, and will look correct when viewed from underneath.

The yellow text and lines are called a "silkscreen" layer, and are printed last, after the board is completely fabricated.  These markings exist to assist in component alignment and board identification.

The board is designed, and the order placed.  All there is to do now is wait. 

...and I hate waiting. 

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