DIY Circuit Boards Look Professional

Professional Looking DIY PCB Boards

Making PCBs at home is a great means to get your prototype up and running without having to wait weeks for a professionally made board. Regardless if these prototype boards are milled or etched, they are easily identified as ‘home brew’ due to their ‘unfinished’ appearance. [HomeDIY&Stuff] has put together a little how-to on the process for making DIY PCBs look a little closer to a professionally manufactured board.

The process starts out with designing the board in a PCB program. There are a lot of these programs available. Eagle is a popular choice and has a free version available. Once the layout it finalized, the design is printed out on a transparent sheet of plastic. A blank copper-clad PCB board that already has a UV sensitive coating applied are available for purchase and is what is used in this example. The transparency is placed over the PCB blank and then exposed to UV light. The coating on the PCB cures where ever the UV light passes through the open areas of the transparency.

Once the transparency is removed, there is a noticeable difference in coating color where it has cured. This board is now placed in a developer solution that removes the un-cured UV sensitive coating. A Ferric Chloride acid bath then etches away at the now-exposed copper. The cured coating from the previous step protects the copper at the trace locations during the etch process. The result is a board with copper where you want it and none where you don’t. If the board has any through-hole components, this would be the time to drill those holes.

Up to this point the process has been pretty standard for homemade PCBs and the next part is certainly the most interesting but, unfortunately, is also the worst documented step; the solder mask and silk screening. It appears that two silk screens are produced, one for the solder mask and one for the silk screen. The artwork for making the silk screens can be output from the PCB design software. There is no mention of the solder mask material used but oil-based silk screen ink is specified. Although the details are lacking, the photos show that it works pretty well. If you have had any experience with silk screening DIY PCBs, let us know in the comments.

Mains Power Detector For A Thing For Internet

inductor The Internet of Things is fast approaching, and although no one can tell us what that actually is, we do know it has something to do with being able to control appliances and lights or something. Being able to control something is nice, but being able to tell if a mains-connected appliance is on or not is just as valuable. [Shane] has a really simple circuit he’s been working on to do just that: tell if something connected to mains is on or not, and relay that information over a wireless link.

There are two basic parts of [Shane]‘s circuit – an RLC circuit that detects current flowing through a wire, This circuit is then fed into an instrumentation amplifier constructed from three op-amps. The output of this goes through a diode and straight to the ADC of a microcontroller, ready for transmission to whatever radio setup your local thingnet will have.

It’s an extremely simple circuit and something that could probably be made with less than a dollar’s worth of parts you could find in a component drawer. [Shane] has a great demo of this circuit connected to a microcontroller, you can check that out below.

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The Disintegrated Op Amp

741By now we’ve all seen the ‘Three Fives’ kit from Evil Mad Scientist, a very large clone of the 555 timer built from individual transistors and resistors. You can do a lot more in the analog world with discrete parts, and [Shane]‘s SevenFortyFun is no exception: it’s a kit with a board, transistors, and resistors making a very large clone of the classic 741 op-amp, with all the parts laid bard instead of encapsulated in a brick of plastic.

[Shane] was inspired by the analog greats – [Bob Pease], [Jim Williams], and of course [Bob Widlar], and short of mowing his lawn with goats, the easiest way to get a feel for analog design was to build some analog circuits out of individual components.

[Shane] has a few more kits in mind: a linear dropout and switching regulators are on the top of the list, as is something like the Three Fives kit, likely to be used to blink giant LEDs.

The Cheapest Crystal Oven

oven

The crystals you’ll find attached to microcontrollers or RTCs are usually accurate to 100 parts per million at most, but that still means if you’re using one of these crystals as a clock’s time base, you could lose or gain a second per day. For more accuracy without an atomic clock, a good solution is an oven controlled crystal oscillator – basically, a temperature controlled crystal. It’s not hard to build one, and as [Roman] demonstrates, can be built with a transistor and a few resistors.

The heating element for this OCXO are just a few resistors placed right on the can of a crystal. A thermistor senses the heat, and with more negative feedback than the Hackaday comments section, takes care of regulating the crystal’s temperature. A trimpot is used for calibrating the temperature, but once everything is working that can be replaced with a fixed resistor.

This deadbugged circuitry is then potted in five minute epoxy. That’s a bit unconventional as far as thermal management goes, but the results speak for themselves: [Roman] can get a clock with this circuit accurate to a few seconds per year.

TI’s New Family Of WiFi Chips

cccc Texas Instruments’ CC3000 WiFi chip is the darling of everyone producing the latest and greatest Internet of Thing, and it’s not much of a surprise: In quantity, these chips are only $10 a piece. That’s a lot less expensive than the WiFi options a year ago. Now, TI is coming out with a few new modules to their WiFi module family, including one that includes an ARM micro.

The CC3000 has found a home in booster packs, breakout boards for the Arduino, and Spark, who are actually some pretty cool dudes.Still, the CC3000 has a few shortcomings; 802.11n isn’t available, and it would be really cool if the CC3000 had a web server on it.

The newest chips add these features and a whole lot more. [Valkyrie] got his hands on a CC3100Boost board and was pleased to find all the files for the webserver can be completely replaced. Here’s your Internet of Things, people. The CC3200 is even better, with a built-in ARM Cortex M4 with ADCs, a ton of GPIOs, an SD card interface, and even a parallel port for a camera. If you’re looking to pull a hardware startup out of your hat, you might want to plan your Kickstarter around this chip.

It’s all very cool stuff, and although the bare chips aren’t available yet, you can get an eval module from TI, with an FCC certified module with the crystals and antenna coming later this year.

Developed on Hackaday: Demonstration Video and Feedback Request

For months our dear Hackaday readers have been following the Mooltipass password keeper’s adventures, today we’re finally publishing a first video of it in action. This is the fruit of many contributors’ labor, a prototype that only came to be because of our motivation for open hardware and our willingness to spend much (all!) of our spare time on an awesome project that might be just good enough to be purchased by others. We’ve come a long way since we started this project back in December.

In the video embedded above, we demonstrate some of our platform’s planned functionalities while others are just waiting to be implemented (our #1 priority: PIN code entering…). A quick look at our official GitHub repository shows what it took to get to where we are now. What’s next?

We need your input so we can figure out the best way to get the Mooltipass in the hands of our readers, as our goal is not to make money. The beta testers batch has just been launched into production and I’ll be traveling to Shenzhen in two weeks to meet our assembler. When materials and fabrication are taken into account we expect each device to cost approximately $80, so please take 3 seconds of your time to answer the poll embedded below :

An Online Course For FPGA And CPLD Development

FPGA

Over on the University of Reddit there’s a course for learning all about FPGAs and CPLDs. It’s just an introduction to digital logic, but with a teacher capable of building a CPLD motor control board and a video card out of logic chips, you’re bound to learn something.

The development board being used for this online course is an Altera EMP3032 CPLD conveniently included in the Introduction to FPGA and CPLD kit used in this course. It’s not a powerful device by any measure; it only has 32 macrocells and about 600 usable gates. You won’t be designing CPUs with this thing, but you will be able to grasp the concept of designing logic with code.

Future lessons include building binary counters, PWM-controlled LEDs, and a handheld LED POV device. In any event, it’s a great way to learn about how programmable logic actually works, and a fairly cheap way to get into the world of FPGAs and CPLDs. Introductory video below.

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