The problem is well-known: programming and debug headers consume valuable board space and the connectors cost money. Especially troublesome are the ubiquitous 100-mil pin headers, not because they’re expensive, but because they’re huge, especially along the z-axis. If you’re building miniature devices, these things can take up a ridiculous amount of space. With some clever thinking, [Simon Merrett] has found a way to re-use something many of us already have — an SOIC-8 test clip — to connect to a special footprint on the PCB without requiring another connector. He calls the system SOICbite.
The SOIC clip attaches to a footprint consisting of eight pads, four on each side of the PCB, plus five non-plated-through holes, which serve to anchor the clip in place. The idea of mating a PCB footprint directly with a removable connector isn’t entirely new — Tag Connect has been doing this for a while, but the connectors are expensive and single-sourced. On the other hand, SOIC test clips of varying quality are available from a number of vendors, including dirt-cheap deals on your favorite websites. The one disadvantage we can see is that the SOICbite footprint must be at the edge of the PCB to properly mate with the clip. The savings in space and cost may well make up for this, however.
[Simon] has made his KiCAD footprint available in a GitHub repo, and has offered to host footprints for any other CAD package there as well. So, fire up your preferred tool and draw one up for him to get these things widely adopted, because we think this is a great idea.
For the commercial alternative, check out our coverage of Tag Connect back in 2014.