I recently designed a circuit board for the Mega which had an ADC on board along with connectors for various modules - LCD, Bluetooth, RTC, WiFi, uSD LAN and I2C - a bit of a swiss army knife of PCB’s. Anyhow, all the components are through hole and it takes about half an hour to solder each one. I had them fabricated through a local company but in order to get a good price per board, I needed quite a few and I have sold several on eBay which are being put into various uses.
Now, I’m getting a bit more adventurous and I wanted to try my hand at smd components and I have designed two more boards for a project I am working on. The problem there was that I couldn’t afford to have too many boards made and although I just hate the way your computer knows what you have been looking at and keeps offering you more of the same but I found an advert for a company in China who make 10 prototype PCB boards, up to 100mmX100mm for just 10$ - I actually paid more than that per board for the 80X58mm ones I hade made here.
So I thought I’d give them a go and yesterday the boards arrived - they would have been here much sooner only I was away, I can’t believe how fast they made them!
So if anyone has any aspirations to make yourselves some pcb’s, I would suggest you download the freeware version of Eagle which is fully functional apart from a 100X100mm limitation in board size. Its dead simple to use - or at least I think so. You start with a schematic, add in your components and connect them up with what eagle calls a ‘net’ When you have finished, you go to the board design where you will see all the components you have added connected with a ‘rats nest’ of wires. Move them about until you are happy with the placement and tell Eagle to autoroute. I just wish I’d started using Eagle sooner. Oh and the best ting is its libraries. Say you want to design a shield for the Uno or Mega, well there are ready made libraries with all the correct placements of pins etc. I cant tell you how long it took me placing the connectors on my first project before I found Eagle.
Anyhow, once you’ve made your design, pop along to www.pcbgogo.com/e and get yourself 10 shiny new pcb’s to assemble. The people there are really helpful