Tag Archives: PCB

Master Your Arduino Skills With Arduino Playground Book

Are you an experienced maker who are looking for more advanced Arduino skills to get?

Warren Andrews, an experienced engineer and journalist, wrote a new book that walks makers through building 10 outside-the-box projects, helping them advance their engineering and electronics know-how. With this book, makers will delve more deeply into hardware design, electronics, and programming.

The “Arduino Playground: Geeky Projects for the Curious Maker” book is published by the Geek book publisher, No Starch Press. Projects inside the book provide a way to build new things that vary between practical and fun.

Content of the book

The book has 11 chapters, the first one is a warm up, it contains a quick guide to get the Arduino ready, prepare the IDE and try some sketches, making DIY PCBs, and using SOICs. Each chapter of the other 10 chapters is a project chapter that starts with listing the required tools, components, and software, followed by detailed instructions of the build containing all sketches and board templates. There are also author’s design notes, which are sure to provide inspiration for your own inventions.

  • Chapter 0: Setting Up and Useful Skills
  • Chapter 1: The Reaction-Time Machine
    A reaction-time game that leverages the Arduino’s real-time capabilities
  • Chapter 2: An Automated Agitator for PCB Etching
    A tool for etching your own printed circuit boards
  • Chapter 3: The Regulated Power Supply
    A regulated, variable-voltage power supply
  • Chapter 4: A Watch Winder
    A kinetic wristwatch winder decked out with LEDs
  • Chapter 5: The Garage Sentry Parking Assistant
    A garage parking assistant that blinks when your vehicle is perfectly parked
  • Chapter 6: The Battery Saver
    A battery saver that prevents accidental discharge
  • Chapter 7: A Custom pH Meter
  • A practical and colorful pH meter
  • Chapter 8: Two Ballistic Chronographs
    A ballistic chronograph that can measure the muzzle velocity of BB, Airsoft, and pellet guns
  • Chapter 9: The Square-Wave Generator
    A square-wave generator
  • Chapter 10: The Chromatic Thermometer
    A thermometer that tells the temperature using a sequence of colored LEDs


“Arduino Playground is not for the faint of heart. Unless the faint of heart person plans to build a pacemaker with Arduino!” —ScienceBlogs

“This is a book designed for Arduino enthusiasts who’ve mastered the basics, conquered the soldering iron, and programmed a robot or two. Warren Andrews shows you how to keep your hardware hands busy.” —I Programmer

The book is available for $30 on No Starch Press and Amazon. You can view the detailed table of contents and the index, and also you can download Chapter 4: A Watch Winder, and the sketches, templates, and PCB files used in this book.

PCB-Investigator Now Supports Browser-Based PCB Design Review

PCB-Investigator is a CAD software developed by EasyLogix for circuit board design and PCB quality assurance. Its latest version came earlier in February with a new browser interface that enables electronics assemblers to do PCB review processes without the need for local installation.

By using the ODB++ data format, PCB-Investigator creates a common database, which documents every change, and is accessible to everyone involved in the development, quality assurance and production process. With the software’s comprehensive visualization, export and import capabilities, all layout reviews are easier. Errors can be fixed earlier and prototypes can be reduced. Further improvements in version 8.0 are an improved component library with editor capability as well as clearance and creepage distance measurement.


Low profile target connectors, 2.21mm above the board

Make Your Own Arduino Nano In The Simplest Way (DIY – Arduino Nano)

In today’s post, we are going to learn how to make an Arduino nano at home. Electronics enthusiast Pratik Makwana designed this project in instructables.com. Every step in this project is well-explained. If you already don’t know what Arduino Nano is then here is a brief introduction: Arduino Nano is a tiny yet strong member of the Arduino family. It’s powered by an ATMega328P microcontroller running on 16MHz. But, the main strength is its very small form factor.

Arduino Nnao
Arduino Nano

Now, let’s get started and make your own Arduino Nano in no time.


  • Copper clad board (Double-sided)
  • Ferric Chloride (FeCl3)
  • Acetone (Nail polish remover)
  • Glossy Paper
  • LASER Printer
  • Marker Pen
  • Scissors
  • Plastic container
  • Sandpaper
  • Safety gloves (Optional)
  • Latex gloves
  • Saw – For copper board cutting
  • Laminator or iron
  • Components of Arduino Nano (Given later)

PCB Designing:

This is a very important step of this tutorial. You need to draw the circuit of Arduino Nano first. Then you’ll design the PCB using the schematic. Design the schematic diagram in an EDA tool (Electronic design automation Software).
Here is a list of EDA Tools:

EAGLE is the most widely used PCB and schematic design software. Though my personal favorite is Proteus. You can use any software from the list.

Importing the Schematic File to PCB Editor
Importing the Schematic File to PCB Editor

To make the schematic, use the Arduino Nano Circuit Diagram and Arduino Nano Components List. Once it’s drawn completely, open the PCB designing part of the software and you’ll see that schematic is imported there. Now place the components in correct places and connect them using traces. If you are using EAGLE then you can simply download the Arduino Nano Schematic File for EAGLE and Arduino Nano PCB File for EAGLE. Open the .brd file (PCB file) to print the PCB. You can also modify it if you wish.

Place the parts in correct position
Place the parts in correct position
Connect the components and the PCB is ready
Connect the components and the PCB is ready


  • Use Only Laser printer only.
  • Use glossy papers to print.
  • Set scale factor to 1.
  • Before top layer printing, you need to mirror the image of the top layer layout.

Cut The Copper Clad Board:

Now, cut the copper clad board according to the dimensions of the PCB. You can use a hacksaw to cut it off. Be precise about the dimensions. If it’s smaller than the actual PCB then you have to do it again. Also, cut the printed glossy paper as per the size of PCB.

Cut the copper clad board using a hacksaw
Cut the copper clad board using a hacksaw

Toner Transfer and Etching Process:

In this step, the PCB design from glossy paper will be transferred to the copper board. All you need to do is place the printed side of the glossy paper on the copper board and apply both pressure and heat. You can use a modified laminator machine or an iron for this purpose. Why “modified”? Because toner transfer method requires a temperature of 210°C, where a laminator can provide 150°C maximum.

Put the board in FeCl3 solution for a while
Put the board in FeCl3 solution for a while

Make your copper clad board as clean as possible beforehand. You can use sandpaper and alcohol to do this. When the toner is transferred successfully, prepare the ferric chloride (FeCl3) solution. Before putting the board into the solution check carefully for any broken path. If found, draw it with a marker. After the etching process, use the acetone to clean the board.

After washing the PCB with Acetone
After washing the PCB with Acetone

Drilling & Soldering:

Drill the PCB using PCB drill machine. Choose the drill bit wisely else components may not fit. Now, place the components on the PCB and solder them. You can use a helping hand device to get it done nicely.

Upper layer of PCB
Upper layer of PCB
Lower layer of PCB
Lower layer of PCB

Burning The Arduino Bootloader:

In this step, you’ll need another Arduino board (e.g. Arduino UNO) to burn the bootloader to your newly made Arduino Nano for the first time. Open Arduino IDE and upload the ArduinoISP sketch to the Arduino UNO from examples option. Now, connect your Arduino Nano with Arduino UNO over SPI bus following the given instructions:

  • Arduino UNO     >>    Arduino Nano
  • ——————————————-
  • SS (Pin 10)         >>     RESET (Pin 29)
  • MISO (Pin 11)    >>     MISO (Pin 16)
  • MOSI (Pin 12)    >>    MOSI (Pin 15)
  • SCK (Pin 13)       >>    SCK (Pin 17)
  • 5V                         >>    VCC
  • GND                    >>    GND
Follow this instruction to burn bootloader
Follow this instruction to burn bootloader

After making the connections, go to Arduino IDE and follow the given instructions:

  1. Select Tool  >>  Board  >>  Arduino Nano
  2. Select Tool  >>  Port  >>  Select your Arduino UNO COM Port
  3. Select Tool  >>  Programmer  >>  Arduino as ISP
  4. Select Tool  >>  Burn Bootloader

Wait for the “Done burning bootloader” message to appear.


Well, your Arduino Nano is now ready for a test run. This time you won’t need another Arduino to upload codes. Follow the instructions and connect a USB to TTL converter (a.k.a USB to UART converter) with the Arduino nano to upload sketches.

  • USB to TTL Converter (CP2102)  >>  Arduino Nano
  • —————————————————————-
  • VCC        >>     VCC
  • TX          >>    RX (Pin 30)
  • RX         >>    TX (Pin 31)
  • DTR      >>    RESET (Pin 29)
  • GND     >>    GND
  1. After making the connections, go to Arduino IDE and perform the following tasks:
  2. Select File  >>  Examples  >>  01.Basics  >>  Blink
  3. Select Tool  >>  Board  >>  Arduino Nano
  4. Select Tool  >>  Port  >>  Select your Arduino UNO COM Port
  5. Select Tool  >>  Programmer  >>  AVRISP MKII

After that, upload Blink Sketch to Arduino Nano and wait for the “Done Uploading” message. LED connected to pin 13 should blink if everything is OK. Now you can upload any sketch you wish to your home made Arduino Nano.


So, this is how you can make your Arduino Nano. All you need for this project is PCB designing skill and a pretty good soldering skill as you have to deal with SMD components. This way you can make custom Arduino Nano that will fit your project perfectly. Watch the video to have a more clear idea:


Upverter, The Online Hardware Design Hub

If you are a hardware DIY enthusiast who is interested in open source hardware and want to share projects and designs, you have to learn more about Upverter.


Upverter is a web-based EDA (Electronic Design Automation) system which enables hardware engineers to design, share, and review schematics and PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards). It does for open-source hardware design what GitHub have done for open-source software development, providing a collaboration platform. And also offers a Wikipedia-like electronic-component libraries which would ease the burden of electronic design substantially.

Upveter’s Tools and Services:

  • Schematic Design

Upverter’s Schematic Capture tool is a simple editor that features a real-time syncing and error catching, which enables the teams to work on the same design at the same time. In addition, the in-design search allows you to find a part, net, or an attribute in your design.

  • PCB Layout

Intelligent and responsive PCB layout editor, tightly integrated with the Schematic Capture tool to create an efficient work environment. The netlist and footprint updates appear automatically so that there is no need to manually import the changes.

  • System Design

This tool enables engineers to capture their high-level ideas without losing them as the design moves forward. It allows them to create system architecture, alongside the circuit diagram and PCB layout design.

  • Real-time Collaboration

A very important feature for teams that makes them able to work and develop the designs together, at the same time, and from different places. With Upverter’s automated version control, every action by a team member is logged, synced, and stored, enabling infinite redo/undo stack and quick jump back to a previous instance.

  • Verified Parts Library

A growing and updated large library with the ability to create or order your parts if you couldn’t find them. For accuracy of the schematic symbol, footprint, and key part attributes, Upverter verifies all the parts’ designs, removing the risk of symbol and footprint errors.

  • 3D Rendering & Export

Upverter helps hardware designers to visualize their boards as a real, three dimensional objects before sending them to manufacturing. The rendering is automated and does not need time. You can also export your model in many file types to bring your product to the real world.

The service is free for open-source circuits and boards enabling most features, the professional and premium plans allow private project with access to more features starting from $1,200 per year.

Sign-up and start explore Upverter more by yourself.


EAGLE Is Now Released By Autodesk

After acquiring CadSoft in June 2016, Autodesk released a new version of EAGLE with new features that improve program functions and a new pricing plan.

The new version of Eagle added a modular design blocks feature to the schematic editor that allows you to quickly replicate sections of circuitry between multiple projects. Even better, any change you make stays synchronized between your schematics and PCB.

The route engine comes with new, interactive routing features that make it easy to design beautifully precise PCB layouts. It includes a whole set of trace clean-up tools that makes it much easier to tidy up your board and make adjustments to existing paths. There is also an automated loop removal, cornering for super-smooth tracks, quick and easy via placement while routing.

Autodesk said that upgrading EAGLE will be available as a monthly or yearly subscription, providing continuous updates and better support, and it said to be budget friendly. Which means that users will get more consistent and frequent updates backed with dedicated support from the PCB design pros at Autodesk, and cheaper than buying a cup of coffee every day for a year.

Eagle Pricing Table

Many Eagle users found it a bad deal, because having the old Standard option will cost $100/year instead of the one-time $69 payment. Autodesk also killed the lower cost options for non-commercial use, what used to be a $169 version that was positioned for hobbyists.

“We know it’s not easy paying a lump sum for software updates every few years. It can be hard on your budget, and you never know when you need to have funds ready for the next upgrade.”

You can download the free version from here, but for anyone using Eagle for commercial purposes this is a big change. Even if you agree with the new pricing, a subscription model means you never actually own the software. This model will require licensing software that needs to phone home periodically and can be killed remotely. If you need to look back at a design a few years from now, you better hope that your subscription is valid, that Autodesk is still running the license server, and that you have an active internet connection.

KiCad appears as the alternative software for Eagle users, and many of the PCB designers planned to start using it as it has been improving steadily in the past years.

ICStripBoard – PCB rapid prototyping tool


ICStripBoard is a innovative cheap tool to enable rapid prototyping of surface mount integrated circuits (IC’s) and allow their usage in prototype electronics projects.

Inline surface mount IC’s come in a Variety of packages which are different sizes and these Printed Circuit Boards (PCB’s) have been designed to accommodate the majority of IC’s. Available in the four standard IC pitches (space between IC pins) of 0.5mm, 0.65mm, 0.95mm and 1.27mm. These boards have been designed as long strips on thin (half the standard thickness) 0.8mm FR4 boards which can easily be cut to the correct amount of pins which the IC in question has. This allows the strip to be cut for multiple IC’s on multiple projects.

The cut pieces can easily be soldered and glued to other prototyping products and in conjunction with traditional through hole components can be used to create unique electronic prototypes. These boards will allow you to experiment with multiple IC’s without having to build PCB’s and is far cheaper than buying alternative break out boards due to the fact you cut them to size and the pattern repeats down the strip allowing this to be done multiple times. (more…)

Panelizing made easy in Eagle

Sjaak shared a tip for panelizing PCB boards in Eagle:

Panelizing is done by machining a slot between two or more boards, but keep them attached by a small amount of PCB material (mousebites). I used to do it by hand: generated all the schematics into multiple sheets and then route the board and finally add the slots with mousebites in the PCB editor. I generally use slotwidth of 50 mil and the smallest drill possible (12 mil) 12.5 mil apart as breakingline. I tend to place the mousebites about 2cm from each other to maintain PCB strength.

Panelizing made easy in Eagle – [Link]

Circuit Board Design for Beginners

By: Alex Danovich,President San Francisco Circuits

We live in an exciting time where we see a resurgence in electronics as a hobby. Mass production has wiped out a generation or two of kids learning to build radios from scratch with their mom or dad. In the good old days, not sure when, you had companies like Heathkit walk you through building a full size color TV at home, for example. “Yes, I made that!” you’d proudly exclaim to yourself after hours of work.

What’s causing this hobbyist resurgence?

  • Television shows such as How it’s Made, Mythbusters and other programming on TLC.
  • Websites such as instructables.com, hackaday.com, and specialized hobbyist blogs.
  • Interest in RC cars, robotics, gaming, computers etc.
  • Advent of Arduino boards, modules and free software.
  • Open source software/hardware.
  • The whole maker movement in general.

So what does this have to do with making circuit boards?

Well, it’s now easy and fairly cheap to make a nice circuit board for your project without a lot of fuss. So you want to get the kids away from the TV and build a fun, blinking LED project for your kids? Gone are the days of tedious hand wiring, empty coffee cups, smoking components and unprintable words; they’re now replaced with easy online applications.

In times past, I would sketch out a circuit on a raw copper board using a Sharpie pen. Then I dipped it in a bath of some nice toxic Ferric Chloride from Radio Shack and waited and waited. After a long while, you removed the board and then hand drilled the work of art. To prevent corrosion, you rubbed some silver powder on it. Finally, stuff the board and there it is. Your mom (or wife) is now furious over the stains, mess and the stink you just created. But there it is. You let out a great sigh of personal satisfaction.

Fast forward to post-dinosaur times.

The Steps to Glory

  1. There are several good choices for a free schematic and circuit board design program. I prefer Eagle. Lots of hobbyists and pros use it so there are lots of free designs and tutorials available. The free version is somewhat limited but very useful for smaller work. What’s nice is that if you like this as a hobby, you can progress to the “pro” version.
  2. Next you will have to find a “board house” to make the boards. The author of this article is a good place to start for a free quote – San Francisco Circuits.  SFCircuits is a full service PCB fabrication and PCB assembly provider  from hobbyist to military grade work with some helpful tutorials in the PCB School section. Who knows – you just might go from blinking LED project one day to a nice ICBM with them. Impress the neighbors?
  3. Once you have a board on its way, consider it time for buying assembly parts from Digikey or Mouser. They are great distributors and cater to hobbyists with smaller quantities with good pricing. It’s so much better than Radio Shack which carries less and less useful components lately. However, you must be careful buying integrated circuits, resistors, capacitors, etc. online as they come in a dizzying array of sizes.

Design Considerations

  1. Sketch out on paper what your PCB will look like.  Do you need holes for mounting? Do you have a box in mind? You can get a nice plastic case with battery compartments from Pactec. Did you leave room for connectors to stick out? Make sure you leave clearance for taller components. Part of the trick is to visualize all the pieces and how they fit. Make sure you have clearance for your soldering iron as well.
  2. It’s best to do a single-sided circuit board. You have connection traces between the components on the top side only. A double-sided board can get complicated for first timers. For sensitive analog and high speed digital circuits, consider adding a ground place area on the backside.
  3. Once your layout is done, a critical step is to verify every trace. Adding jumper wires later is not fun. The traditional method is to print the schematic and start in one corner with your favorite highlighter color. Verify every line. A very important thing to remember is that some schematic packages hide the chips’ power lines for clarity. So you may have chips with no power.

An alternate method is to create a “netlist.” This is a point to point list of every connection (more highlighter). A really smart thing is to allow the layout software (if it supports it) to do an automated netlist check. It will give you a list of all the errors, a much faster solution. I like to do some of the manual method as a sanity check to make sure all is well. There is a lot to think about. Some places sell scrap boards to check your soldering skills or to make art out of other folks’ mistakes. Do your best to avoid it.

So cross your fingers, say your prayers and away you go.

Now aren’t hose blinking LEDs pretty cool?

“Yes, I made that”.

This article was written as a guest post by San Francisco Circuits, a PCB solutions provider located in Northern California.

Layout software eases 3D prototype production


A manufacturer and service provider for PCB prototyping, Beta LAYOUT has developed a 3D MID CAD program to speed up the prototyping and small-series manufacturing of 3D Mechatronic Interconnect Devices (MIDs). by Julien Happich @ edn-europe.com:

Circuit carriers of the three-dimensional circuit boards are produced at Beta LAYOUT using 3D printing. This eliminates the need for costly injection moulding dies, as commonly used in series production. After this, the MID components are processed on a special production line using laser direct structuring, and then assembled.

Layout software eases 3D prototype production – [Link]