My Personal PCB Design and Build Process

Quote of the Day

We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like.

— Dave Ramsey. I know people with this approach to money.

Figure 1: My Personal PCB Development Process.

Figure 1: My Personal PCB Development Process.

I have been designing circuits since I was a boy, and my passion for circuits has only grown over time. My home designs focus on sensor interfaces that I hook up to the Internet using Raspberry Pie and Arduino digital interfaces. These open-source HW interfaces make it possible to create incredibly powerful designs at home.

While I love designing and testing circuits, I really do not like wiring up prototypes. Fortunately, we are in the Golden Age of Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design and fabrication for the hobbyist. I now simply upload my designs to vendors like OSP Park or Hackvana and completely avoid the pain of  manual wiring. In fact, I just got back three circuit boards from OSP Park (Figure 2 shows an one assembled PCB), and I am in the middle of debugging them now. This post was motivated by people asking me about how I turn my designs into PCBs.

Figure 1 shows you my personal PCB development process. Since my designs are heavily focused on analog sensor interfaces, I spend quite a bit of time modeling using Mathcad and LTSpice. The rest of the work is done using Kicad and Excel.

The process has worked well. The only process improvements I have planned are related to my managing my part databases (CAD and qualified part lists). I have had some issues with ensuring that my schematic symbols and PCB footprints are correct. I need to develop some tools and a process flow that help me ensure that I only use parts for which I have validated the schematic symbols and PCB footprints.

Figure 2: My Recent OSP Park Purchase (note the purple solder mask).

Figure 2: My Recent OSP Park Purchase. Note the purple solder mask – usually I buy green or red.

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