So you are working on a project that needs a custom circuit. You created a prototype on perf board and it works fine. But what if you want multiple copies of same circuit board? Making the same circuit 10 times and going through all the wiring and troubleshooting can be tiring and boring.
But there is a solution! building a professional Printed Circuit Board (PCB) is fast and cheap these days. In this tutorial I have shared how you can start designing and ordering your own PCBs and turn your projects into professional looking products.
To start building a PCB one first need following things:
- Circuit Diagram: You should always design a rough schematic for your project as a beginner.
- EDA Software: This will help you design the PCB. Here we will use EasyEDA as it is free and good for beginners to learn form.
Creating the Schematics:
First goto EasyEDA and create an account. As it is an online service all the projects are stored on the server hence we need to sign up. After signing up:
On the first page you will notice a blank canvas. On top and left side of the canvas has have some menus and tools that will be used to design the circuit.
- From the Top menu goto Files >> New >> Project.
- Now you will see a pop up. Here enter the name of your project. Then click on save.
- Now you will see a blank canvas. Here you will create the the schematic. To do so first you have to find the required components from the parts library.
- To do that, click on Library from the left tool bar. It will open a window where you can search for the required component.
- Select the desired component from the list and double click to place it on canvas.
- Once the components are dropped onto the canvas, you can start connecting them according to the rough schematic you made.
- To make connection between two pins one can either use a wire or a netport.
In the image above you can see how wires and netport can be used to make connections between two pins. Both can be selected from the wiring tools menu at the bottom right corner.
While using netports, make sure that the ports connecting two pins should have same label.
- After all the connections are made, double check if you have made everything according to your rough diagram.
- Now to design a PCB this schematic needs to be converted. To do that, click on “Design” on the top menu and select “Convert to PCB”. If you get a warning, just click on “No”.
- A new tab will open with a pop up window asking for board dimensions. Here enter the preferred board size and shape.
- On new tab you will find a board outline and component footprints. Now all you have to do is arrange the components. While doing this make sure to keep proper distance and parts that connect together are placed closer.
- Now refer the schematic and connect the components. The track width and clearance can be set from the menu at right side.
- The ideal track width I prefer is 0.5mm but you can refer the following chart to decide which width to use based on the current flow.
- While connecting tracks I avoid GND pins. I rather fill it with copper plane. This helps with giving a good structure to the PCB and dissipates heat from components.
- To that, first complete the routing and select Copper area tool from the PCB tools menu. Click on four corners covering entire PCB. This will create a GND plane.
With that been done, the PCB is ready. Now you just need to test the PCB recheck it and download the gerber files.
Checking Nets and DRC:
Now before converting the PCB into gerber, it is important to check if all connections are made. Also need to check the DRC (Design Rule Checking) to see if there are any problems in the routing. To do so:
- Select “Design Manager” from the left menu.
- First click on the reload symbol next to nets. If you have missed any connection, It will show the error. Clicking on it will highlight the pins missing connection.
- Next click on the reload next to DRC Errors. If there are some design errors like Track clearance or hole diameters, it will highlight those.
When all the design rules are error free, you can make this into a gerber file as explained below:
Converting into Gerber and Ordering PCBs:
After the connections are made and the PCB is routed the only thing to be done is getting the Gerber files. These files are needed by the PCB manufacturers to print the board.
Talking about PCB manufacturers, PCBway is a PCB manufacturer from china that builds custom PCBs with minimum order quantity of 5pcs. They are also the sponsor of this tutorial.
The board I designed earlier was a NE555 based LED flasher circuit used for demonstration purpose. I recently ordered PCBs for another project from PCBWay which I will be posting about soon. But now let’s see how to generate Gerber and order PCBs.
- First click on “Fabrication” option from the top menu and select “PCB fabrication file(Gerber)”.
- You will get a popup asking if you want to check the DRC. If you haven’t done that already, I recommend doing it here else you can click on “Generate Gerber”.
- You will get a window as shown in the image above. Here click on “Generate Gerber” on the bottom right. A Zip file will be downloaded.
- Now head over to PCBway.com and create an account. Next select “PCB instant quote” and click on “Quick-order PCB”.
- Click on “+Add gerber file”, Navigate to the downloaded Zip file and open it. The file will then be uploaded to PCBway for instant quote.
- After upload is done, you can sselect which SolderMask colour you want. I prefer Green or Blue as it gives more professional look to the PCB.
- After selecting preferred colour, select your country from right menu and click on “Save to cart”.
- After adding to cart you will have to wait for it to be reviewed. If there is some error the technicians will let you know and you can edit the files and re-upload it.
- Next you have to fill in your name, address and phone number, place the order and wait for the PCBs to reach your doorstep.
So I received the PCBs after 15 days and at first impression they were amazing. Below I have attached some images of the PCB design, 3D view, PCBs, etc.
I will be sharing a detailed post about this project in future. Till then I hope you liked this tutorial and learnt something new.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comment section. Also I would like to share that we build custom projects and PCB designs, so if you are looking for our service then contact us at email@example.com
Stay creative and stay safe.