Prototyping PCB and Assembly Service


#3

http://www.oshpark.com is the Bees knees for PCBs… hah, good rhyme. Def use 'em for proto PCBs that you are going to hand build a few of yourself.

If you have to build a bunch, you MAY want to upgrade to a contract manufacturer… there are two proto low volume places that I know of.

Try these guys… I keep hearing good things about them:
http://www.smallbatchassembly.com/

Also I keep seeing ads for this company and would like to give them a try:
http://aa-pcbassembly.com/


#4

What sort of equipment should I buy to get started with smt work to make it easy and doable?

Brands and models will be welcome to make a smart investment without investing too much but good equipment for life.


#5

About 10 years back I had the same question about what to use. Thankfully I had a mentor who provided some great advice, which is mostly where this post comes from.

For hand soldering, I ended up getting a Hakko 936 Soldering Station with a Hakko 900S pencil tip. I use this with some very fine solder (0.46mm Element 14 Link). I also ordered a series of metallic tweezers. The tweezers are essential, and you will need some that stay open and some that stay closed unless opened. They can be long but need to be fine.

When designing the PCB’s use 0805 parts or larger if you can. I recently had a PCB designed where the designer used a heap of 0402 parts (1mm x 0.5mm) and did not realise until after I had sent the PCB to manufacture. This is just too small. One technique for soldering is to put a tiny bit of solder on the pads, place the part and reflow the solder, adding more if needed.

Reflow works too, depending on what you are soldering. For this you will need some solder paste and a teflon frypan, at least to start out. Since stuff is toxic, I have engraved mine saying it should not be used for food, but then I cook my parts on the stove. I did a board which included a small bluetooth carrier board, and had a 5% failure rate, probably removing the parts from the frypan. Putting parts in and out probably needs a one of those kitchen implements to get pickled onions out of jars.

I have yet to use a solder paste stencil… Might be a time saver for larger boards.

Depending on your age, a good set of magnifying glasses might help too. Or a camera with HDMI output and a monitor. Etc. I have yet to work out how to properly use a solder rework station, except for removing through hole parts, blowing solder away from pins…

And if you are doing SMD, pace yourself. Your eyes can get sore, so don’t do too many in one go, and have good breaks.

Darryl


#6

Hot air tool

Solder paste (use a toothpick to apply)

0603 are not that small :wink:

Magnifier lamp (I hand-built a Spark Core with this)
http://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/MLU-8093-B/MLU-8093-B-ND/3528160

Sparkfun and Adafruit don’t sell the better Hakko iron, but do have the cheap one:

Better! FX-951

This tip is the biznass!

T12-JL02 Shape-0.2JL
http://www.hakko.com/english/products/hakko_fx951_tips.html

Panavise Jr.

Tweezers (these are ok… but if you want to get fancy for life speed $25 on a pair from Techni-Tool)

I’m sure I can ramble on and on about this… but these are some core essentials…

Oh, forget RoHS lead-free solder if you want to make life easy on yourself.

Flux pens…

Flux bottles…

Arghh! one of everything!


#7

I recommend tacky flux if you are doing some fine pitch SMD. I was a recent convert to this stuff and it works great. Get the non-clean stuff to save you messing about cleaning the boards although that is quite easy with a tooth brush and some suitable cleaning fluid. :smile:

For board manufacture I should add MyroPCB who are based in Canada but use population houses in China. Are willing and able to handle small quantities too.


#8

I should add, for a reasonably priced hot air and soldering station, look for the ATTEN 8586. Lots on eBay and I have found it to be very good quality for such a low price. The hot air pencil will be worth its weight in gold when you first have to remove any SMD component from a board. I’ve even used this to remove an incorrect 200 pin DIMM socket from a board with no damage to the PCB. :smile:


#9

You guys all rock!

Im ordering parts as I write this.

I am going to start with the hot air re-work station, and the magnifying glass stuff… I will save some money and buy other stuff later.

For my current project, I am going to enlist the helps of some new friends I found on the site. :smile:

I am working on the PCB layout now… Wish me luck! and Thanks for your help!


#10

To add to the other PCB places, check out DFRobot and Seeed Studio for getting boards made. I’ve used them both for 2 and 4 layer boards and the quality is great. DFRobot will even do boards larger than the website shows as a custom offer but still very competitive.


#11

What do you guys think of this?


#12

Try elecrow.com as well. Just make sure to pay for shipping and not rely on the Chinese postal service…


#13

Too expensive and not useful enough… I don’t think you are going to be able to print really high quality PCBs with that… still can’t do double sided easily… and I’m not sold on the video. I question whether or not it’s really working that well. Hardly any updates since the Kickstarter ended, and comments from backers also just kind of stop from last year! Weird. For that kind of money you could buy a TON!!! of awexome pcbs from OSHPark.com :wink: A TON!!!


#14

I Agree!..

But I can’t wonder if this could be the future of PCB prototyping? (Not this of course, but something like that)…

Any how… It would be amazing when economically and practically feasible to print your own pcbs… That easy of course.


#15

A cheap cnc mill from china will give good results too plus you can make other things with it too


#16

Any recommendations? Seems like a good idea for other things too.


#17

http://www.aliexpress.com/item/2013-hot-sell-220-110VAC-CNC-2015-ROUTER-ENGRAVER-ENGRAVING-DRILLING-MILLING-MACHINE/771075171.html

That’s about as small and cheap as they come, perfect for PCB prototyping

I built my first one about 5 years ago, they are not too hard to make. I’m in the process of building #3… a bigger better one now, well i was until the spark came along and stole all my time. One day ill finish it off. its designed to be universal… laser cutter, 3d printer, router, pick and place all in one :slight_smile:


#18

There’s also the Othermill if you wanna spend some bucks:
http://store.othermachine.co/products/othermill


#19

@BDub,

Lady Ada messed with the Othermill on 4th July! :smiley:

I went to check the price and was like… :broken_heart:


#20

Wow… Looks super nice…

Quick question… Will the CNC work by etching the copper in the pcb blanks and make the routes and drilling holes or only drill holes and I have to make the etching by chemical process?

If it does the etching by machining will I be able to do SMD pitch with a machine like this?

Thanks for all the help… I really appreciate it!!


#21

there is 2 ways you can go. etch first then drill with the cnc, this will give you the neatest results if you do a good etching job. or if your lazy (like me) you can do isolation routing, use a small v tip and take out a small strip between tracks. how small you go is only limited by how flat your machine is and the size and quality of your tip. the results still look really good but sometimes the fibreglass of the pcb can be cut a bit deep. on my old CNC there was a bit of runout and one side of a large PCB (2’ sq) would be perfect and the other side would be cut a bit too deep, but its all about taking the time to set things up and leveling properly

Depending on how big the circuit is either way could be quicker too. small stuff is easily and quickly done by cnc. if your doing an A4 page of circuits and there are 1000’s of tracks etching is the way to go, or getting it made professionally.


#23

I used PCBshopper to select the prototype PCB assembly service and Seeed Studio seems to be a good choice.
I’ve used it a couple of times and have been impressed by the quality of their PCBs and assembly.