Sunday, August 28, 2011

GerbV and Gerber Illustrators

This weekend I came across a Gerber Illustrator called GerbV (thanks to Addidis). FYI: this is available for Mac's on MacPorts, and as gerbv on linux/ubuntu. Im currently using it on Windows Vista.

So this little program can convert all your Gerber files into a nice pretty image on your screen, which you can later export as a png to post on your website or share around. Unfortunately, there isnt a very good how to manual for this program, but it is easy to work with. You just have to know the order the layers go in, and what colors you should be using. For this post, I am using Laen's PCB boards for the colors (Purple silkscreen and Gold pads).

Once you load the program, you have to import your gerber files (.ger extension), and the drill file (.xln). The other drill file (.dri) isnt recognized, so you have to generate the (.xln) file. EAGLE does this by default using Laen's CAM file, so you dont have to worry.

Now that you have your gerber files loaded, you should see them in whatever order you loaded them as, and a preview on the right. You'll have to move the gerbers around (using +/-) to get them to the correct order. This Color Datasheet will show you the order the gerbers should be in, as well as the colors of each layer. If you happen to have the colors worked out for standard Green boards ( or some other variation thats popular) please let me know, and I'll link to the datasheet or site that its on.

This gives you a nice pretty image of your board, so you can see what it will look like before you spend the money to make the board. This is very useful to catch any mistakes you've done on the board. And believe me, mistakes do happen. Take for instance one of my previous boards (I posted pics awhile back), the pad sizes were too small because of a software glitch, and two resistors share the same via. Had I used this program, I would have caught those errors, and saved myself a lot of money in re-spinning the boards.

I hope you've learned something from this. Its helped me a lot, and I hope it helps you.

Thanks Addidis.

Now for the update on the SMD soldering station: I've gotten my 1000W Hot Plate (yes Im aware I overpaid by 10 bucks), and still waiting for my Antex USA XS25 Soldering Iron in the mail. Im prepping to build an exhaust fume hood in my apartment so that the solder fumes dont stagnate in the apartment. Also working on an IR sensor to flip the hot plate off when the temperature hits just right. Both DIY instructions can be found on Instructables. Thanks to BikeNomad and Jimk3038 for the how-to's.

Also working on a new board which has everything to do with my smart-home project, which is a smart gas sensor board. Its got a gas sensor and a microcontroller to regulate the correct temperature for the on-board heater. If this board works out, then I'll probably throw this into the pile of 'Patents to do' so that when I post it online for the world to use, I get credit as the original designer. Dont want people going around sharing my hardware and not giving me credit, especially if I start selling this stuff in the future.

Well I think this post has gone long enough.

Peace, Pot, Microdot.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

SMD Solder Station Setup

Well Ive begun to order bits and pieces of my SMD/SMT solder station. First up is a Maxi-matic Elite Cuisine 1000W Hot plate. That runs for about 40 bucks. That sets the stage for getting my SMD stuff soldered. But for rework, and through-hole soldering, I've also ordered an Antex XS25 Professional Soldering Iron. Those run for about 40 bucks as well, but I added a bunch of tips, and a fancy base, so that brought the price tag up to 70 bucks with shipping. 

Things to get still are:

  1. A Laser/IR Temp Sensor
  2. A small refrigerator - for keeping Solder Paste
  3. Solder Paste
  4. Mylar Stencils
  5. Possibly a second soldering iron, but this time temperature controlled
  6. A Magnifying Light - so I can see really small things on my boards
  7. Solder Flux - I prefer the ones in syringes: they're just easier to work with, and give you tiny amounts
Once Ive setup all the components of the soldering station, I can begin assembling components on my prototype board. Of course I'll have to program the Teensy I've got to test that everything works out. But Im considering getting a mobile/portable oscilloscope just to get me started in case I need to test any connections.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

First Prototype Board

Well I got my 3-axis accelerometer Teensy shield PCB's in the mail yesterday, and Im excited. So far all looks good on the design, and Im ready to get my PCB soldering station setup so I can tinker with soldering the SMD parts. Once thats done, then I'll test the board. If it passes all the tests, then I'll solder up the other two boards, test, and put em up for sale (probably an ebay store, linked from the Teensy website). 

Depending on how this sale goes, I'll either expand this venture, or move on to another design. Im curious to know what kind of people can actually use this board in their designs and projects. Its loosely based on the Sparkfun breakout board, but there are additions to this. I've added an LED to the board, along with a reset button for the Teensy. I've also designed this so that it can be used along side with my two other prototype shields that I've drawn up. Again, depending how the sales of this go, I might be selling all three of these boards possibly by the end of the year. 

I'll post a picture of the boards when I get the chance.

Minor update about the Smart Home system: since moving into my new place, and getting setup with the new job, I havent made much progress. But now that Im getting my SMD soldering station setup, I'll be able to solder up those boards I made, and test them to make sure they work. Then once I feel confident about my SMD soldering skills, I'll order up my new sensor boards with SMD pads, just to make things smaller. I'll probably investigate into making a thermally controlled toaster oven to make two sided boards, but that'll be in the future.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Eagle Libraries

I had a discussion with my supervisor at work a few weeks ago about the lack of Eagle libraries available to people for development. So I've started going around collecting as many Eagle Libs as I possibly can to add them to my collection and make them grow. 

Here is what I've collected thus far: the basic Eagle Libs, the Teensy series, Sparkfun's Libs, Adafruit's Libs, Dan Strother's Libs, and some more. Download all of them zipped together here.

I'll post updates on this when I can. In fact, I'll create a page to host this as a more permanent home.

Also there just so happens to be a Library Repository on the Cadsoft website. 

And of course, the goodie of the day/week/month...Hackaday covers Visualizing PCB Revisions.