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It is time to solder through-hole and surface mounted parts.

I use Chip Quick solder paste for SMT components. When not in use, keep it in the freezer to extend its shelf life (it should not dry up). Chip Quick has a very low melting point and it’s perfect to use for SMT since you can apply tiny drops of it through a syringe it comes with. Apply small drops to pads and then position SMT components on it using a tweezers.
...continue reading "PCB Making: 11. Solder parts"

Even tinned, the PCB traces will still corrode. Soldered joints will also oxidize since the solder is exposed to air.

After soldering, the board could be further protected by applying a coat of clear lacquer. The lacquer dries fast and can be soldered through afterwards if needed.
...continue reading "PCB Making: 12. Protection and Sealing"

This particular board did not need an enclosure. Instead, I mounted it on raisers. Holes for raisers were already drilled.

If you do have an enclosure, you may want to try to fit it: drill the holes and/or cut openings using a tool like a nibbler.
...continue reading "PCB Making: 13. Enclosure"

This is a general guidance for the initial testing.

Thoroughly examine the board for physical defects: are all traces complete or there are breaks?
Are all pins soldered and is the quality of the solder joints acceptable? Soldering point may be missing (forgot to solder it), may have a bridge or a short, or it may be a poor joint (cold point). Just redo it.
Is any component missing? (Something blunt but may happen!)
You may need a magnifying glass or a loupe with a strong light.
...continue reading "PCB Making: 14. Testing and Troubleshooting"

Quality of the tools that we use to write software for projects like this is very important when selecting which MCU we may want to use. Atmel has a very robust IDE based on the Microsoft’s Visual Studio (which is arguably the best development environment out there). Coupled with a JTAG interface, writing and debugging firmware with Atmel toolset becomes a pleasure.
...continue reading "PCB Making: 15. Software"

There are few things that I did not get to try this time around:

  • Adding a bitmap (for example, a logo) to the board’s layout. I believe you create it as a custom part and use it from your library? Or you somehow download an image.
  • Similarly, it would be useful to make bitmaps for parts like diodes to help orient them as a guide when soldering.
  • How do you remove Eagle layers like Cream, Glue, etc. which are populated? There are also many other tricks to learn with Eagle.

...continue reading "PCB Making: 16. Conclusion"

I really wanted to find out exactly how much etchant would I need for a given board. That would be at least a theoretical minimum to etch all exposed copper, so after some calculation I made this table. In practice, you would probably want to double that amount to get it to etch faster, but that's a good starting value to measure.

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A weather station, Ambient Weather WS-2080 that I installed in my backyard has a receiver unit with a pretty nasty hardware issue: occasionally, its USB interface would hard hang. It could happen twice a week or once a month – it is very unpredictable and highly annoying. Once it happens, nothing short of a power reset of the receiver unit would fix it. You’d have to remove the battery or unplug the USB if you powered it through it. I've finally got around to fix it. If you have a similar problem with that weather station, you may be interested to read on...
...continue reading "Ambient Weather WS-2080 hang fix"

(This article was first written in March 2009 - now most of us have Android tables laying around doing this and more!)

For the long time, I wanted to buy an internet radio to get access to thousands of stations from all over the world. However, it seemed the market in the US was way behind that of Europe, where (especially in the UK) you could select among many models of digital, Ethernet-equipped radios. Many of them had features such were pause and record the audio stream.

Aren't you also intrigued with these novel picture frames, but could never justify the price of one, with better models reaching hundreds of dollars and lesser models not really worth of buying? Picture frames were one of the best selling gifts in 2008, with the average price of $169 for a connected photo frame (EE Times, Feb 23rd 2009), but people are mostly confused with the device. I've seen a few in people's homes being used for several weeks but then collecting dust.

...continue reading "Building a Custom Picture Frame"