Designing an Arduino custom PCB it’s not an easy task but with some help from the NET and time you can do a pretty good job. The results are much better than a DIY proto board with components soldered together. If you want to know how designing an Arduino custom PCB made my project much better then continue reading…
The idea of building and designing an Arduino custom PCB comes from the necessity of having a solid base when working with complex prototyping projects.
While working with the seed counter machine I’ve been experiencing some issues with the actual circuit functionality and that was the reason for me to create a different circuit layout. In a perforated prototyping board components where quickly starting to move and the circuit become unstable.
Finally I started designing what it would end up as the main control board for the new prototype of seed counting machine.
Decisions for an Arduino custom PCB
Since the fabrication of an Arduino custom PCB is quite expensive and I had to put special attention to all details to avoid errors after the manufacture process. I wanted to have all pins of the Arduino Mega at hand in case I had to add new sensors or actuators. The main points to take into account when designing are(in my opinion): simplicity, dimensions, full use of resources, easy maintenance.
There are many options available when it comes to CAD software. I personally choose Kicad. It is easy to use and open source. It has it’s cons but compared with for example eagle its incredibly easier to use and much more logical. Eagle is more powerful but it will take you days if not weeks to start doing what you can do with Kicad in a few hours of practice. Did I mention that is Open Source!?
The design in Kicad is pretty simple. You can make all the parts yourself with the editor. What I did is create all footprints based on the datasheets of the components and then included them all in a new library containing only the components used in my design. In the future you can export this components if they are to be used in other projects. The library system in Kicad is one of the aspects that I would improve.
Took me 5 days to have the Arduino custom pcb ready to send to the manufacturer.
I chose iTead design guided by the comments and reviews I found on the web. It is not the best but it offers a good ratio of price/quality. Shipping times are probably the weak point together with some minor errors in the silk screen. This are the final Arduino custom PCB boards:
And here the assembled Arduino custom PCB boards, as a bonus, cause this will be an entire separate post about the new version of the seed counter project.
I couldn’t be happier with the result when comparing this with the old board. Here a picture of the board attached to the machine and working:
Soon more details about the seed counter project…