Homemade PCBA
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How to DIY PCBA board at home

A PCBA board is a printed circuit board (PCB) that contains electronic components, are an essential, internal piece to many electronic appliances and devices. They make up the base to join all the components together to make circuits, involved with creating primary functions for a device. However, not many people can see these boards from the outside, as they are internal pieces which can often be covered up by a case or many layers of material. Smaller electronic devices, like smartphones or watches, rely on these PCB boards to make their size compact and to make sure that all components are permanently in place, whether they are surface mount or through-hole components. Furthermore, solder on PCBA boards ensures that the components are conductive to electricity and held in place firmly on the board, making PCBAs excellent for commercial products which require high precision, quality control and accuracy with their circuits. Since there are many turnkey PCBA companies worldwide that offer the entire process from PCB manufacturing to PCB assembly at a reasonable price, almost all PCBA boards in electronic products are manufactured by them. Little do some know, any electronics manufacturer or electronics enthusiast can complete DIY manufacturing from materials to PCBA boards. This category will completely mention all the contents of homemade PCBA boards, including circuit design, DIY PCB, and soldering PCBA components by yourself.

DIY PCBA Circuit Design

To start with, you can design your DIY PCBA circuit on many free PCB design tools which includes the like of Eagle, TinyCAD, KiCAD or Fritzing. Designing your own PCB is the first and most important stage in this simple process and you can do this if you already have an idea of what you want to make and the schematics of that specific project. You can DIY anything from the simplest LED circuits to MPPT solar charge controllers, which may take multiple boards collectively. Some people have even made their own Arduino microcontrollers or miniature computers, but you will need to extensively plan for a project like that. However, with any project idea that you have, you can easily place it into PCB design software, which enables you to draw up the schematics with a whole variety of components already built-in for your requirements. From there, most software have an automatic function which can transform your schematics to your PCB, and you can line up all the components and change the size of your components if needed. The board size, pad size and layout can be customised with most programs. This is a simple process and will not take a lot of time in total.

After that is done, you will need to route the PCB tracks, which will connect each component up to the PCB itself, depending on your circuit. This step can be effortlessly done manually through the PCB software or with an automatic routing function, which only selected programs may consist of. Make sure you check that each component is correctly routed with the track having the correct width, length and route as desired. Now, the last step of this PCB process is to verify and check your PCB design to see if you have made any errors, which may halt the whole production process with your PCB manufacturer. Some PCB programs may also have a viewing feature where you can instantly have a quick glimpse at what your PCB may look like once fabricated and the cool factor about this feature is that you can also see your PCB with different solder mask colours. At this stage, the only thing you will have to do is to order your PCB from any manufacturer which suits your needs. There are many PCB manufacturers around the world, but one which I would recommend is FS Technology  from China, as we are known to provide good quality PCBs to both consumers and commercial customers.

DIY Simple PCB Bare Board

As an alternative to sending your PCB design to a professional turnkey PCB manufacturer for fabrication, it is possible to fabricate your own PCB boards at home. Although this process can be a bit difficult to master at first and will be less accurate than having your board be designed with the use of advanced machinery, it is an excellent educational tool for learning the basics of how a PCB is made and what a basic PCB is composed of. For commercial projects or PCBs that require a high degree of precision, it is recommended that you send your designs off to a PCB manufacturer but for a simple, low-cost hobby project, this method could work out just fine. 

For a brief overview, you will first need to print out the circuit design onto a piece of photo/glossy paper using a laser printer. The design can be created using many PCB design software and it will form the basis of the tracks and traces that will electrically connect the various components on your board. For the board itself, you will need bare copper boards that will be used as the base component and this will be what the glossy paper will adhere to. In order to transfer your circuit design onto the board, many hobbyists will first place the glossy paper onto the copper board and using a conventional iron, simply apply enough heat so that the ink will transfer onto the board. The ink serves as a protective layer on the copper board that will not be etched. Another method of doing this is to first use a dark pencil to make traces on the copper board itself while using your circuit design paper as a template and then trace over the design with a black marker.

Next, in order to etch your homemade PCB, you simply have to dip your board into an etching solution that is made up of ferric chloride solution (FeCl3) for around 20-30 minutes. This will ensure that any excess copper which is not protected by that ink layer is removed from the surface of the board. After disposing of the etching solution safely, usually by diluting the solution before discarding it, you need to clean your homemade PCB board. This step varies from design to design but cleaning is done by rinsing it with water and using a brush or sandpaper to get rid of any ink.

Finally, complete your PCB board by using a mini drill to make holes on the copper side of the board, using your copper trace as a guide. This is where your components will fit into the board, therefore, ensure that the holes are drilled to anappropriate size. After that, your homemade PCB board is ready to be assembled and used for your electronic projects.

Home Based PCB Assembly

If you wish to do a full DIY PCBA, then the process happens after the homemade PCB is complete and you need to solder the components onto the bare PCB. Thus, you will need a soldering iron, solder, solder flux (optional) and other desoldering devices like a solder wick, a desoldering pump or hollow needles. To make your life easier when soldering components to your PCB, it would be advisable to use a third-hand or PCB holder to securely hold your PCB in place while soldering components. There are different methods to hold components in place as they may fall out while soldering but I normally would place a bit of “blue tack” to keep all components in place while the whole PCB is flipped around for soldering. Furthermore, heating up your soldering iron to its optimal temperature and tinning your iron with a little bit of solder before soldering it is essential for maximum thermal transfer. Also, before your soldering iron comes in contact with your PCB, be sure to apply a reasonable amount of solder flux so that solder will flow on the pads and stay in place, instead of solder just flowing everywhere else. With that said, you should be ready to solder your PCB up with ease! By the way, after the soldering is complete, do a quick inspection for any solder bridges or small mistakes which you may have not seen, as those issues can lead to a shortage in the circuitry. If any solder mistakes are present, be sure to use your desoldering tools until the mistake has been resolved. Finally, you can clip each of the components’ legs off with pliers and power your PCB up with whatever power supply it requires. You are now done with making a simple design or project idea come to reality!

Riassumere

As you have seen by the above paragraphs, making a PCB from start to finish is really quite simple if you have a plan of what you need to do. You can transform any circuit into something amazing, which is on a professional level, where it can be turned into a commercial product as well, so if you have any spare time, try and make some of your favourite circuits into a PCB! Conclusively, be sure to check out FS Tech for any of your Produzione di PCB o Assemblaggio di PCB needs.