Brad Ormand PCB Fab REV A for the Hex Light

01.11.2015 – Hex Light & PCB Fab

Wow – I have done quite a lot of work on the Hex Light since the 6th.  I’ve managed to cut and assemble the top pieces, paint the backing board, I designed circuit boards for the whole thing, started manufacturing them, and then testing and assembling them.

I spent a few days designing the main board as I wanted to get as close to production values as possible.  I still have a few things to work out (like drill bit size and some trace widths ), but I had to go through it to see what errors would pop up.  Now I know, and now I can move forward.

Brad Ormand Designing a Circuit

Next, I went ahead and set up the manufacturing process in the workshop.  I have always had all of the parts and chemistry for it, but haven’t set it all up in years.  But, now it’s rolling again for board fab.  I printed the traces and pads out to a transparency,  exposed the photo-sensitive board to fluorescent light through the traces, removed the resist with the photo-developer, and etched the copper right off the fiberglass with ease.  Went very smoothly.  All of the techniques I used to do are coming back to me – like how long to agitate the board in the Ferric Chloride bath and how crucial it is for the transparent ink to lay *exactly* flat when being exposed.

Brad Ormand Circuit Board PCB Fabrication

Then, I drilled and populated the board with the components I specified.  There were a few complications along the way, but I was prepared and I adapted.  I tested that board up and down, with and without power.  And, in the coming days, I’ll take the rest of the daughter boards through the exact same process and test and populate them as well.  Then, it’ll be system hook-up time.  The moments of truth.  🙂

I also managed to put a hex design on the PCB and experimented with a few trace widths and logos and labeling.

Brad Ormand PCB Fab REV A for the Hex Light

 

The breadboard had all of that clutter on it, hooked up in a small space (+the 1×4 Matrix), and so half of that clutter was reduced to the clean board, half the size – Haha.  Cool to see a comparison and nice clean header connectors instead of a nest of wires.

Brad Ormand - Circuit Comparison

 

Sure, there are a few things I am going to do differently for the final version, but this setup is functional and will allow me to test the system in-situ.  And, when I go back to design the next one, I’ll know just what to do.  I know I can get a little closer with the traces, I can go bigger on some of the labeling, and I have to get a smaller drill bit for some of those holes- whew! I’m already drilling pretty small.  And, of course, down the road, I can start on some of the SMD versions, single-sided, for now.  If I get a really rocking design, I’ll double side it and send them off for fab with silkscreen and everything.  But, that’ll be when I come up with a rock solid REV A or REV B.

So, stepping back a few hundred meters….  I’m making this piece of art (that happens to have electronics in it).  And, I want it to look and feel and act right, first and foremost.  So, that’s a “project requirement”, but also, the engineering side of me wants the parts to be replaceable and serviceable and modular, too.  I’m trying to make the craftsmanship very tidy and tight, but while also making it cost-effective and modular.  Haha – I’m feeling the pull between the two.  But…  That’s the game.  That’s what I like about it.  It’s engaging and requires some thought, over time.  And, it’s something I want to become as expert as possible in.  But, all-in-all, I’m delighted to switch back and forth between roles and processes – getting both the art stuff and the tech stuff in.  I require them both.  It has really been a great exercise in balancing those points.

Until next time…