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From part-time hobbyist to advanced hobbyist?
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From part-time hobbyist to advanced hobbyist?

by magician13134 on Mon Mar 10, 2008 7:57 pm

I'm not sure if this belongs here as it's still hobbyist stuff, but it's along the same lines.
Ok, so anyone who reads my posts knows I'm not great at all this stuff, and I like to blame my equipment (or lack thereof). I've been saving up my money for a couple months and have about $400 I'm willing to spend updating my equipment/supplies/work area. I'd really like to be able to come up with an idea at 11pm, have a design done by one, a board etched by two and the prototype finished by four. What should I get to be able to do that?
I've never liked my etching setup, I have about a 10% yield rate. That needs improving. I'd LIKE to photoresist (but that might be a bit expensive, I could probably make my own exposure tank), and I'd like a better actual etching container/tank/whatever is used by cool people.
And when it comes to parts, do I just get a bunch of cheap, random parts to have laying around? How do you organize them?
I want to start SMT too, I suppose a new soldering iron would probably be necessary, my tip is rather large (well, not large, just too big for my clumsiness to be working with SMT parts).

What I already have that I am content with:
A nifty drill press
A stack of FR4 copper clad (unless I do photoresist)
Safety equipment (paper masks, rubber gloves, etc)
That's about it...

I just want to know what I need to be able to really make my OWN stuff. Gotta walk before I can run.
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Re: From part-time hobbyist to advanced hobbyist?

by adafruit on Mon Mar 10, 2008 8:03 pm

magician13134 wrote:I'm not sure if this belongs here as it's still hobbyist stuff, but it's along the same lines.
Ok, so anyone who reads my posts knows I'm not great at all this stuff, and I like to blame my equipment (or lack thereof). I've been saving up my money for a couple months and have about $400 I'm willing to spend updating my equipment/supplies/work area. I'd really like to be able to come up with an idea at 11pm, have a design done by one, a board etched by two and the prototype finished by four. What should I get to be able to do that?
I've never liked my etching setup, I have about a 10% yield rate. That needs improving. I'd LIKE to photoresist (but that might be a bit expensive, I could probably make my own exposure tank), and I'd like a better actual etching container/tank/whatever is used by cool people.


i dont think photoresist is what you need
i use a dowel and an iron
http://www.pulsarprofx.com/PCB/a_Pages/ ... chor-11481
and have at least 50% yield (although somtimes i have to fix something with a wire or exacto)

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by shadow on Mon Mar 10, 2008 8:48 pm

I found for organizing stuff, this is great. i put resistors, capacitros, things like that in labeled bins, and projects in the bottom big ones. you might wanna use one that is all small boxes, and one that is all big boxes, as mine has both, just not a lot of one. hope this helps
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by magician13134 on Mon Mar 10, 2008 10:57 pm

shadow wrote:I found for organizing stuff, this is great. i put resistors, capacitros, things like that in labeled bins, and projects in the bottom big ones. you might wanna use one that is all small boxes, and one that is all big boxes, as mine has both, just not a lot of one. hope this helps

lol, look familiar? It does work great, I haven't gotten around to labels yet, though, what's the best way to do that? Print on sticky name tags? Tape and paper?
Image

Oh, and Ladyada, thanks for moving this and your advice. A few questions though. I notice that tutorial was on the pulsar site, they make special transfer paper, right? Is that what you use? And does the silkscreen TRF (?) paper they recommend (sell?) help too? Also, that thing about the dowel confuses me. My boards are usually 2x2 or less and I use single sided 1/32" FR4, so it seems like that might bend, would you recommend still using that method? Thanks for all your help both of you! And Ladyada, how do you etch? I saw you used a spray etching process in the MIT tutorial, but I think I remember you mentioning that you use a cheap tank from Digikey (or did I imagine that?)... I've tried HCl + H2O2 with awful results, terrible. I'm using ferric chloride now, but it's kind of expensive (especially with special shipping fees :cry:).

Thanks again!
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by The_Don125 on Tue Mar 11, 2008 12:14 am

Not sure what everyone else uses, but for etching, I use a container made out of plexiglass that I made myself. About a foot tall, 8 in. wide, and about a half inch thick. It takes its time, but it gets the job done. Just need to make sure to drill a hole in the board beforehand and thread something through the hole to pull the board back out.

I'd say the more professional setups wouldn't be terribly different, they just might have some form of agitator to stir up the liquid and remove the saturated liquid from around the copper so the fresh liquid can etch.
However, I'd personally like to try electroplating the copper off. Surely all that copper can be put to some use rather than just going to a hazardous waste disposal plant.

For etchtant, I use ferric chloride. I don't heat it, and it doesn't really fume, it just takes 30-40 min to etch a 1x4 piece of copper.

I do plan to upgrade to copper chloride though in the future, as seen in [url=http://www.instructables.com/id/Stop-using-Ferric-Chloride-etchant!--A-better-etc/?ALLSTEPS]this instructable[url].

For putting the design on the copper, I just use the toner transfer method. Usually just:

iron set to high heat
paper towel
paper with design
copper clad board

Usually I leave the iron sit on the copper a while, then press, the process takes about 2-3 min (using a pre-heated iron)
And then more patience when removing the paper, letting it sit in the soapy water as long as possible, gently rubbing some of the paper off every now and then, and back into the water.

I can usually get decent yields with that method, one out of three normally, but if the toner doesn't transfer, I'll usually acetone it off and reapply it until I get a design that sticks properly.

As for SMT, a new soldering iron isn't necessary, just highly recommended. I'd link you to my page where I soldered the MAX1674 in a uMAX package (smaller than SOIC) using a $10 RadioShack iron and solder wick, but that page is undergoing maintenance. It is possible, its just somewhat tedious.

Of course, take all of the above with a grain of salt, as I'm new to this as well, and by no means consider myself fully knowledgeable on this subject.[/url]
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by darus67 on Tue Mar 11, 2008 10:54 am

If you're going to do much with surface mount, you may want to consider a
microscope. At the very least, you want a swing arm lamp with a big magnifying
lens. Even if you're not doing surface mount work, the magnifying
lamp can be handy.

A nice stereo zoom microscope is hideously expensive new, but you might
find a surplus deal somewhere.
"He's just this guy. You know?"
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by schill on Tue Mar 11, 2008 4:19 pm

One thing you don't want to do is spend all of your money in one shot. You do not need very much to start out with. Save the money until you figure out what you need.

Personally, I don't do much etching. Mainly, because I don't want to be responsible for getting rid of used chemicals (and I don't have a garage to store stuff in - or anywhere outside of living area).
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by Superworms on Tue Mar 11, 2008 6:04 pm

i have a very getto setup for smt work. its just a old video camera, tripod, lighting, and a vise.i'll see if i can post a photo later

btw, magician13134 your proxy is blocked by my schools web filter
Last edited by Superworms on Tue Mar 11, 2008 6:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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by magician13134 on Tue Mar 11, 2008 6:07 pm

Wouldn't it be hard to work while looking through a microscope?

And I'm not spending everything at once, I just want to know what people consider necessities, so I can know what to anticipate needing. Thanks for all your advice. I found a neat website that sell prototyping tools for very cheap and right now I just have a plastic dish I use for etching, but they have Tinnit there, and I was thinking I'd try some of that, but I'd need separate tanks, right? And I have some old fish tank equipment (heater, thermometer, bubbler/agitator) is that stuff helpful? And how about leaving the lid off the tank? Will that cause fumes if the heater's off? Thanks
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by schill on Tue Mar 11, 2008 6:16 pm

The microscope would typically be a low-power stereo microscope. Similar to these:

http://www.microscopeworld.com/MSWorld/ ... px?ID=5714
http://www.microscopeworld.com/MSWorld/ ... aspx?ID=58

You'd probably want a magnification around 10. Note that these tend to put your nose close to your work.

I've used my stereo microscope when cutting very fine, close together traces on a board. I've never used it while soldering. Mine has a large base similar to the cheaper one I linked to. The one on a movable arm would be nice, but it's a bit more expensive (note: I didn't try to find the cheapest or most expensive 'scopes).

Note that as the magnification goes up, your depth of field decreases quickly. It gets harder to work and, somewhat unexpectedly, harder to see what you are doing after the magnification gets above 20. By 40, you have very little depth of field - but you can really pick up the details on bugs.

Here's a link to a picture of a trace I cut using my 'scope. It's not a very clean cut - the mess is from before I decided to switch to using the 'scope.

http://www.pjrc.com/tech/mp3/gallery/st ... ill_13.jpg

The cut is just to the right of R17 (the black box with 391 written on it). The tool was a #11 exacto knife blade.

This was from modifications made to a PJRC mp3 player (an old project from the pre-ipod days, the pre-just-about-any-hard-drive-based-mp3-player days):
http://www.pjrc.com/tech/mp3/
http://www.pjrc.com/tech/mp3/gallery/page23.html
Last edited by schill on Tue Mar 11, 2008 6:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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by magician13134 on Tue Mar 11, 2008 6:21 pm

Unfortunately, I think those are a bit too expensive for me. I have a third hand with a lens, and with the Fresnel lens in my avatar, that's about all I ever need. Thanks for the links though!
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by schill on Tue Mar 11, 2008 6:24 pm

Even with my aging eyes (added reading glasses a year or so ago), I rarely use extra magnification. I've always found the small lenses that typically come with third hands to be too distorted.

I didn't expect you'd run out and buy a microscope right away. I bought mine for bugs, not electronics, anyway.
Last edited by schill on Tue Mar 11, 2008 11:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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by jluciani on Tue Mar 11, 2008 11:20 pm

The tools I use for SMD and TH soldering are described at ---

http://www.luciani.org/getting-it-done/ ... index.html

Some component storage ideas are described at ---

http://www.luciani.org/no-place-to-go/c ... index.html

(* jcl *)
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by magician13134 on Tue Mar 11, 2008 11:26 pm

Cool, thanks everyone (Oh, and schill, I thought you meant bugs... like problems in electric circuits. Lol, yeah)
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by jasonx on Wed Mar 12, 2008 5:55 pm

my biggest improvement in making my own boards was switching from a clothes iron to a laminator
In the first picture the black layout was laser printed on glossy magazine paper and applied on the left with a iron and on the right laminator
Image
And the board on the left was toner transfered with magazine paper and a iron and the left was press and peel using a laminator
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