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Circuit Pen?

Discussion in 'Electronic Basics' started by Daniel Pitts, Oct 26, 2012.

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  1. Daniel Pitts

    Daniel Pitts Guest

    Are Circuit Pen's as useful as they sound? I'd like to create my own
    circuit boards. Since I'm just learning and only doing one-offs, I'd
    prefer to keep the total cost down. Are they "good enough" to do full
    circuit boards, or are they mostly for repairs?

    Are there brands that are a better value than others? How well does
    soldering on them work?

    Are they typically fine enough for SMD work, such as ATMega328 (0.8mm
    lead pitch)?

    Thanks in advance for any advice.

  2. Tom Biasi

    Tom Biasi Guest

    Me either.
  3. Rich Webb

    Rich Webb Guest

    They *may* be useful for repairs (read some of the reviews over at
    Amazon for an example of the class) but they would be hell trying to use
    to make an original layout for anything with a fine pitch.

    You'd be better off getting something like
    that takes care of the housekeeping (power supply, I/O drivers, etc.)
    and offers a prototyping area as well as I/O headers or the simpler
    that's just a "header board." With either, you can access the processor
    pins for digital I/O, ADC, PWM, or whatever from relatively robust
    headers out to your own circuitry.

    If you want to roll yer own, do it properly by starting with a schematic
    capture program that produces a "net list" to be used by a PCB layout
    program. That then makes the "Gerber" files and the drill file that a
    board house can use to make the real thing.

    Kicad is a free (libre and as in beer) integrated package for Windows
    and Linux that includes schematic capture and PCB layout.
    If you're on Linux, also look at gEDA <>
    There are also "free" tools offered by various board houses but some
    (most? all?) of those generate a proprietary output, not standard
    Gerbers, so you're stuck with one vendor.

    While many people do still make boards in the kitchen, using techniques
    like Press'n'Peel Blue or photo-resist, the cost of manufactured boards
    has come way down. Especially when doing fine pitch and surface mount,
    you will appreciate having a proper finish on the pads and having a
    solder mask. Sparkfun and Seeed Studio (among others, these are the ones
    I'm familiar with) have very low cost batch proto board services. There
    are also traditional houses (e.g., Sunstone) that do inexpensive
    prototypes at a faster turn but there is some added cost associated with
    the speed, of course.

    <> associated with Sparkfun

    will do ten 2" x 2" boards for $10. A buck a board!

    <> a more traditional board house that offers
    turns measured in days instead of weeks but also with more traditional
  4. Daniel Pitts

    Daniel Pitts Guest

    Yeah, I was hoping to have more control over the form-factor, for
    specific projects. I don't *need* all of those extra stuff. They will
    just get in the way.
    I have the free version of Eagle. I haven't really used it yet, the
    learning curve is a bit high, but I'll get over it eventually. I've also
    been pointed at recently.
    This is what I was considering going with. It's the start-up cost that
    gets me though. It would cost me $20 for my design, and I think I could
    do it myself for much cheaper (even if it takes more man-power). Of
    course, if I design something worth selling to the masses, I could order
    in bulk and save a lot of money.
    Hmm, This one looks good. I'll have to look into it further. Thanks.
    Yeah, I'm not so concerned with turn-around time at the moment. Not at
    the trade in cost at least.

    Thanks for the advice.
  5. Yup, learn how to solder, you don't need no CAD or PCB places to get
    started. You can do a lot with pref board and air wire.

    George H.
  6. short story- they tend to suck.

    like any paint type marker, it's a toss up if the thing will be dried out
    by the time you get it, or if it does work, will it dump out the entire
    contents at once.

    I'd say just get a pcb etching kit, but that will be pushing it for stuff
    with fine traces unless you can print the resist somehow.
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