Science, Technology, and Social Media

Here’s what you need if you want to design your own PCBs

If you are looking to taking your Arduino or other electronic projects beyond prototyping boards, printed circuit boards (PCB) will get you there, but what do you need to design PCB’s and how can you turn your design into a finished board? -Before you even start with your project, make sure that you have a high-quality soldering iron for more precise results. You can check out the best soldering irons on

What are PCBs?

Electronic circuit boards and circuits in the engineering industry are generally manufactured on Printed Circuit Boards. These circuit boards are made up of selected materials which include fiber, glass etc. These materials are used because these do not conduct electricity. These circuit boards are conduct on copper tracked boards instead of wires because of better conduction capabilities.     

The electronic components are made fixed at certain positions by soldering and making holes into the boards. These are placed properly at the desired position and joined with the previously mentioned copper tracks so that a circuit gets formed. These printed circuit boards are used in everything from coffee makers to automobiles, wireless devices, robotics etc. 

Designing your own PCB

Autodesk’s EAGLE PCB design software is free to download and the book Make Your Own PCB’s with EAGLE: From Schematic Designs to Finished Boards is a fantastic, step-by-step guide that will take you from install to complete boards.

Fabricating PCB’s

Once your design is completed, it’s time to turn it into a PCB. You can either make the board in your own workshop or send it out to fabrication house and have them manufacture your board.

Fabricating your own board at home involves etching using Ferric Chloride, heat transfer paper, a laser printer, copper plate and a small drill for any through-holes or vias. The etching chemical stains anything it touches and requires treatment with sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) before it can be safely disposed of.

Unless you need to produce boards the same day you finish the design, a better solution might be to send your design file(s) to a PCB maker. There are several fabrication houses that can produce your design in 2-3 days for as little as a few dollars.

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Duncan Idaho

Duncan is a science and technology reporter for CDN and serves as the lead geek correspondent. Follow him if you like rockets, mobile tech, video games or ... just about anything nerdy.

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