Monthly Archives: April 2011

First Board from OurPCB

A few people in my circle of acquaintances have been recommending OurPCB for prototype printed circuit boards so I thought I’d give them a try with my latest board. This board is a work-for-hire job so I’m sorry I can’t tell you what it’s for but I can tell you it’s a 4-layer board.

With 4 layer boards, you can’t see everything from visual inspection. The proof will be whether the board works after I populate it. But apart from the solder mask registration being slightly out, the board looks pretty nice. They even threw in gold coating for free!

OurPCB are a little slower than other board fabs I have used – it was almost three weeks before I got my boards – but they are cheaper. They seem pretty good.

Circuit Sketch

While browsing through electronics forums or answering electronics-related questions in my email, I always think there must be a better way to quickly create circuit diagrams and attach them to posts. On the forums I have seen many methods such as a screen-shot from a CAD package:

or maybe draw it in Photoshop:

or the good old pencil-and-scanner approach:

ASCII art:

or even a photo of a text book!

 

So to make life easy for discussing electronics via email or forums, I think it is time for a new product. Circuit Sketch is an online tool with which you can quickly draw a circuit diagram and copy it into a post or just share it via a simple URL. The product is online so there is no need to install any software (good if you are using someone else’s computer).

It’s only at prototype stage at the moment so it is not fully functional but I’d love to hear what you all think about it. I should be putting it live on circuitsketch.com sometime in the next few days. Stay tuned.

Boxes boxes boxes

I’m developing a couple of new electronic products and once again I am infuriated by the lack of suitable enclosures. Don’t the enclosure making people understand what I want?!

Take a look at these fairly typical boxes from Hammond Manufacturing:

A lot of the boxes produced by Hammond and such companies tend to have small front panels and a long body. But the reality of modern electronics is the circuitry is very small. It is the connectors, display and controls which take up the most room, so what you really want is a short body and a large panel. When I use these boxes, I end up wasting a lot of space as you can see in this photo of one of my prototypes, more than half the space in the box is unused because I need a front panel large enough for all the connectors.

I have spent days searching through the websites of every box manufacturer I can find but they are all more or less the same. I am currently investigating the economics of getting some custom plastic boxes made. I’ll post more here as I make progress.