I am always interested in the actual building of cool technology. There are so many cool applications of electronics that just aren’t mass-produced. We should be able to make them ourselves.
It’s amazing how much the internet has made this possible.
Groups of people band together to share a 155 inch panel of printed circuit board, each using several square inches for their own panel, and each only paying a fraction of the cost of getting a custom piece made for them. ($2.50/square inch!!) So, how can you get your board designed?
Well, you could use a pre-designed, open source circuit design. Or you can use free software like CadSoft Eagle. If you do use the free software, you’ll need some instructions on how to convert Eagle files to the Gerber format used by the manufacturing folks.
Now you’ve got a circuit board, but how do you attach components to it? Well, you can solder, but that takes, like, FOR-EV-ER. I just discovered you can use something called a Hot Air Rework Station.
This is a hair-dryer-like device which uses a blast of hot air to liquefy the solder paste you’ve put on the pads of your circuit board, fixing the components to it. This makes it possible to solder on surface-mount components without too much pain. Beautiful! Maybe slower than wave-soldering, but definitely a great hobbyist option.
The amazing thing is that you don’t need expensive tools to do your manufacturing. With a little effort you can use a $30 hot plate as a soldering station.
The internet is a great place to learn more about making electronics!