Saturday, September 19, 2015

Making of Surface Mounted (SMD) DIY PCB TNC


In my learning process of making my own DIY PCB and after ordering some common SMD components ( capacitors, LEDs &, resistors ), I decided to design a small and functional TNC that only need 4 connections to handy and a few jumper wires to Arduino.

*** This is the first time I ever successfully made a DIY PCB.

Let's start with the design on EagleCAD ..

I designed this small 28x23mm board for fun and to learn on how to solder SMD parts on DIY PCB. I made everything on a single layer. The only drawback is the two red and green LEDs are at the bottom where the copper traces are located.

Generate gerber and do a 3D view of the board. This method is easier to spot any errors.

3D Gerber view

Printed out for UV transfer to UV PCB
This is the tracing paper before the UV treatment. Thanks to Uncle Chow, 9M2CF made me a nice photo frame to hold the UV sensitive PCB and tracing circuit in place.

PCB holder / cover

UV lightbox

UV lightbox UV LED turned on

UV lightbox and photoframe cover
After like 15mins ( long duration was due to the diffused and evenly distributed UV light ), I drop the PCB into sodium hydroxide 0.7%. This is removed whatever parts exposed to the UV light and leaving the green part for second steps.

Exposed copper after Sodium Hydroxide bath
 Once the Sodium Hydroxide bath was done, I wash it and dump into the second solution - Ferric Chloride to eat away all those exposed copper.

Ferric Chloride bath
After a few shakes and turns, all the copper were wash away leaving the green portion of the copper traces.

I use thinner to clean away the green stuff and leave you with a shiny copper traces. Not bad for a first timer doing SMD PCB.

Now for the drilling and soldering part. A tip from 9M2CF, always solder before drilling as the solder will guide the drill bit into the holes to be drilled.

Drilling holes
Soldering SMD resistors
With too much solder at the pads, those SMD 1206 resistors are uneven on top ... or I was using a really fat tip.

SMD SVTrackR TNC back

SMD SVTrackR TNC front
After a while, got all the SMD and through-hole parts soldered. Need to find the SMD parts for the 100K POT. This is the one I currently have in my part inventory.

Add caption

Comparing sizes between the old MicroModem with Mini Pro and the new SMD TNC that will run from either Arduino Mini Pro or Arduino Nano.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

SVTrackR 1.62 : Dashboard speedometer & APRS Decoder


One of my users suggested that I split the display from the APRS Tracker so that he can placed the SVTrackR together with the handy below the seat. I liked this idea and explore the unused I2C pins on the Arduino Mini Pro.

Once I found out that the I2C can goes up to 6m of length, I made a 1 meter cables and started my tests on the Eduboard I built with Serial and I2C header pins at the bottom right of the blue PCB.
I have also connected a APRS Modem to the Serial Rx,Tx pins.

SVTrackR 162 on Eduboard

Once I finalised to use the blue 16x2 I2C LCD, I search on Thingiverse for a 3D printed casing. I found this one below suitable and ask around for pricing and where to get it printed.

16x2 LCD I2C 3D casing
As I made my codes with #ifdef definations for OLED, I just added more #ifdef for 16x2LCD and format the display according to the size of the LCD, 16 characters by 2 rows. As these screen are physically bigger than the 0.96 OLED, the resolution is only 16x2 text whereas the 0.96" OLED can goesd up to 7 lines of 25+ characters.

As my main screen should be the large digital speedometer with number of satellites being tracked and heading in degrees, I will rotate to 2 other screen for other statistics like Rx, Tx packets, distance to base and altitude from the GPS receiver.

In order to displayed decoded packets, I wrote a checking to display the decoded packets for 10 seconds before switching back to the speedometer.

Below are some of the images taken from my dashboard, it fits nicely with the large number displaying the speed or other info.

SVTrackR on dashboard

SVTrackR decoded packets

16x2 I2C LCD during initial tests

I am still in the process of getting a 3D printed casing for this.