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Looking for resources on how to start taking my creations to the next level.

Where I'm at:

  • I'm a software developer nerd with limited hardware design experience
  • Comfortable creating stuff with the Arduino Duelimanove / Uno pre-fab boards w/ breadboards, project boxes, and lots of tape and zip ties

Where I want to go:

  • Turn a "breadboard" solution into a custom, non-ghetto PCB
  • Integrate Arduino / Netduino chips into designs
  • Being a software guy, I don't really have a desire to make PCB's by hand with the newer "design in computer and have it shipped to you" model
  • Have designs made in very small quantities (1 at a time, maybe 5 at a time max)

In my google-ing so far, I've tried looking for an outsourced PCB manufacturer that might have an Arduino template component that I can drop on a virtual PCB board and start messing around, but haven't found anything. I assume there are some specific measurements that would allow me to create my own component, but no idea what they are called to search for them.

Any recommendations here would be appreciated on vendors, software, concepts I need to educate myself on, and such.

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4 Answers 4

Whatever CAD package you use (I use Eagle and the "limitations" have never caused me any grief so far), what you're going to need is gerber files. In Eagle you generate these using what's called a CAM job (I use the one from Sparkfun). Incidentally, the Sparkfun Eagle Tutorial is also pretty good to get you started if you go that route, and there's also an ok screencast from Adafruit. You can also get the Eagle files for the Arduino boards right off their website (also for their older boards).

Once you have the gerber files, you just need to zip those up and send them to a fab house. For low volumes, the cheapest decent quality prototyping service I've come across is DorkbotPDX for small boards. I've also used BatchPCB but have found them both more expensive and longer delay.

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Take a look at fritzing. It incorporates:

Schematic Capture

Build schematics with just the ardunio chip. Schematic Capture In Fritzing

Building breadboards for demonstration

The software allows you to create images to show people how to wire up their breadboard.
Breadboarding in Fritzing

Building PCBs

You can build PCBs in fritzing and then they can be sent for manufacture by them.
PCB in Fritzing

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If you use Eagle you can load the Arduino files into it and create your own template - the boards were designed using Eagle. I use Pulsonix PCB software, and imported the files to create a template for that program. You can then create your own shields.

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There is very little to gain from reusing the Arduino files, as the basic construction is so simple, so don't put too much value in that, it's much more important that you understand what's going on and you get a good EDA package that you can use.

If I was you, then I'd start out looking into a simple clone like the "DC Boarduino", which is basically an Arduino as that's simple enough to understand a clone quite easily.

The trick with the "DC Boarduino" is that is leaves out the FTDI USB chip, which is very cool if you only use the USB connection when developing, so you can buy only one FTDI adaptor and reuse it for all your Arduino-like boards, like this one: http://www.adafruit.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=19&products_id=284&zenid=42367bcc145ecc7da8c87d51db3b70be

WRT the EDA package recommendation: I've used EAGLE before, but it really is limited and that can bite you in the ass when you start building bigger things, so I can recommend skipping EAGLE and using Kicad in stead.

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Does Eagle or Kicad allow any kind of export-to-vendor for click and ship functionality? I'm totally lost on that front... some of the PCB design-n-ship companies seem to have basic software but no template for dropping in connection points for an arduino chip. –  Brandon Jan 3 '11 at 20:27
Many board suppliers accept Eagle files. Otherwise, you supply Gerber and Excellon files generated by your PCB software. If the library doesn't have the AVR part used in the Arduino, you will have to design your own. –  Leon Heller Jan 3 '11 at 21:07

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