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I need a tiny PCB for a tiny IC. Is this something I have to design in autocad? Do I have to go to a shop to print it for me?

Ultimately I want to be able to flux solder the IC on the tiny board so that I can plug it into my prototype where I need it. I would use a breakout accelerometer on Amazon but they are too big for what I need them for.

Ideas?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How many do you need? \$\endgroup\$ – Rev1.0 Feb 27 '15 at 19:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Tons of cheap pcb fab sites will do this for you. Seeed is one. \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Feb 27 '15 at 19:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ I recommended OSH Park a lot; they're very cheap and free shipping within the states. I've ordered a few boards from them and they always came out great. The only weird thing with them, is that in their generated board views, some silkscreens don't show up. But in the actual order, they are there. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Williams Feb 27 '15 at 19:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ What is the chip (or at least what size is it?) \$\endgroup\$ – bigjosh Feb 27 '15 at 20:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Check sparkfun, they have break-out boards (what you're referring to) for a lot of sensors. \$\endgroup\$ – kolosy Mar 2 '15 at 20:17
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If the IC is a standard size, then you can probably buy a pre-made breakout board for it. This is much faster, easier, and cheaper than making one yourself. enter image description here

Check out these (511!) breakout boards of various sizes and shapes at Digikey...

http://www.digikey.com/product-search/en/prototyping-products/adapter-breakout-boards/2360393

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The company that makes the cheapest boards for one size is not going to make the cheapest boards for all sizes. There is no such thing as "the cheapest" PCB manufacturer.

Once you've designed your board, you should go to PCBShopper.com. It's a price-comparison site for PCB manufacturing. You enter your board's size, number of layers, soldermask color, silkscreen options, quantity, the country to ship to, and how quickly you want them to arrive, and PCBShopper gives you prices from over 20 different manufacturers.

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To get a PCB made, use any of the many CAD programs for that purpose. I use Eagle, for example. There is a free version of Eagle that is limited in board size, but it sounds like it will be fine in your case since your board is so small.

There are also many other programs out there, all the way from free to quite pricy. However, AutoCad isn't one of them. You want something that inherently understands PCBs and can write out Gerber files for the PCB layers, and Excellon drill files for the holes. That's what board houses will want.

With the right package of files, you can send it to just about any board house in the world and get the right PCBs back. There are many places to order boards like that on the internet.

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There are a lot of ways to build and design a board yourself. Certainly any of the free tools, Eagle being one of them but the are many others that can get you where you need to go. There's a bit of a learning curve as you will have to define the symbols for the part(s) you are using, then create a schematic. From there you need to create the footprints, or the physical drawing of what the part will look like on the board. Place those on the board and then route your signals and gnd between them. I'd suggest looking through a tutorial on how to make a simple board with whatever tool you pick.

If you're going to send these out to a shop it pay attention to the design rules the shop has for the cheap price you likely want to pay. You can't just make lines and spacing anything you want. Often the cheaper the price the larger the spacing, the larger the holes etc.

To actually make the PCB there are many options. You could print and etch it yourself, heck there have been times when I've carved one out of bare copper board with an exacto-knife. If you're going to have it made at a shop then start looking around at prices. I've seen prices as low as $10 for tiny protos of a few 2 layer boards (with a little waiting time), but keep in mind what I said about verifying their capabilities.

It's probably a worthwhile learning experience to make your own board but it is more work than you maybe suspecting.

One last thing the last time I saw an accelerator breakout board it was a little smaller than a quarter. If you're going to make something smaller than that you might want to add some break out tabs and maybe put a bunch of them on a single pcb.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Great stuff! Yes I'm looking to make a pcb the size of a dime if not smaller. It's for a very small project. I have accelerometers about 1/5 the size of your pinky fingernail and I want to fit 3-6 inside the size of a small baseball. \$\endgroup\$ – Jacksonkr Feb 28 '15 at 15:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ EAGLE stands for Einfach anzuwendender Grafischer Layout Editor (german, easy operated graphical layout editor). It's not that easy, mainly because its graphical concept was developed long before Microsofts concept, which is common today. However, its not bad, and many PCB houses accept the EAGLE file format, so you don't have to deal with Gerber files etc. Furthermore, OSH Park seems to be fine for private PCBs, I did not try them yet, but will give it a try soon. \$\endgroup\$ – sweber Mar 2 '15 at 19:41
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here is a list of companies that produce PCBs, mostly in connection to eagle. lot of them will let you order also small amounts, just check it out: http://www.cadsoftusa.com/partners-references/board-houses/ did you even find what you were searching for?

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