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Get your PCBs made

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Contents
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1 Overview 2 Check for air wires 3 Polygon fill isolation 4 Design rule check 5 Generate gerbers 6 Preview gerbers 7 Zip the files and submit them 8 Get your boards 9 Inspection o 9.1 Shorts o 9.2 Broken traces o 9.3 Misaligned vias 10 Conclusion

Overview

In the last few years many inexpensive PCB services have popped up. It used to be that buying PCBs in hobby quantities was expensive and filled with gotchas. Now, places like Seeed Studio will send your PCBs to the inexpensive prototyping factory in Shenzhen China, and ship them anywhere in the world at great prices. You get two-sided PCBs, with the works, starting at $1 per 5x5cm PCB. Turnaround is a few days, worldwide shipping starts at $3. It's a happy day for electronics hobbyists. Others services like DorkBotPDX and BatchPCB pool multiple orders so the group benefits from bulk pricing. Enough people are using these services that turnaround is quite fast. DorkBotPDX offers signature purple PCBs that have become quite popular. Our goal is to help you get your Eagle PCB designs manufactured. We show our 'pre-flight' checks to help spot problems before ordering boards. See examples of errors like under etching, over etching, and misaligned vias.

Check for air wires

It's easy to miss a small break in a trace, and Eagle doesn't provide any flashing warning signs. The zoom-unrouted ULP script will zoom in on any broken traces and save you headaches later. 1. Download zoom-unrouted.ulp

2. 3. 4. 5.

Run it: File > Run... > zoom-unrouted.ulp Eagle will zoom in on any air wires Add the missing traces if any are found Run it again until no new air wires are found

Polygon fill isolation

A common error is when the ground fill or ground plane is connected to a trace. This is a symptom of under-etching at the PCB factory, and it can be minimized by using a reasonable isolation distance. If you use a ground plane or other filled polygons on your board, be sure to increase the isolation to at-least 12mils (16mils+ recommended, depending on manufacturer). 1. Right click on a polygon's edge 2. Go to: Properties > Isolate 3. Set the value Picture by Sebastian CC-BY-SA.

Design rule check


Make sure your design is within the specifications of the PCB service you use. Most hobbyist-friendly PCB services provide an Eagle design rule check file that can highlight anything that can't be reliably produced. These services all provide a DRC file that works in Eagle:

Seeed Studio ITead Studio DorkBotPDX BatchPCB

Eagle processes the DRC file and evaluates the board automatically. To run a design rule check: 1. 2. 3. 4. Open your PCB layout in Eagle Go to Tools > DRC... A DRC window will open. Load the manufacturer's DRC file. Click ok to start the check

From the DRC window you can adjustment the various design specifications like minimum trace width, clearance, etc. If a board doesn't need the smallest stuff the factory can make, we increase these settings a few mils as a safety margin.

The DRC will scan your board and log all the areas that go outside the manufacturer's limits. Click on various log entries to highlight each problem on the PCB. After fixing the errors, run the DRC again to see if everything passes. Rinse and repeat until the board passes the DRC.

Generate gerbers
Once your board is electrically sound, it's time to generate files that the manufacturer can use in production. Gerber formatted files, usually just called gerbers, are files any respectable PCB house can use to make boards. We'll generate them using a CAM file provided by the fab:

Seeed Studio ITead Studio DorkBotPDX BatchPCB

Follow these steps to generate gerber files: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Open our PCB files in Eagle Start the CAM processor: File > CAM Processor A CAM Processor window will pop up Go to: File > Open > Job... and select the CAM file Click on the process job button

The gerber files will be saved in the same directory your Eagle source files

Each gerber file represents a layer of the PCB. They're like a PDF for circuit boards, any manufacturer should be able to open the files and make the board if it is within their ability. Gerber Files Layer Top Silkscreen (text) Top Soldermask (the 'green' stuff) Top Copper (conducting layer) Bottom Copper Bottom Soldermask Bottom Silkscreen Routing and Drill (the holes and slots)

Extension GTO GTS GTL GBL GBS GBO TXT

These are the seven layers/files typically required to manufacturer PCBs.

Preview gerbers
Before you send the gerbers to the board house, preview the files and make sure they look reasonable. You'll need a Gerber viewer, here are some free ones:

ViewPlot (Windows only) ViewMate (Windows only) gerbv (Linux and Windows)

We use ViewPlot. To view your files: 1. Start ViewPlot 2. Go to File > Load Files 3. Select the 7 gerber files (GTO, GTS, GTL, GBL, GBS, GBO, TXT) and click "Open" 4. A window with a list of the files will pop-up, click "OK" 5. On the next screen (shown above) select the "Leading zero suppression" radio button, then select "2 4". Click OK

You should see a version of your PCB with each layer displayed as a different color. Scroll through the layers using the lower left corner drop down menu. Look for any errors that might have happened before or after generating the gerbers. More common ones are:

Problems with the footprint, the solder pad is sometimes buried by mask. Drills outside board or flipped. CAM didnt export expected silkscreen layers. Evaluating not only whether a silkscreen is present, but if its legible (size, location, etc). Quickly seeing whether all of the vias on a board are tented or not. One last doublecheck to make sure soldermask is on the correct side for the correct component (PCBs that have components on both sides).

Zip the files and submit them


Now the gerbers are ready to go to the board house. Each service has different requirements, but most involve zipping the files and emailing them to someone. Submit by email to Seeed Studio, Itead, and DorkBotPDX. Upload via web page at BatchPCB.

Get your boards

In our experience, it takes about this long from order to your hands:

Seeed Studio, from 2 to 4 weeks ITead Studio, from 2 to 4 weeks DorkBotPDX, around 2 weeks BatchPCB, from 2 to 4 weeks

Seeed and ITead offer cheaper boards if you only test 50% of them. The tested boards will be wrapped in masking tape and/or marked on the side with a marker.

Inspection
Before you build the first PCB, spend five minutes looking it over. E-tested PCBs will nearly always be good. If a PCB is untested then you absolutely must inspect the board, or risk a broken or shorted trace under a chip that you'll never be able to find. Here are three common problems. Eliminate these and save hours and days of debugging headaches.

Shorts

Under etching leaves extra copper that connects traces together. Avoid this by:

Use larger traces and increase the distance between them Check your board house production limits, avoid working with the smallest traces and spacing

Broken traces

Over etching removes too much copper and breaks traces. Avoid this by:

Use larger traces Check your board house production limits, avoid working with the smallest traces

We need a picture of this, can you help? Image source: Greeeg CC BY-SA

Misaligned vias

The hole that connects two layers is drilled outside the via. This might break the connection between layers, or connect a trace to another nearby trace. In this picture the via is misaligned, but didn't break the nearby trace because of adequate clearance. Avoid this by:

Using larger vias and larger annular rings (the copper pad around the via hole) Check your board house production limits, avoid working at the smallest sizes Increase any ground plane isolation so slightly miss-drilled holes don't short the trace to ground

Flux, flux, flux


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Contents
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1 Homemade Flux o 1.1 Recipe o 1.2 Lead-free solder o 1.3 Flux residue o 1.4 PCB Tinning/Protective Coating 2 Non-activated soldering flux (expired patent) o 2.1 The recipe o 2.2 PCB Tinning/Protective Coating

Homemade Flux

Recipe
1. Find nitrocellulose thinner (used for some paints, for some lacquers) or isopropyl alcohol or acetone (pure, not nail varnish remover filled with oil and perfume) - isopropyl alcohol is what commercial products use and should be available in 1L bottles in pharmacies (not the same as ethanol that pharmacies also sell). 2. Get yourself rosin for violin or cello or similar instrument. They use the rosin (colophony, kalafonium ... many names) to make the bow "sticky" so that it has good contact with wires hence they produce nice sound. You should be able to get this rosin in any store that sells equipment for musicians. Also beauty salons use colophony resin (for I have no idea what). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosin 3. Put the rosin on a big sheet of thick paper, close the paper around it, and grind the rosin inside the paper (you can press it with a beer bottle for example). Do this until you have ground it to pieces smaller then 3mm x 3mm.

4. Take a glass bottle and fill with thinner/acetone/isopropyl alcohol and add the grounded rosin. 5. Mix and leave for few days for rosin to fully dissolve. Voila - you have yourself flux :D The ratio of thinner/rosin really depends on what kind of flux you like .. you can dissolve A LOT of rosin in nitro .. start small .. take a smaller "bottle" (I use ~30ml bottle from some nose drops) and add a tea spoon of crushed rosin to it - that's a good base point. Then, if it evaporates too quickly and does not flow nicely, add more rosin. On the other hand if it is too sticky and leaves a mess on the board, add a bit more thinner/acetone/alcohol to the mix. After 3-4 batches you will get the hang of what is the perfect mixture for you :) If you use nitro thinner to make flux note that nitro and acetone will dissolve most plastic (ABS is vulnerable, PP and PE are safe) so you might want to try isopropyl alcohol as it is gentler on plastics. Most commercial flux mixtures are isopropyl+colophony. Rosin: jbeale suggests avoiding "BEST SONG XIANG BEUSUTEXUZGYGABHU" rosin from Ebay: "wellparts" because it was simply poured into a box. The cardboard of the box was solidly incorporated into the block of rosin, leaving cardboard fragments in the resulting flux. Comment: DealExtreme Reviewers would seem to disagree using the "crush it up" and remove box method. YMMV.

Lead-free solder
Does anyone know how well these homemade rosin flux mixes hold up at lead-free rework temperatures (230C+) ? In my limited experience, homemade rosin flux works better than many fluxes I have tried over time. The acetone / alcohol / nitro solvent will evaporate fairly quickly but the rosin left on the PCB will still work perfectly even at 450C. Of course the board will look super ugly and will have to be cleaned, but it does work. Now if you use "paste like" no clean flux, it works really well and you do not need to clean the PCB. The only problem is that it's way more expensive.

Flux residue
I've been using this homemade flux for years and have never noticed any corrosive effect from the flux residue... but I can't say for sure. You can always clean the PCB with isopropyl alcohol after you finish if you want to remove the residue, and isopropyl alcohol evaporates quickly so the PCB is left clean.

PCB Tinning/Protective Coating

Rosin is also useful when you are making PCBs yourself and you do not have any chemical tinner. To prevent the copper from oxidizing when you finish etching the PCB, you clean it well, wipe it with isopropyl alcohol and then coat the whole PCB with the "stronger" mixture of isopropyl alcohol and rosin. It will dry in few minutes and you will have a thin film of rosin on the board that will protect the copper from oxidation. PCBs prepared like that which are 10-15 years old still have shiny copper. Source: http://dangerousprototypes.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=2305#p21898

Non-activated soldering flux (expired patent)


More detailed information for making a very similar flux to that described above may be found in the United State Patent Office expired patent 3,730,782 (May 1, 1973).

The recipe
Of particular note, the patented recipe for flux is: 1. 2. 3. 4. Isopropyl alcohol (60-70% by weight) Water white rosin (30-40% by weight) Glycerin (2-3% by weight) Cationic flurocarbon surfectant (0.01-1% by weight)

Liquid flux is produced using a 20-65% concentration of rosin; at concentrations of 65-80% of rosin, a paste flux is produced. The glycerin is to inhibit polymerisation and retard decomposition, all of which is aimed at preventing any charred residue. The residue that does remain is so non-corrosive that it can be left on the soldered part. Chemical and corrosion analysis have shown no harmful effects from the residue. The cationic flurocarbon surfectant lowers the surface tension of the rosin flux and provides better spreading and wetting and, for reasons unknown, reduces the need for cleaning and aids flux stability at elevated temperatures.

PCB Tinning/Protective Coating


The preferred concentration of rosin flux for a protective coating is 10 to approximately 20% of rosin flux, with alcohols or ethyl acetate as the solvent. The cationic fluorocarbon surfectant range should remain 0.01-1%.

Dangerous Prototypes Cadsoft Eagle parts library

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Download the Dangerous Prototypes Cadsoft Eagle part library.

It should contain only original footprints created by us. We release our parts into the public domain (CC 0), use it how you like.

Contents
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1 Library helper scripts o 1.1 lbrdump.ulp o 1.2 lbrbuild.ulp o 1.3 Todo 2 Part library naming conventions o 2.1 Integrated Circuits o 2.2 Discrete and Passive Components o 2.3 Displays o 2.4 Connectors

Library helper scripts


Download the Eagle part library helper scripts from SVN.

lbrdump.ulp lbrbuild.ulp

lbrdump.ulp
This one will split a library in smaller (ascii) scripts. You need to do the following steps:

open our library file>export>script (this will generate one large script with all the devices in it) save it (temporary!!) to the lib_dp_devices/script directory. start the lbrdump.ulp script open the exported library (from first step)

Any device/package/symbol that isn't already there will be generated. If you got an updated version of a package/device/symbol first remove the corresponding script(s)!!

lbrbuild.ulp

This one will build a new library (or add our devices to an existing library)

open a new library (or open an existing) run the lbrbuild.ulp script point to the generated (or downloaded from the svn) lbrdefaults.scr all the packages/device/symbols are added to the new/existing library.

Todo

add license/header to each small scr add license to the ulp scripts.

Part library naming conventions


General format is:
[category]_[function]_[partnumber]

if we cant decide the function we just do:


[category]_[partnumber]

Integrated Circuits
IC_[function]_[partnumber]

e.g. IC_UC_PIC12F508, IC_MEM_23K256


IC_[partnumber]

if does not fit to a specific function e.g. IC_FAN5331

Discrete and Passive Components


CAPACITOR RESISTOR DIODE

Since this is universal, this is only one device with many packages.
TRANSISTOR_[type]_partnumber

This will be group depending whether it is an BJT or FET e.g. TRANSISTOR_FET_[partnumber]

Displays

DISP_[type of display, or maybe partnumber]

e.g. DISP_7SEG, DISP_LCD

Connectors
CON_[type of connector]_[number of pins]

e.g. CON_HEADER_1x02. I named it by "02" this usually the part where it will be incremented usually 2 digits and to make it uniform/aligned.
CON_ARDUINO, CON_RJ45_F