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Monday, September 21, 2020

What Can You Make With Your Own PCBs?

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Printed circuit boards are elements of modern technology that we all depend on, but which most of us don’t know very much about. They are the small, typically green boards housed within our electronics, and which essentially help actions turn into reactions.

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The PCB within a device conveys a signal, such that your use of the device (say, pressing a button) results in a function. A PCB is exactly the sort of thing we tend to take for granted in modern technology.

It’s a given that our electronics have circuit boards, and we don’t really have to worry about them. The professionals know what they’re doing, and the PCBs that make it into our everyday devices are able to perform as needed.

For those who are curious about these things though, it may be of interest to learn that you can actually build your own PCB as well. This can be done in a number of different ways.

Typically, today, it would begin with design software through which you could arrange the elements of your PCB digitally and test it to make sure your planned design will work. From there, you have multiple ways of turning a computer design into a functioning circuit board.

The first option is to work out how to use a PCB stencil, which involves hands-on manufacturing. It’s a process by which you’ll actually solder elements onto a stencil design yourself, physically bringing your design to life.

The second option is to simply outsource your design — sending off a digital copy of it to a manufacturer who can turn it into a functioning product. And the third option is 3D printing.

We’re seeing 3D printing of electronics just beginning to emerge as a possibility, meaning you might be able to print a functioning circuit board directly from your digital design.

Through any of these methods, you can create a circuit board that is actually capable of helping an electronic device to run.

It may take some time to figure out all of the details of the design process, but the end result can be a fully customized product — something a lot of tech enthusiasts would love to create.

The next question though, of course, is what you could actually make if you learned to design PCBs.

That question could be answered with an endless list of items. But to give you some idea, here are a few of the more common custom projects to hear about:

Lighting – There’s virtually no end to the possible creativity one can set up designing lamps and lights, and a quick search will reveal that this is actually a pretty popular sort of project. This will also give you a means of designing something based on fairly straightforward PCBs. You can learn how it works and build yourself an interesting desk lamp or something of the sort all at once.

Drones – As you may have seen, we’ve actually covered how to make a drone in the past — complete with some mention of printed circuit boards. PCBs can indeed be used to make drones function, which means you can basically have full control over your build (designing not just the exterior of the drone, but its electronics). It’s a more complex project, but with some research and a bit of trial and error, it’s a doable project.

Game Controllers – Given all the different ways people have to play games today, it’s actually not uncommon to hear of people designing their own controllers. It may be a retro controller imitation for older games available for PC download, for instance, or a makeshift, simple controller for smartphone-based gaming. Whatever the specific need though, this is a surprisingly simple project to undertake, and another good opportunity to make use of PCB design.

Computers – It goes without saying that building your own PC is a complex project — both more involved and, when it comes to parts, more expensive. Furthermore, it’s not a simple PCB that will run a device like this so much as a larger motherboard. Nevertheless, for the more ambitious tech lovers out there, this is still another example of a project that some like to take on once they gain an understanding of circuit board design.

As we indicated, there are plenty more examples that could be added to a list like this. But these should give you some idea of the different kinds of things you can learn to create if you first learn how to design and engineer PCBs.

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