If your goal is to make a permanent project, as opposed to a breadboard setup, then you will want to design your own PCB. We will show you here, albeit briefly, how to design your printed circuit board and have it made by a PCB manufacturer.
It is possible to etch your PCBs at home but it’s a messy process, it’s much easier and cheaper to have a professional manufacturer to do this part for you – all you need to do is design the board and send them the files. There are plenty of popular PCB design software programs available
Before you start the design of your printed circuit board it’s a good idea to make a schematic of your circuit. This schematic will be the blueprint that will be used for laying out the traces and placing of components on the board itself. This will make the design process much easier.
It is best practice to put the schematic symbols down on the canvas before you draw any wires. Each symbol needs to have a PCB footprint attached to it, this will define physical dimensions of the components and the placement of any through holes or copper pads.
With all your symbols on the schematic and you have assigned each with a footprint, you should now start drawing your wires. When the wiring is finished it can be a good idea to label your symbols. It is best to use an advanced PCB design software like Altium for this kind of task.
With the wiring and symbols done, it is time to arrange your components. You might want to do a little research to see if there are any special design requirements that your circuit may need. For instance, some circuits perform better when certain components are in specific locations to either improve efficiency or reduce noise.
With component placement arranged, it’s now time to start drawing your traces. Refer back to your earlier schematic to verify the correct connections. Traces can be routed automatically by using the auto-router function of the PCB design software that you are using, but for more complex circuits and arrangements it may be better to do this manually as auto-routers may not be 100% accurate in these instances. For simpler designs, the auto-router should be sufficient, and you can always manually adjust everything later if required.
Printed Circuit Board Gerber Files
With everything else taken care of, it’s time for you to download your PCBs Gerber files. Gerber files are a set of image files generated by your design software. The files contain all of the data required that a manufacturer will use to create the printed circuit board for you.
The Gerber files are compressed into a single .zip file which can easily be emailed or uploaded. The filed consist of separate images for copper traces, silk screen and locations of drill holes etc.
This was only a rough guide, but you should have a better understanding of the process, your chosen software package will have detailed instructions on its use.