Electronics and appliance stores are deluged with gadgets and devices that seem to be able to address just about every audio visual or data and communication requirement imaginable. There seems to be an off-the-shelf solution for any application effect or outcome one can think of, whether it is playing mp3 audio files, or even detecting radon in your home.
There are, however, rare occasions when no commercially-available product actually exists to fit the bill of some specific requirement that may arise.
One may need to be able to activate alternately flashing strobe lights, or to enable a motor home’s sound system to provide noise-cancellation outputs, or simply to augment a home appliance by adding a DV-power outlet for USB chargers, and not be able to find anything in a store or mail-order site that does exactly that.
When this sort of thing happens, one’s only recourse is to contract someone to build such a device. He may also decide to build it himself. This would mean having to make your own printed circuit board and mounting all the proper components on it. Although this may sound like a daunting task, it isn’t really all that difficult, and could actually be a lot of fun. There is also the great sense of satisfaction you will experience at the end of any successful do-it-yourself project, that is, if it really does go well.
The first step in making the printed circuit board for your one-off electronic gadget is to develop or source the necessary circuit diagram.
There are now websites from which hobbyists can download circuit diagrams and parts specifications for home and shop projects. Before deciding to proceed with one of these projects, it is best to ascertain that all the required components for the devices can be sourced.
When shopping for the electronic components, it is also useful to buy the necessary copper clad board needed for making the printed circuit board, and the ferric chloride solution needed for etching the circuit. Of course, it is necessary to have a drill and the appropriately sized drill bits to make the holes that will admit the electrical contact pins of all the components that you need to mount on the board. Needless to say, the hobbyist should have a soldering iron or gun and an ample supply of solder.
The downloaded or custom-designed circuit diagram should now be transferred to, or drawn directly on the copper clad board with a permanent marker or any means of masking the areas defined by the copper circuit. Some computer printers have the ability to print circuit diagrams on specially made copper clad boards, thereby simplifying the entire process. Once the diagram is made, the entire board should be immersed in a ferric chloride solution to etch the circuit.
The copper on the exposed surfaces of the board reacts to the solution to form a copper chloride compound, displacing the iron which precipitates into gunk in the liquid. After washing off any remaining solvent, the ink of the permanent marker is now wiped off with acetone or some other solvent, – revealing the copper surface of the printed circuit.
All that remains now is drilling the holes on the printed circuit board at the designated points using the correct drill bits, so that the holes for components will fit the contact pins snugly when they are put in. Now, the components such as transistors, integrated circuits, diodes, resistors, capacitors, wire connectors, and everything else are mounted on the back side of the board, and soldered securely onto the copper surfaces on the front side of the board.
It may also be useful to drill larger holes at the corners of the printed circuit board to allow it to be mounted in whatever casing it was meant to be inserted in. Such projects may be far from rocket science, considering how complex present-day circuit boards have become, but they offer a lot of fun and personal fulfillment.
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