Mass transit for electrons
When’s the last time you used a soldering iron? When’s the last time you taught someone else how to solder? This is a fundamental part of electronics, and despite being lots of fun, has almost become a lost art. But in recent times, the tools available for this art have greatly increased the capabilities available for small-scale developers and hobbyists. In short, how would you like to design and fabricate your own printed circuit boards (PCB)? Today, you can, largely due to advances in open source software and hardware.
There are many facets to the design and fabrication of electronics that are getting a boost from open source. In the design phase, there are many applications for Electronic Design Automation (EDA) that greatly simplify the design and layout of printed circuit boards and integrated circuits. One of the best applications around (which is also open source) is KiCad, which runs on Windows, Linux, and Apple OS X. EDA applications like this can greatly automate the design of circuits in a schematic view, perform error checks on the design, and then transition that design information into the physical arrangement for a PCB.
From your own designs, or from your modifications to existing open source designs, you can fabricate your PCB in a number of ways. There’s the more traditional masking and etching method, or using a CNC router to remove the excess copper cladding, or you can even outsource that part to a variety of custom PCB manufacturers. Just upload your design files in industry-standard formats, and check your mailbox for a package…