Designing PCB’s

It seems that most of us hams make a lifelong commitment to learning. Mainly about technical stuff to do with the hobby but occasionally about yourself. Yesterday I learnt that designing a simple PCB for my shack clock  was going to take longer than a couple of hours.

Starting at the beginning I did the usual Googling about to find the right piece of software that would “easily” and “simply” turn my ideas into reality (I’m paraphrasing the marketing blurb but you know the kind of thing). I must be in a minority but this isn’t simple or easy. My shack clock is simple a radio controlled clock that receives a signal from the MSF 60KHz transmitter in Anthorn, Cumbria. No more than 30 miles from the house. An Arduino microprocessor converts the signal from the receiver into a simple LCD display. Currently the clock runs from a USB cable into the Arduino and into a heap of cables and wires on the desk. It has a certain aesthetic quality but not one you’d particularly call ‘3 year old boy proof’ (Sam likes to pull the wires out).

So downloading the freeware version of Eagle and firing it up, running through a bunch of tutorials and within a few short hours I had a schematic up on the screen. Even after wrestling about with some of the vast array of included libraries and checking of specs of things on various websites and ‘guessing’ my way through I think the schematic looks about right.

For this part of the project the Arduino had been replaced with the barebones microprocessor from Hobbytronics. Switching to the board layout gives a complete mess of wires and components that need shifting round. I now realise that this isn’t going to be a quick design. Normally at this point I’d share a picture of the work in progress. This time I will keep it to myself, until I can stop the board looking like a, well I don’t really know what it looks like but I know it isn’t a PCB yet.

Onwards and upwards!

Alex Hill, G7KSE, is a regular contributor to and writes from Cumbria, UK. Contact him at [email protected].

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