Some points learnt and to keep in mind are that although it will take a lot of time, it is best to keep the speed low at around 50%, we saw that it cuts much better and is better safety wise. Another point is that you should always double-check the distances between the traces before even exporting because it is definitely a mess when you need to start over with the traces.
To begin creating my own PCB board, I decided to follow a tutorial I found on the assignment page. Building the FabTinyISP. The decisions to follow this tutorial was because it was thorough in the explanation and well documented. Reading through the first part of the paper, it explained the fabrication of the board. As the board milling machine is technically a nano cnc machine, I understood the basics of how to use the machine. A point that was interesting to keep in mind was the traces, width between the traces, and the layers of the board. The board that I have chosen to work on was, ISP, a 1 layer board and was not too complex with the width between the traces; according to the group test beforehand we knew the trace width to use safely.
As I did not use mods in the computer-controlled cutting week, it was interesting to use it for the milling of the boards. I donwloaded the traces and the outline of the ISP boards and opened Mods. In mods I uploaded the image, png, of the traces first, checked its overall size, selected the correct machine which is the SRM-20.
Two of my classmates and I decided to use the same PCB so as to save material and to take advantage of the time.
While the boards were cutting, I began collecting the componenets needed to later on solder and test them. This type of board contains an ATiny45 microcontroller, 6 different resistors with 3 different Ohms, a zener diode, LEDs for signaling communication and power, a capacitor, and a pin header.
The cutting was done, and since I had used climb milling some edges of the cuts came out a little dirty/dusty and looked like they were a little lifted off of the board. I used a sponge-like thick material to clean it to begin soldering the components on the board.
Using the link mentioned earlier I was able to follow the diagram for the placement of the components. In the link and in class, the first tip that was provided for soldering was to solder the hardest parts first, the ones that would be too difficult to reach later on. The most difficult component was the microcontroller as it was in the center and had 6 small legs. I soldered one of the legs first to hold it down, and make it easier to continue soldering the rest of the legs, by placing the solder on the iron until it has a good amount on it and then placing the iron on the the first leg and moving it in a brush motion downwards toward the board. My first mistake of soldering was not remembering to check if the component had a direction and if it was aligned with the board. Lucky for me for this component it was aligned correctly. The next components I soldered were the two resistors and capacitor on the left of the microcontroller as I wanted to leave the pin header to the end. The pin header is a larger component and would make it difficult to solder. Later I moved to the left again, where I began soldering the resistors. This is where I ran into the second mistake because I did not realize that the resistors were of different resistances and misplaced them. I removed the excess solder by using the copper braids; where you place the copper braid on the excess material and place the iron on top of the copper braid. That way, the solder sticks to the copper braid and off the board. Once done with everything on the left of the microcontroller I moved on to soldering the far right, the LEDs and their resistors. This was the trickiest part in my experience because the space between the LED and the resistor was narrow and the soldering iron kept leaving the two connected with solder. After they were soldered and so was the pin head, I realized that some components had white solder points rather than the clean shiny look they should have. I went back with the iron and heated the existing blob for a few seconds and then added a little bit more solder and it became much cleaner. To finish off, I placed a point of solder to create a bridge to the multicontroller for the programming part and once it is programmed that soldering point will be cut.
After the soldering was complete, it was time to test whether the connections were continuous. I used a multimeter and followed the connections showed on the image of the board. All the connections, thankfully, were successful.
The next step is to install the softwares that can speak to the board. From the link, tutorial, I have been following there was a link to another tutorial that shows all the necessary softwares/drivers to install. Using the GNU AVR toolchain on Windows 10. The first step from the tutorial states that downloading everything necessary for Windows is challenging; and challenging it was. I followed the given steps to install Atmel GNU Toolchain through the Atmel site, download GNU Make and launch the installer, and then download avrdude. In the tutorial it mentioned that these steps are the easier method for Windows 10, I, however, have found that they did not work for me. When all the steps were taken and tested on Git Bash I found that they do not respond well or at all. For that reason I decided to follow a different set of steps.
After installing all the correct softwares, I plugged the board into the USB extension and the AVR MKII programmer. The good news was that the correct lights were on, the board had the red LED, the programmer had the green LED. The bad news was that the computer was not reading the board.