How to order a PCB

Recently we finished the design of the Recovery Printed Circuit Board and, after many reviews and small changes, it was finally ordered.

At a Tuesday evening Electronics meeting we said “let’s order it tonight”, expecting it to take maybe an hour max. We still had to run some design rule checks, that’s when Altium checks if anything on the board would cause problems for the fabrication of the circuit board, and fix some errors.

However, every time we fixed something, two new errors popped up. The three of us did not want to stop before ordering the board, so at 1:30 in the night we finally placed the order and went home to sleep. It was quite a relief indeed.

The board arrived surprisingly fast, and what a sight it was. Because of the sponsor contract we have with Eurocircuits, we can order a large amount of PCBs for free. Only thing is, we do not get to choose the colour and finish of the board. This is because when circuit boards are made, they will be put on one bigger, fixed size board. Different designs from other people are placed on such a board, and when there is room left, a PCB from DARE might be put on it as well. This means that it could have been yellow or red, too. Luckily this one is green (the most common) and had a nice tin coating on the solder pads, which makes it easier to solder the components in place.

The PCB board.

The programming of the board started immediately, and when a test program was run on the board, it turned out that I had wired some LEDs and communication lines incorrectly, but it still worked! It will not be flying (which we already expected from such a complex board) but at least I learnt a lot, and the next version will be perfect.

Stratos III PCB boards.

Now the board is being tested with the other boards and its peripherals, while sitting in a nice test stand which Maurits made. We are now in progress to finish the design of the final PCBs so that we can fill out the test stand. In this way we can test the communication behavior between the PCBs as we desire. In the meanwhile, we of course have to fix the first version of the recovery PCB as well.

by Jillis Noordhoek