SEPT 28, 2015 ||| Skills: Mill, Solder ||| Material: Copper board, Components
This week we focused on learning the technical skills involved in making and assembling a programmable circuit board. The design was already given and Rob had given us a set of really detailed instructions on how to use the Modela. In terms of milling, it's important to manually lower the Z axis before zeroing to X,Y home on the fab module. If this isn't done, sometimes the drill bit just hovers over the board and nothing is milled or not milled all the way through. It's also REALLY important to stick the board well on the sacrificial layer.
Uneven level will result in a bad job and if it's not stuck tightly enough, the board can come loose and get dragged by the drill bit and ruin the job. The biggest learning curve was getting the hang of soldering, which is a highly intuitive process. At first I was very timid and afraid of messing up because circuit boards, to me, look very fragile. But after understanding the malleability of solder and and the impermanence of the process, I eventually got the hang of it. Another good tip is to check for connections and voltage using a voltmeter after soldering before programming it with the computer. Connecting to the board to a power source and holding the black pointer of the voltmeter to ground, use the red pointer to see if all the VCC connections are getting the 5V flowing across. Also the voltmeter has a setting that beeps when the ground and vcc are connected to each other. This is a really quick and easy way to make sure everything that should be connected is connected and disconnected where it shouldn't be.