Hardware Development: Spark Shows How to Make a Prototype PCB

Hardware Development: Spark Shows How to Make a Prototype PCB
Image: Prototype 2 Production
Prototype 2 Production guides makers in designing their own boards.

Prototype 2 Production, a blog by the Spark team about bringing products to market, published the first of a three-part series this week on how to build a printed circuit board prototype. The guide, written by Spark’s head of supply chain Will Hart, walks readers through PCB fabrication specs, checking for design rule violations and generating layout files.

Fabrication specifications cover the physical basics of a board: attributes like the dimensions, number of layers, physical material, and board thickness, which Hart writes “have a tremendous affect on its cost, yield, supply chain, and manufacturability.”

With a design in hand, Hart encourages designers to check for rule violations, using software like EAGLE of FreeDFM. Finally, he shows how to generate and document a Gerber file that can be sent to a fabricator.

“I used to etch boards by hand when I was a kid,” wrote a commenter on the post. “Very interesting to see how it’s done today.”

The next post in the series will cover how to order materials for assembly.

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Jon Christian is the co-editor of the Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection between makers and business. He's also written for the Boston Globe, WIRED and The Atlantic.

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