12: First Fab'd Boards

Oct 7, 2013
Sometimes the small milestones are the most exciting, this one is pretty exciting for me - my first time ever having a PCB professionally fabricated.

  After building up my self-etched VCO PCB and feeling fairly confident that it was functioning, I decided that since it was small it would be a good test for sending out to be fabricated.  I went with OSH Park since their boards looked very nice and the price is good for such small quantities (minimum is 3 copies of a board).  Great service for DIY hobbyists.

  It took me a little while to figure out how to export a suitable Gerber (no, not the baby food) file set from gEDA PCB but eventually I found the right combination of check boxes to click.  The OSH Park website does a really nice job of automatically parsing the files and giving you a preview of how it interpreted what you sent and the cost.  This helped a lot to make sure I got back what I was expecting.

 Left: board fresh from fab; Right: populated board

  The solder mask and plated through-holes made this board MUCH easier to build than my self-etched boards, and looks much nicer.  In fact, I've grown very tired of etching my own boards.  It's great for simple circuits that are limited to a single side and/or large features, but for boards as complex and compact as these, it's more hassle than I care to deal with.  I have one more board to prototype, and I've decided to make a leap of faith and send it straight out to be fabricated, skipping the hand etched proto.  Even if it needs revising, I think the cost will be worth the labor saved.

  VCO plugged into main voice board

Next up:  I think it's time for a proper control panel....

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