We are constantly amazed by the evolution of fantastic resources available to DIY hobbyists and designers.
A couple of weeks ago, we provided a step-by-step guide to making printed circuit boards (PCB). The UV imaging and Ferric Chloride etching method is not particularly difficult all up, but there are still serious draw-backs and barriers to making DIY PCBs at home for many. Suitable work areas and ventilation are required; relatively nasty chemicals need sourcing and handling; and disposal of waste needs very careful attention for environmental reasons because it contains toxic Copper salts.
For anyone who just wants a professional looking printed circuit board on which to place their newly designed electronics project without the fuss, we really recommend considering what Fritzing.org has to offer. They provide a fantastic fabrication alternative for electronics enthusiasts living in close quarters, or where DIY PCB etching is simply out of the question.
We have no affiliation with this crowd what-so-ever, but they are an open source initiative and we support what they are doing for hobbyists and small time DIY electronics project designers around the world. They are helping make professional looking circuit board manufacturing accessible for any individual with any sized PCB project, at a very reasonable cost.
Fritzing offers free download software for electronics design under a Creative Commons license. The software in itself is good for designing circuits and preparing virtual layouts on printed circuit boards. The software package is also available and handy even if you still wish to print DIY circuit boards yourself.
While Fritzing’s website offers various services and opportunities for hobbyists to share and get paid for their DIY electronics creations and designs, the best part of their offerings is the Fritzing Fab service.
After using the free design and layout software, it is possible to upload your newly created design to their manufacturing process. There is no minimum order. You can order any number of boards from one, to more!
With many like minded enthusiasts submitting their designs at a similar time from all over the world, the projects are batched with other layouts and then professionally fabricated in Germany. Delivery of new, sparkling project boards with all imaging, etching, drilling and screen printing complete, usually only takes a few weeks (depending on manufacturing schedules).
This video gives a little basic information about Fritzing and its activities.
And here is how the basic PCB layout and submission process works – all too easy:
All this is possible at a very reasonable cost which is comparable to small batch DIY etching after setup, but produces an extremely professional result without the headaches. The more PCBs you wish to make, the cheaper their service becomes.
As we said, we are not affiliated in any way, but we like them for what they offer in the way of free software and useful services. Anyhow, we just thought some readers may be interested. Check it out if you haven’t heard of Fritzing.org already!