Let's Make Robots!

My 1st non-breadboard circuit :)

I know..a lot of you good folks could solder before you could walk and probably sleep with a soldering iron under your pillow (hope you remember to turn it off :), so here is this guy in his 30s bragging about his first circuit. Pathetic.

However soldering is a major challenge to me and actually the main reason I didn't get started with robotics years ago. It's just not easy for my unsteady hands. So I'm very happy to declare that I just finished my 1st working non-breadboard circuit. It's a motor+servo shield for my Arduino.

It has an L293D H-bridge chip, plugs into my Arduino and provides easy plug and play connectors for 2 DC motors, 2 servos and an external power source. Here are some photos (I know it ain't pretty but it's mine and it WORKS :)





PS: Now that the hardest part is over 1st robot coming up soon :)

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1st off...I live quite a few 1000 kms from the nearest Radio Shack, so perhaps not the best option ;)

The tutorial you posted seems nice though, and it has been bookmarked. I'm becoming more and more convinced that etching is the way to go in the long run.

About the glasses...I'm afraid my eyes aren't the problem. I see everything fine but my hands just aren't made for handling tiny things. In other words I have the eyes of a hawk and the finesse of a ...well... rhino :)

Anyway thanks for your tips...

When soldering, do you use a second pair of helping hands?? This is almost a must....and I actually use a 5lb weight bag(dive weight) to hold the base firm to the surface I'm working on. It helps when at least 1 part thats doing the work is steady!!  :D


I have a pair of helping hands (as depicted in your link) but I don't have a SECOND pair. Don't quite see the use of having several?!

I'll try to stabilize the base better next time, however I still don't think that's the problem. It really is MY hands. I'll also try to find a better way to rest my arm/hand, but frankly if anyone saw how shaky my hands are they'd probebly tell me to stay away from soldering all together...

Thanks for the tips though :)

Ah, I actualy just meant one, just saying second pair as in a set of these...

I have the same problem as you - my perfboards seem to have about a 50% chance of working, and I think my breadboards are too old.

My solution - etching. It's nowhere near as complex as you might think and for anything that has more than about 50 connections, (or if you're planning to make the same circuit a few times in the future) - it's a real time saver.

Of course, if you're just making a quick, single inverter with a trannie, then it's a waste of time, but otherwise, it's pretty effective, and good fun. Best of all - it's not frustrating with millions of tiny "connect this with that- wait, is that right? is the transistor in the right way? damn, I have to unsolder he diode - again" type problems.

Usually people say that etching is a LOT of hassle so I never really considered that an option. But you definately made me wanna look into it. Anything to keep the soldering at a minimum ;)

Breadboarding on the other hand...well I decided at 1st to use breadboards only for my robots, but even simple circuits become very messy very fast. You should have seen how a similar setup as my litle board there. It looked like the prototype for a time machine or something REALLY complicated. Plus I kept getting loose connections all the time. Not a great way to build robots either.

Perhaps I could ask you: What would I need to get started with the etching? And how much would it cost more or less?

Anyway thanks for the tip :)

Probably the most difficult thing is finding a supplier of the etching acid. I live in japan so I can't really tell you where the best place is for you, but try art stores or hardware stores.

There's an abundance of sites online that give you a step by step process. It's something like.

1. design the circuit (I use eagle)

2. transfer the ciruuit to the board (I use an iron and water) - or you can draw it.

3. etch (takes about 5-10 mins)

4. solder it up.

Step 2. is the irritating bit. some people print directly to the board, some draw, some use a transfer. 


I use the transfer method by printing the circuit on a paper, then I have to photocopy the image (because photocopy toner melts, whereas printer ink does not), then I apply that to the cleaned copper board with a lot of iron heat - this takes a certain trial and error, so make sure you make lots of photocopies.

Put the board (with the circuit iron-on still stuck to it) in a bit of water so you can gently remove the completely soaked paper. 

then put it in a bit of ecthing fluid - agitate it a bit, and/or float it in a bit of hot water to speed it up.

then drill. 



maybe I should make a step by step - but I think some might already exist on this site... There's some eg.s of a board or two that I made here I think.

Definately nice to know that it's a realistic alternative to soldering...

Not sure if this would be an easier alternative as you have to drill the(real tiny) holes and solder the components on the board any way...and if you don't have a steady hand for soldering, you'd better have a mini drill press(dremel or craftsman hand tool) for the drilling as that will need some precision work .

I think drilling is infinitely easier than soldering. In any case, you can always make a first pass with a centre punch and put a little dimple in the place you need the hole to help locate the drill tip.

Having said that - drilling is certainly the most tedious part, and I've broken about 4 or 5 1mm drills doing it - although I use only a handheld cordless drill.