Let's Make Robots!

My adventure into the world of SMD

solder smd


Ever since I got my hand on my first Arduino I have been impressed by the small SMD components used and thought that this is done by special machines or by some expensive equipment.
A year ago I had my first PCB fabricated and I can’t tell you the trill of having your own custom built board and populate it with components.

This summer I had my first experience in soldering some 0805 resistors and LED’s on my XY-table driver board. And I must admit that it’s not that hard at all to solder these small components. Actually, with a little practice it’s probably faster to solder a SMD resistor then it is bending, soldering and clipping the leads of an through hole resistor.
Most of the hobbyist components can be hand soldered with just a regular good soldering iron. The secret is mostly in the use of flux and a thin solder in the 0.5mm or thinner region.

There are tons of tutorials out there but my favorite one is this.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3NN7UGWYmBY
There are actually lots of information on this over at Curious Inventor http://store.curiousinventor.com/guides/Surface_Mount_Soldering

But is there a point of going SMD vs regular through hole components?
on the up side:

  • As PCB fabrication is expensive you get more components on your board and can go for a smaller board, thus saving money
  • The components are cheap and easy to store
  • Some components only comes in SMD packages
  • If your dream is that your board someday may get inn to volume production, then SMD is the way to go.
  • But most of all… it looks COOL !


On the down side:

  • SMD is not practical for protoboards, solder or solderless
  • For fine pitch components you probably won’t be able to etch the PCB's yourself.
  • Cost of PCB fabrication for one shot devices

Anyway, here are some pictures of my work and current projects.
This is the very first 0805 resistors that I soldered.

My second SMD project was a full blown SMD logger based on the ATMEGA328P. It has an onboard RTC and EEPROM for logging and a DS18B20 parasitic temperature sensor. It also has header for two TCS3200 RGB light sensors.

 

The complete board is only 50x50mm and you get 10 boards from http://imall.iteadstudio.com/open-pcb/pcb-prototyping/im120418001.html  at only $ 9.90

The board gets the Arduino bootloader added and then I can use the regular Arduino IDE to program it.

 

This is the RGB sensor

And all hooked up for testing

My current board is based on an ARM7 microcontroller from NXP preloaded with the .NET Micro Framework. This is a 100 pin 0.5mm package so God knows how this turns out. But this is the current layout.

 

This might not be all that great a walkthrough, but the point is. Don’t be scared of SMD! It’s fully doable with a regular soldering iron and some dedication.

Have fun!

 

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Nice PCBs!  I recommend a cheap toaster oven and some solder paste for trickier components such as accelerometers.  I've been using a DeLonghi DO-400 purchased through Amazon.com and it works well.  I also recommend ordering PCBs from oshpark.com as they are fairly quick, cheap, and high quality.

Hey Geir, looks like you've mastered smd pretty good. I'd seen people using braid to tidy up after soldering smd ic's. I found it difficult using braid but I did get a flux pen and found that is definately the go.
My experience of soldering smd at this stage is limited to soldering a tqfp44 to a board and some resistors.