Shenzhen City, China -- (ReleaseWire) -- 06/02/2014 -- Building on the knowledge, experience, and work of others makes transforming that idea to a real electronics project easier. However, while electronic project will be unique, they all follow the same sequence to transition from thought to reality.
Selecting the Project
Any electronics project starts with the decision of what to build. The more formed the idea is, the easier it will be to tackle. Of course all designs shift along the way as the idea intersects with reality, what can be done, and what building blocks are available. Developing that solid idea of what one want the project to do, look like, how people will interact or control it, and how it will be used allows one to find other projects with similar elements that can be used for inspiration on the design and construction of the own project.
Designing the Circuit
The first major step in developing an electronic project is to design the electronics. This is where building off previous projects with good documentation, getting inspiration from other projects, and application notes, design guides, and datasheets can be invaluable. Unless one want to use the project as a way to get hands on learning, its best to focus on designing portions of the electronics that are new or unique to the project. Portions of a project like a power supply or regulator have been designed thousands or millions of times and can be purchased or implemented through good application note examples which saves time, money, and frustration as to build and test the project.
Build a Prototype
Once an electronic schematic for the project has been created (or a schematic for a portion of the project), building a breadboard prototype is the next step in the evolution the project. Building a prototype or breadboard circuit is not always required but it is one of the best ways to discover any errors made in the design of the circuit before it is finalized in a printed circuit board and soldered together. Breadboard prototypes don't work for all projects due to their inherent limitations, but they should be used whenever possible to limit the frustration of troubleshooting a circuit for designer errors.
Build a permanent Circuit
Once the design has been built and tested on a breadboard or otherwise prototyped, the design can be built as a permanent circuit. The best option for most projects is to build a PCB using low cost or free PCB design software and use a low cost PCB prototyping service to have the PCB made. Alternatively a project can be soldered together using a perf board, although a perf board is more suited for prototyping or more temporary projects. Either method for making a permanent circuit can work, but will likely require testing and prototyping to catch those small errors that often pop in translation to a final circuit. Always budget some time and funding for an additional PCB run if one can.
Finish the Project
Once the permanent circuit has been made it should be mounted in an enclosure along with support components (batteries, sensors, etc.) and user interface hardware (buttons, display, etc.). If the final product needs to look a certain way, it is best to plan for the final enclosure, mounting holes, and position of each component as the PCB is being designed to hopefully avoid any need to redesign the PCB or enclosure. Many project enclosures or project boxes are available for purchase but most lack any stylish design elements. If the final look of the project is important, either one can make the enclosure on a budget with hand moldable plastics, create custom silicon molds, or use a 3D printer to design a truly custom enclosure.
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