Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

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Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby makerie » 01 Dec 2015, 16:20

Hey guys,

I've been a lurker here for a while and I love how vibrant and helpful the community is and I've learnt a lot from it over the past number of years. I want to share with you an idea for a veroboard-inspired PCB system that I've been developing for quite a while. I'd also like to give out free PCBs and kits over the next while, to those who have contributed to the community. I've included background on myself and the company I started to give you a bit of context to where this project grew from.

Myself and the company’s background
My name is Thom and I run a small company in Ireland called http://www.maker.ie. For the past 4 years I've been introducing people to pedal building and all areas of audio electronics through hands-on workshops.
My background is originally in science which really couldn't inspire me so I followed up with a masters in Music Technologies. It was during my masters that I really got into audio electronics, starting off with circuitbending and moving quickly on to pedal building. I started running workshops with my classmates and I found I really enjoyed teaching them and they really seemed to like making stuff. Anyway, before I'd finished my masters I was running workshops in Dublin mostly to friends and friends of friends, and the response was really positive (I'd a little previous experience teaching in music and science). After I finished the course, myself and another classmate had the thought that if this many musicians in Dublin were as interested and excited about DIY audio electronics as we were, there might be a sustainable market for a business. So guided by impulsive and youthful naivety we enrolled in an entrepreneurship development programme at our college and began sculpting a business plan and conducting market research.

At the end of the programme we were lucky enough to win their business development award and secure a free office on campus for a year. Our market research came back very positive, and our workshops were still popular, so we decided to give starting a business a go, initially on a part-time basis, to see if there was any traction.

About a year later, after a dozen or so workshops, I was lucky enough to get onto an accelerator programme that provided enough finances to allow me to work on the project full time. It has been about 18 months since. We now have three staff and have just relaunched our site (and have developed a few new products and kits) but what I want to present to you guys is the manifestation of 4 years of working with musicians and trying to solve what I see are some of the frustrations of DIY guitar pedal building, while maintaining the better aspects of the use of veroboard. It also ties in with my very firmly held belief that anyone and everyone is capable of DIY electronics, provided the platform for learning is right.

The Idea
So this is it; the B.I.Y. (Boutique It Yourself) PCB Layout http://imgur.com/c1sIvdG.jpg

BIY Prototype build: http://i.imgur.com/7JqiTZ8.jpg

I'm keen to try and make it easier for musicians to get into DIY. I believe by de-jargoning literature, increasing the approachability of the technical process and bringing down the overall cost of DIY there is nothing stopping anyone getting involved and reaping the creative rewards it has to offer. Logically, this means empowering every musician to create their own, unique "boutique" equipment.

The B.I.Y. PCB (and kits) are my attempt to meet these objectives for guitar/bass players and pedal builders. When I started the design process for this project I had the following objectives:

- Increase long-term build reliability
- Minimise opportunities for build error
- Reduce build time
- Maximise flexibility/mod-ability
- Minimise Cost
- Stimulate community-led design innovation

Let's look at how I tackled each of these objectives...

INCREASING LONG-TERM BUILD RELIABILITY
This is possibly the most important objective. We all want our projects to be as close to "gig-safe" as possible. As exciting as it is to build something and hear it working; if it stops working after a week/month/year (especially on stage!), you are just going to get pissed off and perhaps abandon DIY electronics altogether.
To try and solve this issue I went with a single PCB that fits neatly into a 1590B (Hammond - in the USA)/27134PSLA (Eddystone - EU/UK) that requires no off-board wiring. All components (shrouded inputs, stomp, pots, etc...) are soldered directly to the board. There is virtually nothing to come loose from tossing it in your gig bag and it removes any pressure on the wiring from the pots, inputs or stompswitch from over use. The only wiring required is board-to-board (for jumper wires and connecting to potentiometer inputs).

MINIMISE OPPORTUNITIES FOR BUILD ERROR
The design has been heavily inspired by the vibrant vero/stipboard community and the flexibility the medium offers. However there is one huge headache with stripboard; having to cut on the reverse of the board and place components on the front. I can't tell you the amount of times I've made a trace cut in the wrong place only to realise later in the build, or worse, frying an IC because of some messy off board wiring mistake or jangly piece of stripboard shorting against the enclosure. Trying to read from a printout or screen can also easily lead to a mistake that can in turn lead to hours of head scratching followed by frustrating desoldering. This is where I think this project makes a huge leap over stripboard while maintaining all its benefits:

- On B.I.Y. PCBs, all trace-cuts are made on the front of the board; the same side you are placing the components!
- All wiring to pots, switches and jacks is taken care of by the board; no more jungle of wires crammed into a tiny stomp pedal!
- Maker.ie will provide component ''maps'' for each project, made to scale that can be printed and stuck/taped to the front of the board
- Maker.ie are developing an augmented reality app that will show you exactly how each project should look in 3D when completed and at each stage of the build (resistors, capacitors, ICs, wiring, etc...)

Augmented Reality App Prototype Stills http://imgur.com/a/I3pdS

MINIMISE BUILD TIME
The biggest savings in build time will most likely come from:
- Reduced troubleshooting
- No off-board wiring
- Component maps remove the need for referencing screen or printout.

STIMULATE COMMUNITY-LED DESIGN INNOVATION
I want this build platform to help stimulate innovation and experimentation within the guitar pedal design/modification community. This proejct is released under an open hardware licence (our learning material is also all Creative Commons) and we will be making the photoshop files for creating your own scaled component maps freely available. I'm also keen want to reward the huge amount of often urecognised innovation within the guitar pedal community and am proposing the introduction of quarterly design competitions. As well as winning prizes in these competitions, other ideas include offering winning original designs a 15% Licence Fee for the sale of kits of their design. 15% of sales of kits from other established designs would go to a worthy charity. I'm are still toying with this idea and would love the community's feedback on it.

MAXIMISE FLEXIBILITY/MOD-ABILITY
The free build area of the board is designed like strip/veroboard with tracks of connected holes through which to insert components for soldering. This provides the same level of flexibility and customisation that strip/veroboard offers and leaves the user free to draw from the huge wealth of designs and modifications created by the amazing stripboard community.

I've introduced a number of innovations onto the B.I.Y. PCB that offer the builder a high level of flexibility and convenience:
- A dedicated area on the board for creating 1/2Vcc (or another reference voltage) for biasing opamps and transistors.
- Dedicated ground and power rails. These are split in the middle and fed from two different points. Trace cuts can be made to free up the rest of the track. On the ground plane this minimises the return path of the signal and on the power rail it, well, you'll see in a second....
- Space for a Voltage Regulator which is selectable by making specific tracecuts. This provides for 3 options:
1. Do nothing - DC power comes in and goes to the power rail.
2. Make a trace cut and now regulated (cleaner) positive voltage goes to your power trace
3. Make a 2nd trace cut and now you have regulated power to half your power rail, and DC input to the other half. This is great if you are using a digital chip (3.3V or 5V) alongside opamps for example.

Board Innovation images: http://imgur.com/a/rMzF5

MINIMISE COST
By using the same board our company can purchase the PCBs in bulk dramatically reducing costs. This same principle also applies to the components (electrical and mechanical) which we will have available through kits should you wish to shop with us.

DESIGN CHALLENGES
One design challenge I have struggled to solve is soldering the pots directly to the board. I feel this is important in order to keep build reliability high to match the height of shrouded jacks, and the stomp switch. Soldering to the board directly means the spindle of most common 9mm potentiometers does not reach high enough above the surface of the enclosure to attach a control knob. There are apparently long spindle 9mm pots out there, but we have had trouble sourcing them and they are inevitably going to be reasonably expensive (and remember we are trying to minimise cost), and we want these boards to be as accessible as possible.
One solution I've have come-up with is to use male/female pcb connectors to raise the physical level of the pot above the board, while still keeping all soldering to the PCB. This means a little extra soldering which maybe isn't ideal, although there is no off board wiring. If anyone out there thinks they have a solution to this that doesn't significantly increase cost or build time we would love to hear from you!

NEXT STEPS
I will continue to strive to improve our design as we get feedback from the community and we are already working on a larger version for a larger enclosure design. We will also be designing a 2 stomp version for effect switching.

Larger Board Early Prototype Image http://imgur.com/wqw95RX

We are also keen to finish our augmented reality app. If there is anyone out there with experience in Unity we would be interested in hearing from you.
This project has been born out of a love for pedal building and the amazing community around it, and a desire to see more people get involved in this very rewarding and creatively freeing pursuit. If you have any suggestions of ideas or feel you can contribute to the project, please get in touch with us at info@maker.ie

Thanks (and very sorry for the megapost)!

TL:DR - Guitar Pedal building PCB that: Increases reliability/reduces build time/reduces opportunity for errors/stimulates community-led innovation/maximises design flexibility/minimises cost - would love feedback - some free stuff
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Re: Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby ~arph » 01 Dec 2015, 16:45

Too much text.. butI like the PCB, one thing to consider is that on Vero you need more space so can not build large circuits on it.. say a phaser. But on perf you can. So perhaps a perf version? should be simple.
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Re: Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby makerie » 01 Dec 2015, 17:39

That's a really interesting point. I've never built with perf so I'm not too familiar with it, but if it opens up the board that would be a great thing and it wouldn't be very difficult to do a perf version. Thanks for the insight.
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Re: Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby deltafred » 02 Dec 2015, 00:42

Looks a neat idea, but yea - too much text. Most people (these days) don't have the time/attention span/inclination to read that much. On the plus side you do have a TL;DR.

Probably varies person to person but give me perf over vero every time.

I really like the idea of minimal off board connections, poor strain relief of flexible wires soldered to a board is a pet hate of mine.

On the pot problem you have 2 choices, lift the pots up somehow (extend the legs/daughter board/etc) or extend the shaft. Lifting the pots involves more connections, possibly plugs and sockets. Extending the shaft means additional hardware to produce. Neither strike me as ideal

So far I cannot see an elegant solution but will give it some thought and see if anything springs to mind.
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Re: Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby makerie » 02 Dec 2015, 12:27

deltafred wrote:Looks a neat idea, but yea - too much text. Most people (these days) don't have the time/attention span/inclination to read that much. On the plus side you do have a TL;DR.

Probably varies person to person but give me perf over vero every time.

I really like the idea of minimal off board connections, poor strain relief of flexible wires soldered to a board is a pet hate of mine.

On the pot problem you have 2 choices, lift the pots up somehow (extend the legs/daughter board/etc) or extend the shaft. Lifting the pots involves more connections, possibly plugs and sockets. Extending the shaft means additional hardware to produce. Neither strike me as ideal

So far I cannot see an elegant solution but will give it some thought and see if anything springs to mind.



Hi Deltafred,

Yeah so this is the solution we have for the pots at the moment (and yes it's definitely not ideal): http://i.imgur.com/PMfjKbF.jpg

The reason I chose this rather that chasing after pots with longer shafts is that they are hard to find and expensive and this method this leaves it more open to more people as regular 9mm pots are easy and cheap to find.
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Re: Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby deltafred » 02 Dec 2015, 23:57

makerie wrote:Yeah so this is the solution we have for the pots at the moment (and yes it's definitely not ideal): http://i.imgur.com/PMfjKbF.jpg

The reason I chose this rather that chasing after pots with longer shafts is that they are hard to find and expensive and this method this leaves it more open to more people as regular 9mm pots are easy and cheap to find.


Thanks for posting the photo, I saw the board mounted sockets but hadn't grasped the exact details. As you say not ideal but a pretty a good work-a-round.
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Re: Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby makerie » 03 Dec 2015, 12:06

[UPDATE]

So I have made 2 major upgrades to the design of the board since I made the original post.

1 - I've managed to squeeze in an extra row of pads onto the board! The main part of the board is now 11 traces deep rather than 10 (not counting the power rails or the extra pads around the stomp switch).
http://i.imgur.com/96F4BZH.png

2 - I've added extra pads (including a ground pad) where the pots mount to the board (via pcb spacers), so that connecting pads to ground and each other is more convenient while reducing clutter on the board.
http://i.imgur.com/VdNH9y6.png
http://i.imgur.com/PMfjKbF.jpg

I'm also delighted to announce that I will be working with Jody from http://mylkstuff.com/ to design our component maps. Jody is not only an amazing designer (http://mylkstuff.com/page4.htm#.VmAfuvnhCUk) he's also an audio circuit designer and DIYer himself (http://mylkstuff.com/page78.htm#brush).
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Re: Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby grrrunge » 03 Dec 2015, 12:25

Most of the pedals I've seen using board mounted pots, place the pots on the boards backside. That solution works really well in my opinion. Less flimsy than the stand-off solution at least ;)
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Re: Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby makerie » 03 Dec 2015, 13:50

grrrunge wrote:Most of the pedals I've seen using board mounted pots, place the pots on the boards backside. That solution works really well in my opinion. Less flimsy than the stand-off solution at least ;)


Hey grrrunge, thanks for the feedback. We have to mount an the front because the stomp is also mounted to the board. We've found that with the stand-off and a 9mm pot that has a hex-nut for securing it to the enclosure, the result is pretty solid. It's a real teaser!
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Re: Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby Dirk_Hendrik » 03 Dec 2015, 14:43

Way too much text. :blackeye my oh my! :shock:

Board;
Investigate the concept of slotted holes instead of round holes and apply them to the DCsocket. Same for the 3PDT (which is ofcourse targetted at being able to accept the 3PDT's that can be wired as well instead of the more expensive PCB versions.
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Re: Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby makerie » 03 Dec 2015, 18:02

Dirk_Hendrik wrote:Way too much text. :blackeye my oh my! :shock:

Board;
Investigate the concept of slotted holes instead of round holes and apply them to the DCsocket. Same for the 3PDT (which is ofcourse targetted at being able to accept the 3PDT's that can be wired as well instead of the more expensive PCB versions.


Hi Dirk_Hendrik,

Yeah so I originally edited my parts so that the DC, 1/4" inputs and stomp exactly fit. This worked perfectly for the stomp and 1/4" but there is still a little play in the DC so I will definitely look into slotted holes! Thanks very much :)
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Re: Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby grrrunge » 03 Dec 2015, 22:26

makerie wrote:We have to mount an the front because the stomp is also mounted to the board.

Shit yeah - sorry mate ;) Didn't think that far ahead, as i usually use a daughter board for the stomp switch instead ;)
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Re: Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby makerie » 04 Dec 2015, 11:49

grrrunge wrote:
makerie wrote:We have to mount an the front because the stomp is also mounted to the board.

Shit yeah - sorry mate ;) Didn't think that far ahead, as i usually use a daughter board for the stomp switch instead ;)


Haha no worries. I was silently hoping you had a solution!! Cheers for the feedback though.
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Re: Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby deltafred » 04 Dec 2015, 23:42

makerie wrote:[UPDATE]

So I have made 2 major upgrades to the design of the board since I made the original post.
....

Once you get a stable vero PCB layout I would recommend a perf layout as well (just like the vero layout but with individual pads instead of strips) for the development area. Keep the ground and supply lines as they are.
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Re: Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby makerie » 05 Dec 2015, 17:04

deltafred wrote:
makerie wrote:[UPDATE]

So I have made 2 major upgrades to the design of the board since I made the original post.
....

Once you get a stable vero PCB layout I would recommend a perf layout as well (just like the vero layout but with individual pads instead of strips) for the development area. Keep the ground and supply lines as they are.


You're not the first person to say that. Will get on it. Cheers for the feedback!
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Re: Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby makerie » 09 Dec 2015, 13:57

[UPDATE]

So I've finished the design prototyping and have sent off v1.0 to the PCB house!

http://imgur.com/4mOrsqm.jpg - Front
http://imgur.com/GQIKiEO.jpg - Back
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Re: Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby mictester » 09 Dec 2015, 14:19

That's good news. Your boards could be good for development / prototype work.

Incidentally, your first post was quite wordy, but was interesting. It's great that you're getting that funding, and I can only wish you the very best of luck with your enterprise. You may go some way to encouraging people to take up electronic construction again.

Home construction used to be a thriving field, with lots of component shops (in the UK). However, over the last few years, all the component shops have died out (as interest waned) and all we're now left with is the truly dreadful "Maplin". Their mark-ups make drug dealers look generous! Many of their parts have 2000% or even 3000% mark-ups. It's cheaper to buy a complete development kit of E48 resistors from the Far East than buy twenty resistors from them!
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Re: Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby Dirk_Hendrik » 09 Dec 2015, 19:17

Which is a better approach anyway. Nothing makes building easier than having a broad stack of components at hand. Not being able to do a build because one component is absent is so dissatisfying.
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Re: Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby makerie » 10 Dec 2015, 17:55

mictester wrote:Home construction used to be a thriving field, with lots of component shops (in the UK). However, over the last few years, all the component shops have died out (as interest waned) and all we're now left with is the truly dreadful "Maplin". Their mark-ups make drug dealers look generous! Many of their parts have 2000% or even 3000% mark-ups. It's cheaper to buy a complete development kit of E48 resistors from the Far East than buy twenty resistors from them!


Eugh! Don't get me started on Maplins. I'd love to see them put out of business and someone more focussed on the DIY community fill their shoes. Their staff are completely untrained as well which is really frustrating. We had Peats in Dublin until early last year, but they closed down. I've been meaning to look into their liquidators because they must have a warehouse of components just sitting somewhere gathering dust.

Thanks for the kind words. Hopefully people find it useful and it helps contribute to bringing hobby electronics back to the fore. I'm fairly confident about the state of DIY at the moment. I work on a number of projects in the ''Maker Movement'' and there is a lot of growth and serious investment in it from some big players.
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Re: Open Hardware Veroboard-inspired PCB design - Feedback?

Postby 287m » 11 Dec 2015, 18:49

ugh, your design make me remember 1590B super-freq template, but in perf
nice idea, keep work man!
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