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Making PCBs and the LVB Tracker


Many many thanks for all the suggestions about getting PCBs made. I had
nearly two dozen suggestions!

In the end I used the www.expresspcb.com service. I sent them the artwork
last Tuesday morning and the boards arrived on Friday afternoon in the UK.
Although not cheap for small runs, the PCBs are of excellent quality. My
prototype boards ended up at $25 each, but on a large run of 100 or so it'll
drop to about $5.

I've had ten prototypes made, and apart from three small errors (mine) which
need a tiny bit of re-work, it's come out very well.

A potential problem with the Express PCB service is that the PCB artwork
can't be printed out without some deliberate degradation, or used by third
parties as far as I can tell. So once you've laid out your schematic I
beieve that you're stuck using Express PCB's service unless you re-do the
layout in another package.

On the subject of the LVB Tracker itself, as many know it will be premiered
(!!) at the AMSAT-UK Colloquium. If you really can't make it, the
presentation is in the proceedings which I believe will probably be
available after the event.

In any event, some interesting improvements have been made since I wrote the
proceedings article. To whet your appetite here is the optional Ethernet
interface (http://www.g6lvb.com/images/lvbtracker7.jpg so you can telnet
into the LVB Tracker. There's also a user-programmable web service
integrated into the Ethernet interface if you wish to use that - plenty of
opportunities there!

I have also made a PCB for the USB FTDI interface chip
(http://www.g6lvb.com/images/lvbtracker6.jpg) so that if you are SMT-aware
you can save money by soldering the FTDI USB device yourself rather than
needing the non-SMT DLP module. This brings the cost of the USB version to
well under $25.

I look forward to seeing everyone at this year's AMSAT-UK Colloquium ;-)

73 Howard G6LVB

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