How Boards Like Raspberry Pi Can Help Create Prototypes
PCB manufacturing as a DIY procedure is a must-do activity for the beginners. With the introduction of automated solutions into the process, the students have an advantage of learning faster ways of designing printed circuit boards. A lot of prototyping software has been introduced in the market and all of these have their set of advantages and disadvantages. How to speed up the process of making PCB with added precision is one of the main objectives why beginners choose to study microelectronics and MCU programming. Since automated tools are designed such way that the user simply punches the specifications to produce the desired output, therefore the main advantage of tools like Raspberry Pi is that these can help create prototypes without worrying about gaining technical knowledge.
This is what Raspberry Pi model is
Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized computer board that performs all the functions a full-fledged computer does. Thus, this computer board is equipped with parts like CPU, RAM, graphics processor chip, Ethernet ports, UART, GPU and of course a connector compatible with the power source. It is also provided with an SD flash memory card that helps meet storage requirement. A typical Raspberry Pi model has various slots for various external devices so that it can be connected with them for achieving better utility.
The hardware specifications of Raspberry Pi comprise of SD card with Linux OS, video cable, monitor, US keyboard and power supply. Optional hardware is provided in form of powered USB hub, mouse, a case, an internet connection that is completed with Wi-Fi adapter in case of model A and with LAN cable in case of model B.
So, how Raspberry Pi makes prototyping easier
Prototyping needs expert hands and this is what Raspberry Pi provides. This small sized mini-computer board can be expanded to various limits by connecting it with various devices that can help you know about the final working of the prototype on a real-time basis.
Making a Raspberry Pi board involves all the basic steps that are used to make a circuit board design using software. Thus, once you start making a Raspberry Pi board, you are actually practicing making a full-fledged PCB board. The basic process can be scaled up or down depending upon the number and size of the output sought after.
So, here is a stepwise procedure of making Raspberry Pi board. All these steps are used in PCB prototyping at beginner and advanced level as well.
Step 1 – Selecting Software for PCB design
Raspberry Pi board can be created using software that makes prototyping quite an easy process. You need to have ideation amply clear in your mind so that you can select the perfect software for the process.
Step 2 – Choosing the schematic view or moving over to PCB design view directly
Once you have downloaded the desired software, you can select schematic view, design the board and then transfer the whole thing to PCB view. Alternatively, you can move to PCB view directly and start placing components and doing subsequent steps there.
Step 3 – Adding components
The software for designing PCB prototypes is provided with a library of components. The beginner can select the required component from the library and drag it to the view. To confirm its use, the user has to click the mouse to convert the orange appearing component into a blue.
Step 4 – placing GPIO connector followed by LED and resistor
Since Raspberry Pi making is in question, the placing of components starts with GPIO connectors. Once the connectors are placed, LEDs are placed for light emission followed by resistors so that LEDs lighten up. Likewise, all required components are added one by one till the designing view looks something like this:
Step 5 – Connecting Components
Connecting components is done by using command “Add Schematic Connection”. In this case, GPIO pin is connected to LED/resistor; the latter is made to expose a maximum of 16mA. The resistor can be represented in the form of hole spacing in the design.
Step 6 – Transferring the schematic after arranging components
This step can easily be done by clicking ‘Translate to PCB’ button. Once this is clicked, PCB design wizard window appears. You can use the preferred technology for designing circuit board or can simply use the button ‘Use Default Technology’.
Step 7 – Arrange the components in PCB view
Once you have selected the technology, the number of layers and other physical specifications, you can transfer the components in PCB view that looks something like this:
Step 8 – Resize components and route traces
Since this tutorial is aimed at designing Raspberry Pi board which is quite simple, there is scope for resizing the components. It is followed by routing the traces. To do this, you can follow the command path as Go to ‘Tools‘ > Select ‘Auto Route Nets‘ > Select ‘All Nets’.
After laying traces, our board view looks something like above. Different layers are represented by different color lines. After this, the print is added to add solder mask and silver screen on which the logo or required specifications can be embossed later.
Final 3D view
The software or printed circuit board design application is also provided with 3D view feature to give the designer the fair idea of how the Raspberry Pi would look like in actual.
So, one can clearly see that the Raspberry Pi design is no more complicated these days. There are software and applications available which anybody with basic knowledge of computer can use to make prototypes of the highest quality. Right from selection of components to their laying and creating traces, everything can be done without having in-depth knowledge of microelectronics or MCU programming.