SMD Circuit Etching

This past weekend, I decided to try to produce a printed circuit board. I also wanted a challenge (plus I need to fit the circuit into a small space), so I started with a surface mount board, with really tiny components.

532f0e2c5e8a35e4ca2ae522dd2d9e15.image.530x397The circuit I started creating is a breakout board for the LY120 screen on the Grove 0.96″ OLED display. This is a great little screen with a resolution of 96×96 pixels, 16 bits of gray scale, and the controller chip supports I2C, SPI, and a 8 bit parallel communication. The breakout board it comes with only supports the I2C, but I want to try out all the communication possibilities to find the fastest one, hence why I need this new board.

I used KiCad to do all the circuit design and PCB layout. It is a really nice program, and it is all open source, so it can be used for commercial products without any kind of license! I was learning the program as I was going, so this step took awhile. The PCB routing is quite cool though; you place a trace, and new traces will push the old ones out of the way as you lay them so they all fit.

As I was designing the circuit and reading all the datasheets for the screen, I found that it needs about 13V for power and 2.5V for logic, I have 3.3V from a Lipo battery. I was hoping to not use most of the components on the original Grove board, but I ended up copying and stealing the components from the other board. It was a good way to learn, as they already had a 13V and 2.5V supply, although from a 5V source.

g716The final output looked like this ->

I have two 10 pin headers that I can plug into a solderless breadboard. They breakout all the communication pins, ground, 3.3V in, and the 12.8V and 2.5V out. The whole board is one sided because I didn’t want the added complexity of trying to align a double sided board off the bat. There are a couple spots where jumpers are needed, but I tried to limit those as much as possible.

20150812_114832The output of this processes is a negative of the circuit printed onto a transparency. I used my ink jet printer, which it says has up to 600dpi resolution for black and white images. I printed three copies of the negative, cut them out, and aligned them on top of each other. This helps make them darker for the next step, UV photo-lithography!

Computer Desk Electronics

Its Alive! (The Computer)

After leaving the power supply unplugged from the motherboard and powering the water pump for about 24 hours, I was confident there were no leaks in the water cooling loop. I was excited to try everything out!

Even though there is no support for the PCI cards yet, the graphics card still stood in the slot as long as I didn’t shake it too hard. I also installed the memory sticks into four of the slots (quad channel!) and plugged the main power cable into the motherboard. I plugged an hdmi cable into my monitor switch, double checked everything was good and powered her up… Continue reading Its Alive! (The Computer)

Desk Computer Assembled

This weekend I finally made the push to assemble the new computer!

Shaping the Sled

20150111_214915Since the computer is going into a custom made desk, I also created a custom “sled” to hold all the components. I started with a piece of half inch plywood and cut it to about the size of the plate glass that will make up the desk top.

The first thing that was done was to drill nine holes to line up with the mounting holes on the motherboard.20150111_215605 The posts are 6-32 machine screws, countersunk to keep the bottom of the board flat (I’m not sure why it has to be flat, it just seems like a good idea). Six nuts were then threaded on to create a standoff (later to be changed to 7 to accommodate wires). Continue reading Desk Computer Assembled

New Computer Parts

YEY!!! The rest of the computer parts finally came in! I’m excited.

I got the graphics card (GTX 970), the memory (16GB DDR4), and the power supply (850 Watts). I haven’t opened the boxes yet, except for the power supply. That came in a nice felt sack and all the wires came in a Velcro cloth bag.

Now I just need to get the desk box finished and try these things out! I might set up the water cooling system and plug everything in on my desk. I can then set up Windows 8 before the case is ready. Continue reading New Computer Parts

I am finally building a new desktop computer! My current ammo box is getting a little long in the tooth. You can look at my current specs in the table below and see how pitiful they are (my work laptop is now faster 🙁 ).

This build was started when I got some new parts for Christmas from my wonderful wife and mother-in-law. I got the CPU and Motherboard! I also got a few gift cards to Newegg to buy the rest of the parts (I also have a solid state drive from last Christmas I haven’t even opened yet).

The Plan

I have been planning on building a new desk to house the computer for awhile. I have a nice plate glass piece that will make a perfect desk top. My plan is to build a wooden desk box to house the computer parts and water cooling and have to desktop on riser springs like some coffee tables. This will allow me to stand at the desk when it is up, and also gives plenty of room to access the innards.

I’ve also always wanted to try overclocking with a water cooled loop, plus water tubes look really cool under glass when lit up. Looking at the prices of water cooling equipment gave me the idea to first start with a CPU block, then later on add a GPU block.


I have the components all spec’d out here. You can see how much of an improvement they are over what I currently have.

Computer Specs
Part New Computer Old Computer
CPU Intel Core i7-5820K  (6 Core, 3.3 GHz) Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 (2 Core, 2.4 GHz)
Motherboard MSI X99S Gigabyte P35-DS3R
RAM 16GB (4 x 4GB) DDR4 2666 4GB (4 x 1GB) DDR2 800
Graphics EVGA Nvidia GTX 970 Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5770
Storage 1 x 1TB WD + 1 x 240GB Intel Solid State 1 x 1TB WD
Power Supply Rosewill 500W Corsair 850W

For cooling I ordered an EK X240 water cooling kit. This is a good starting point and has all the parts needed for a very nice CPU cooling solution. The cooling block and the pump both have transparent tops and can be fitted with LEDs. It also comes with a really nice double sized radiator that can take two 240mm fans.

So far, I have the CPU, Motherboard, hard drives (the 1TB is coming out of my ammo box computer), and the water cooling kit. Here’s what they look like:

I will update this post with everything related to the electronics and setup of the computer inside the desk. This post will have everything related to all the wood working and fabrication of the desk itself.