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From prototype to production? - SparkFun Electronics

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Where electronics enthusiasts find answers.

By sbonkosk
#200189
Hey guys,

So I'm experienced at a hobbyist level of building things, plugging components into a breadboard and programming microcontrollers. However, my question now is, after I've bought some stuff from Sparkfun or wherever and have a thing that works, where do you even begin to take it and make a production level device that can be sold to people?

For example, let's say I wanted to build a production level device that had bluetooth, gps, and a battery. Thats it! Its super easy to buy some components from sparkfun and get it hooked up on a breadboard and get it working. However, what if I wanted to then move to production? It's my understanding that the bluetooth chip or gps chip I used for the prototyping wouldn't be the component I would want to use in production because maybe I want it smaller, or cheaper. But, if I go from a bluetooth or gps unit breakout board to something like a SMD, is that easily convertible? Like, how do you make that leap? Is your prototype valid if you're going to use a different chip for something in the end? Or do you prototype with the hardware you would want in production instead? And if so, how do you prototype things like a SMD? I feel like only machines can solder those things but maybe Im wrong.

Honestly, the leap from some prototype to a product is so mysterious to me.
By lyndon
#200197
Generally speaking, prototype with the parts you expect to use in production unless there's good reason not to. I think what you are describing can be better described as a "proof of concept" than a prototype.
By sbonkosk
#200198
lyndon wrote: Thu Aug 30, 2018 2:16 pm Generally speaking, prototype with the parts you expect to use in production unless there's good reason not to. I think what you are describing can be better described as a "proof of concept" than a prototype.
Thats a good point, you're right, thank you for that distinction! However, if I do prove that a concept works, and I find the SMT components I think would work in production, how do you prototype with such small components? I'm used to a breadboard and soldering, but with arduino sized through hole components. Is it really just a matter of being super careful and soldering onto the super small leads?
By lyndon
#200199
You learn new techiques. Hand soldering doesn't work well below 1206 parts or 0.5mm lead spacing. Below that you need to use paste and reflow. It's so much faster, I never make through-hole boards anymore!

It's really not hard, although I personally don't go below 0603 parts. You need to do a PC board layout and I recommend purchasing a solder paste stencil at the same time you get boards made. I use OSH Park for boards and OSH Stencils for stencils. A little practice and you'll get the hang of it. adafruit has some good tutorials on getting into small scale SMT manufacturing.
By sbonkosk
#200219
lyndon wrote: Thu Aug 30, 2018 7:00 pm You learn new techiques. Hand soldering doesn't work well below 1206 parts or 0.5mm lead spacing. Below that you need to use paste and reflow. It's so much faster, I never make through-hole boards anymore!

It's really not hard, although I personally don't go below 0603 parts. You need to do a PC board layout and I recommend purchasing a solder paste stencil at the same time you get boards made. I use OSH Park for boards and OSH Stencils for stencils. A little practice and you'll get the hang of it. adafruit has some good tutorials on getting into small scale SMT manufacturing.
This is great, I'll take a look into this stuff. Thank you!!
By jacquelbot
#200635
With practice (and the right tip), tiny parts certainly can be hand soldered. For prototypes with SMT parts, a step between solderless breadboard and custom PCB can be using adapter boards. Check out all the different ones available on Digikey https://www.digikey.com/products/en/pro ... ?k=adapter.

So basically you're turning SMT parts into leaded parts and then you can get your circuit working on a prototyping board (like https://www.sparkfun.com/products/12070 ) and then make the jump to a custom PCB (at which point I'm sure a stencil and solder paste would speed things up, although I haven't personally done that at home.)