Delayed, but not forgotten

Another weekend has passed and I have neglected to post anything; however, this time around, I have been busy working on a little side project that will ultimately interface with the Anemometer. In my last post, I had mentioned the use of KiCad, which I’ve been working on learning to take my mind off of the anemometer for a bit so when I do continue work on it, it will be with a pair of fresher eyes. One of the things I hate is working on a single project and essentially getting burned out before its completion – one of the reasons, I’m sure, I fail to complete many of my projects.

I had decided to move onto learning KiCad so when a project gets to the point of fabrication, I’ll be able to tackle the schematic and PCB design without delaying the process any further than necessary. Eagle cad, a schematic and PCB generating software I’ve used before, is still a superior piece of kit, in my opinion, however, the limitations in the free version was something I wanted to break away from. If I ever do decide to sell anything I design, I would have to purchase a licensed version of Eagle. On top of that, using KiCad will support the open source community by using open source software to develop open source hardware.

So, onto my little side project…

 

One of the features of the Anemometer is going to be a USB interface so users will be able to view streaming data in a serial monitor/live graph of that data. In order to do that, I need a USB to SERIAL converter. Most off the shelf Arduinos come with this conversion built in, in the form of an FTDI FT232R IC – a relatively inexpensive chip running around $4.50 in quantities less than 10 (you get a discount per item the more you buy).

I had posted a question regarding the requirements to properly connect the FT232 to an ATMEGA328 in a reddit post and a replier suggested I choose the FT230X over the FT232R, a smaller package with a price tag less than half of the FT232R ($2.04 < 10). Aside from the greatly appreciated price drop, this gave me something to use for learning KiCad – design a breakout board and the necessary custom IC for the FT230X.

This turned out to be a perfect learning experience – figure out how to design custom components in a foreign piece of software, layout the schematic, and design a PCB from that schematic.

KiCad does come with its idiosyncrasies, but it is a very powerful tool once you get the hang of it, and as of about an hour ago, I have 3 copies of the breakout board on its way to run some testing. Below you’ll find a screen shot of the schematic and PCB layout taken from KiCad…

PCB layout from KiCAD

PCB layout from KiCAD

Schematic diagram from KiCad

Schematic diagram from KiCad

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