We've discussed how low-cost PCB production houses like Dangerous Prototypes' Dirty PCBs provide an easy path for the maker to take a design from the breadboard to small-scale production, but for many the process is still daunting. Like the days of film photography, the idea that you send off your design files, pay a sum of money and wait to receive something which may turn out to be unusable due to a simple error is off-putting - but it shouldn't be. Although PCB design is undeniably a learning process, it's a great skill to have and, at the hobbyist level where single- or at most double-layer boards are the norm, not too challenging. There are, however, several 'gotchas' to be aware of before submitting PCB design files for printing, and James Lewis of Bald Engineer has compiled a handy list. Although James uses the popular Eagle design software, most of his advice - from shaping the board and including mounting holes through to properly labelling components - applies to any design method. The comments are worth reading, too, for additional tips including paying attention to design rule check (DRC) warnings from your software which alert you to problems like disconnected pins or traces that are too thin or close together to be manufactured cleanly.
I’m creating an open source adapter to convert Famicom carts to the NES. Before I submit the PCB to OSH Park, I’m going to run through this PCB Checklist to make sure I don’t forget something silly. This PCB checklist is something I’ve built over my years of creating boards.