PCBs in FRC

In the FRC virtual KOP, Altium, a PCB designer, is available. After a little searching, I found a couple teams using PCBs as CAN wire hubs. What other uses are there for PCBs in FRC?

Gussets

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1425 is using a custom PC board to make more reliable connections to the RoboRIO. See the post in General Forum - Making Code and Designs Public for 2020 season.

LED controllers, custom sensor boards, all sorts of things.

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we use PCBs for a custom scrolling display of lights. CAN wire hubs are mainly used for star and other similar methods. Depending on what you are using you may or may not need them. Also our scrolling led displays that we made were created and designed by our electrical mentor who is an Electrical Engineer

You can make just about whatever you want for the “input” side of the control system. Let your imagination run wild. You also have a lot of freedom for decorations. See what you can come up with.

You can make all the simple, two layer PCB types mentioned so far in this thread using FREEPCB. The learning curve is much, much shorter than learning to use Altium.

http://freepcb.com/

My coworkers and I have used FREEPCB to make simple adapter boards like what you are considering since we could get the job done faster than having to wait for our PCB layout guy do it using the full-featured PCB tools like Altium.

Altium has many more features that makes it more appropriate for more complex designs such as something like a NavX board with microprocessors and other complex components and needing 4 or more layers.

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The tricky thing will be finding a COTS source for Nixie tubes, for the custom number display on your droid.

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While I am certain that Altium is a good package, I was not able to gain access to their parts library in the past. I turned to a product called KiCAD:

I recommend that you work with someone who has designed circuit boards, independent of what software package you use. There are a lot of details that get learned the hard way when designing circuit boards.

It is amazing what one can buy through Amazon

Numitrons might be a better choice since they run on FRC-legal voltages.

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=numitron&ref=is_s

I would echo the recommendation to get help from someone who has designed circuit boards. It would be best if you can sit together so they can show you things on screen.

I would still recommend FREEPCB over KiCAD since KiCAD is similar in complexity to other professional PCB design packages like Altium. One will have to go through more operations to get a simple PCB design out.

Notice the numbers in stock. The only current production that I know of is in the Czech republic, and that’s slow going.

https://www.daliborfarny.com/

My brother’s Nixie watches run on 3v batteries…building a power supply isn’t impossible.

I didn’t know someone is still making nixie tubes. All the nixie tubes I have seen for sale have been used or are N.O.S.

I thought that nixie tubes needed voltages higher than 24V.

They need around 170v to fire.

And per R45 can’t be used on the robot.

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This year, per R69b, you can make simple custom MXP breakout boards.

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I expect that the CRT plans we have won’t be allowed, either. And it’s only a little 3RP1.

It is times like this that I miss the thumbs-down option from the old forum software :frowning_face:

It would have been a cool way to display your sponsor logos in sequence

I have personally used oshpark.com to get my PCBs manufactured, although I don’t know if they’re approved by FIRST. I’m not entirely sure on the rules regarding PCB use and manufacture this year. If it’s permitted though I do recommend you use them. Never had any manufacturing defects and they’re made in the USA.

We’ve used Elecrow over the past year for several projects, including a battery tester and a couple of board to passively convert TalonSRX data port signals to Cat5E. Here’s some pics of our boards: https://imgur.com/a/Cp6TxCg

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