I’ve concluded that circuit design and PCB (printed circuit board) layout is an art as much as it is a science.
The PCB layout is especially a learned skill – much more so that a taught one. Only through experience does one get better.
Given all of that, I’m a kid with crayons at the point in my learning. Think more “fence painter” than “French impressionist”.
I spent a couple days studying existing circuit schematics for the ESP8266 – a popular micro controller package with integrated WiFi. I also searched and read details on two topics which are relevant to some of my projects – minimizing power usage, and simplifying the flash process (aka loading new code onto the device).
The first day was spent laying out the circuit using components I know I have in stock. This task is mostly science and not very artistic.
I’m not yet able to visualize the circuit the way “a real elecronics engineer” would. I need the circuit to have a general correlation to the physical components … or at least I thought I did.
The second day was spent laying out the circuit components onto the PCB. This is where the process is more art than science.
The process is best summed up by Egon’s warning “don’t cross the streams”. Laying out the comments so they can be connected while at the same time routing every trace to not hit a dissimilar trace is art (some would say black magic).
I complicated the task by designing a single sided PCB. This means everything is on one side. The usual solution to crossed traces is to jump to the back layer of the PCB, route behind the existing trace and then resurface on the top to continue the route. The mechanism is call a “via” as in route from A to B via the bottom layer.
I will be etching this practice PBC in my shop and I only have single sided copper PCBs at the moment.
The shock came when – after two days working at my big monitor – I printed out my work. IT’S SO SMALL! (Not something one usually wants to hear.)