Best first SMD build?

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BirdtheWord
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Best first SMD build?

Post by BirdtheWord » Wed Jul 08, 2020 12:24 pm

I was hoping to get opinions about good first SMD modules to attempt (beyond the obligatory cheap practice kits from banggood). I did some searching and saw mention of O+C and Euclidean Circles being possible options. Circles seems sold out at the moment so I was hoping to expand the field. Any opinions on what would be easiest among uJove, Monsoon and Dust of Time?

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abelovesfun
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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by abelovesfun » Wed Jul 08, 2020 12:36 pm

O+C has a few really tiny parts that can be tough. I do fine with soic and 805 parts, but I am pretty bad at the really tiny stuff.
I managed to tough it through my O+C builds, but had to do some reflowing. The Temps Util is all soic and 805 (I think) and it's a great clock module.
My AI007 is a mix of thru hole and SOIC/805 and is a high quality quad VCA/mixer.
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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by steviet » Wed Jul 08, 2020 12:40 pm

Of the ones you mention, probably uJove or Dust of Time. But they are still very involved builds for your first go at SMD.

The AI synthesis stuff is great for learning SMD. I can also recommend the NOBOTS builds, if you can find those kits.
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BirdtheWord
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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by BirdtheWord » Wed Jul 08, 2020 12:54 pm

I was unfamiliar with NoBots. It does look like their double buff would be perfect, but alas, Thonk is sold out at the moment. I’ll probably give the AI Synthesis kit a go. You know what they say about VCAs.

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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by EATyourGUITAR » Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:06 pm

non-linear circuits kits
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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by BirdtheWord » Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:23 pm

Non-linear was another name I was unfamiliar with and modular addict has them in stock. The boards look really nicely laid out with lots of breathing room. May give the VCO a go.

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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by steviet » Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:49 pm

SLOTHS is pretty simple and an awesome module from NLC, uses 0805 components too. Why not both!? :omg:
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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by KittenVillage » Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:53 pm

If you can do the uOC, you can do the Dust of Time. The DoT needs M2 hardware for the screen, and I've made a lengthy post on the uOC screen and how to best fit it.

For both I'd advice setting the male and female headers into the teensy and standing it up straight on the board and then tacking the male header onto the teensy. Then do the female header on the board after all the smd (and in the case of the DoT, after the pots have been set in.) So you don't put the male and female teensy headers on separately. and then have to jam them together misaligned.

I've done 3 uOC and a uTU. I had stencils made when I was first starting out at JLC I think, before they trimmed the stencils down, so they sent a huge sheet. But I was able to edit the files I sent so I got both onto one sheet, as each sheet had a back and front paste layer. But I feel I wasted too much solder paste using the stencil. (And no frame, so I used painters tape to carefully line them up, then applied the paste and caaaarefully removed the tape.)

I use hot air for my smd and I've had great results. The key being setting the heat at 250c and using the lowest air setting. Then keeping the hot air gun moving. Also keeping a ventilator fan drawing the fumes from your face. And tweezers in your hand to quickly correct any caps or resistors that flip up. Also also I guess putting very, very little paste onto ic pads. Sometimes I can fix bridges on ICs quickly with my tweezers as I'd using the hot air...but coming in afterwards with iron and gel flux usually works well too. Be sure to use gel flux and minimal solder and most ICs aren't too hard with just an iron.

I think you'll find that the uJove has smaller parts close together than the uOC -- mostly the switching ICs on it, but some small TSSOP opamps too. The uOC just has a DAC that's got really tight pins as I recall. I know the warning on Plum's github about part size scared me off, and I built a full size one instead.

I had sucked at building 2 monsoons (my second or third build) because I didn't use diptrace and guessed the orientation of a bridge rectifier wrong. So be sure to use diptace, eagle or kicad and follow along with your build. They are indispensable for using with your multimeter later to make sure signals are flowing correctly.

Sorry this is kinda lengthy -- I started the eurorack adventure doing SMD and had to figure a lot out as I went... but it's given me a lot of confidence, and I hope it works out for you, too.


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BirdtheWord
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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by BirdtheWord » Wed Jul 08, 2020 2:59 pm

Thanks for all the excellent advice. I figured I was going to have to bridge my way to the more dense builds I really want to do, but that’s just part of the fun. It looks like I will be able source the Non-linear and AI boards despite these times of relative scarcity and those should serve as good options for transitioning from through-hole to SMD.

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forestcaver
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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by forestcaver » Wed Jul 08, 2020 3:08 pm

If it helps - I went through a similar thought process and I documented all my diy builds in the order I chose to do them so as to learn to do more complex SMT stuff....

www.batguitars.co.uk

have a look in modular->diy_modules
(I also listed the tools I bought or built in order to build the modules)

BirdtheWord
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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by BirdtheWord » Wed Jul 08, 2020 3:57 pm

Forestcaver, that is an amazing resource, though I’m now a little concerned about my disposable income moving forward 😂. I plan to invest some time going through the entire timeline. Thanks.

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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by stepvhen » Wed Jul 08, 2020 6:05 pm

My first was the Bindubba from NLC, but I have had a few issues with it (because of my soldering, not the module itself). Currently, one of the slew outputs has stopped working, after I already fixed it from not working.

I wouldn't call it too difficult, after I got into the flow of things. But with more parts comes more opportunity to muck it up. Just make sure you have extra components on hand for when you lose a resistor or accidentially burn up another one trying to re-place it. Note that full kits probably wont come with spares, least none of mine have yet.

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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by BirdtheWord » Wed Jul 08, 2020 6:24 pm

Oh yeah, I hadn’t thought of that. One good sneeze and half your kit disappears. Kits are convenient in that they do all the sourcing for you, but the need spares moving to SMD probably tips the balance in favor of PCBs.

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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by Tofupancho » Wed Jul 08, 2020 6:33 pm

O+C and 0805 in general isn’t bad. Just take your practice boards seriously- lay out your workspace just like it was the real thing. I approached learning SMD as if my lackluster organizational skills would be fine and I just needed to develop tiny parts skills. Having done builds with a dozen different ceramic caps that all look identical, PCB silk screens that didn’t go great, and of course ending up spending more time trying to fix one mistake than the entire rest of the build, I’d call it 80/20. Plan ahead on needing to reference eagle/kcad/schematics in case a part/polarity marker doesn’t show up well. ICs are the most intimidating, the more practice with those the better.

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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by Agawell » Thu Jul 09, 2020 5:51 am

mi branches was designed as an smd teaching board - not many components and well spaced
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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by infinitemachinery » Thu Jul 09, 2020 11:52 am

If you're interested in an ADSR module...

https://www.infinitemachinery.com/eg-1

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Noodle Twister
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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by Noodle Twister » Thu Jul 09, 2020 12:04 pm

I started with 1U foxfield tiles. Then 1U NLC. Then 3U NLC like squid axon and Arseq. I'm happy that I did these before 16n faderbank and currently a ripples with 0603 parts. You develop a confidence for SMD by starting with easier builds I found.

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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by BirdtheWord » Sun Jul 19, 2020 9:05 pm

I figured since I started this thread, I’d share my progress. Following the advice I received here, I acquired a couple of Nonlinear Circuit boards, specifically the Triple Sloth and the Kareishuu VCO as my first SMD projects. Over the weekend I started in on a practice board, the Gikfun SMD Training board. Surprisingly, this board came with a sheet of terse instructions that provided the necessary clues to get a working circuit. And to my surprise, my first SMD board worked perfectly on power up!! I only lost about 4 components in the process. Once anything smaller than 1206 touches carpet, it apparently immediately leaves our plane of existence. At this point, I feel I’m ready to start my first real SMD module.

There were several tools I acquired specifically for making the transition to SMD which I think contributed significantly to my initial success. I stepped down to .38mm soldier which was very easy to control. I also got 2 pairs of good Hakko tweezers, straight and right angle. A set of tweezer leads for my multimeter made checking values of these tiny components easy. The most expensive bit was a Amscope 8x binocular scope. With the scope I was even able to successfully place a few 0402 resistors without too much trouble. It is fascinating to watch how soldier behaves under magnification.

I now feel confident enough to start working on one of the Nonlinear boards. Fingers crossed.
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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by zer0point » Mon Jul 20, 2020 7:31 am

I agree with the NLC recs - my first full SMD build was a triple sloth and it was not too challenging. I've also built an O+C (not bad except the DAC chip is tricky) and a Euclidean Circles which was the hardest by far due to the LEDs.

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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by steviet » Mon Jul 20, 2020 10:15 am

BirdtheWord wrote:
Sun Jul 19, 2020 9:05 pm
I figured since I started this thread, I’d share my progress. Following the advice I received here, I acquired a couple of Nonlinear Circuit boards, specifically the Triple Sloth and the Kareishuu VCO as my first SMD projects. Over the weekend I started in on a practice board, the Gikfun SMD Training board. Surprisingly, this board came with a sheet of terse instructions that provided the necessary clues to get a working circuit. And to my surprise, my first SMD board worked perfectly on power up!! I only lost about 4 components in the process. Once anything smaller than 1206 touches carpet, it apparently immediately leaves our plane of existence. At this point, I feel I’m ready to start my first real SMD module.

There were several tools I acquired specifically for making the transition to SMD which I think contributed significantly to my initial success. I stepped down to .38mm soldier which was very easy to control. I also got 2 pairs of good Hakko tweezers, straight and right angle. A set of tweezer leads for my multimeter made checking values of these tiny components easy. The most expensive bit was a Amscope 8x binocular scope. With the scope I was even able to successfully place a few 0402 resistors without too much trouble. It is fascinating to watch how soldier behaves under magnification.

I now feel confident enough to start working on one of the Nonlinear boards. Fingers crossed.
Nicely done! Now you just have to get some experience with QFP chips and you'll be soldering up a storm.

IMO if you can do 0402 "without too much trouble" you'll be fine. Just keep practicing! Before you know it you'll be drag soldering 64-bit processors!
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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by paterursus » Mon Jul 20, 2020 1:00 pm

Like others on here, I can give another vote for NLC. Ian Fritz's Hypster was my first. Good layout, parts not too small, and well-documented. It was a surprisingly easy process, and it made me wonder why I had put off learning SMD for so long.
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Re: Best first SMD build?

Post by glennfin » Sat Aug 01, 2020 1:18 pm

paterursus wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 1:00 pm
Like others on here, I can give another vote for NLC. Ian Fritz's Hypster was my first. Good layout, parts not too small, and well-documented. It was a surprisingly easy process, and it made me wonder why I had put off learning SMD for so long.
Another vote for NLC. Andrew's designs are incredible. Love the Hypster. Just finished biilding the Bindubba sequencer and Divide and Conquer. On the bench right now, Cellular Automata with 5 more NLC builds in cue.

0805 smd is the smallest I'm willing to deal with. The NLC designs are build friendly. 8-)

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