Merry Christmas, John. An Andonstar ADSM201 digital microscope for SMD work. And looking at tiny bugs with the grandchildren, too.
One of my goals for 2019 is to learn how to work with surface mount devices. SMD have replaced through hole components in most electronic circuits You will find that these are an order of magnitude smaller, and often cheaper and better. SMD became popular because they lend themselves to automated production methods.
But most of we old time hams are terrified of surface mount components. So darn small. One good sneeze, and your entire bill of materials will fly away into the carpet, never to be seen again. A typical resistor or capacitor might be 2-3 mm long and 1-2 mm wide. Think grain of rice. Same goes for many integrated circuits.
So, old guys like me will need super-human vision, tiny fingers and steady hands. You can solve the vision challenge with good lighting and significant magnification. You can fix the tiny fingers thing with tweezers and dental picks. As for steady hands, perhaps less coffee!
Designing and building circuit boards is the next challenge. I am used to using through hole components and 0.1″ hole spacing. You can find lots of great CAD programs for circuit board design. I have started using KiCad. My fabrication method has been toner-transfer and a home made etching solution. But, from my experience, the tiny footprints of SMD components might be a bridge too far for this approach. Fortunately, you can now have someone else fabricate your boards for you at a reasonable price. More on that, later.
My starting point for exploring SMD has to be a good microscope, but I don’t want to break the bank. So, I went shopping on Amazon.
Andonstar ADSM201 Digital Microscope – Well made, reasonably priced
After checking out reviews and watching videos, I asked Hilda to get me an Andonstar ADSM201 digital microscope for Christmas. She did, and it’s great! At first glance, exactly what I need to get started. We found one on Amazon for CDN$143 shipped, which is slightly below the normal price.
Once I got around to unboxing, I had a great magnification of a tiny circuit board on the ADSM201 built-in 3″ screen in minutes. The base is solid metal and has some heft, so jiggle is minimized. But the Andonstar really came to life when I hooked it up to an external HDMI monitor. And there it was, a 19″ view of a tiny circuit with very little latency.