For our project, we did not want wires to be loose, so we decided to create our own pcb’s and to solder the components and wires onto them so minimize the amount of wires being unplugged and for simplicity. In order to create pcb’s, we used a freeware called eaglecad to create a schematic and then from the schematic, layout a board. The board has to be designed by a person and there are some tricks to help create the board. The first thing to know is that there is a top and bottom copper pours. In practice, it is good to have one side ground and the other as the input voltage. These pours are created by creating a polygon around the components and having the pours layered as top or bottom. The pours need to be named as Vcc or grnd (or whatever is named as vcc or grnd). After the pours and components are placed, traces need to be created. There should already be yellow lines that show which traces need to be created. Use the trace tool on the left in eagle to start making traces and be aware of which layer the trace is being created on, either top or bottom. Also make sure to not overlap two of the same layered traces or to have a trace where a component will be. After all of that is done, hit the ratsnest button and see if there are any traces that is not created. Lastly, do the error check in eaglecad to make sure that the board is printable. Now that the board is designed, we need to extract the gerber files to send to the pcb machine in first build to print the board. Sparkfun has a great guide to extract the gerber files. Here is the URL the guide. https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/using-eagle-board-layout/generating-gerbers .
Once the files are created, email it in a zip file to yourself and head over to firstbuild to print. Ask an employee for help to use the pcb machine, because it takes a good day of learning to use the machine. If you want to print the board yourself, I will give a brief explanation of how to do that. Log into your email on the computer next to the machine and download the gerber files. Open the SPK software on the desktop and select the double sided no through hole template. Import the files, and make sure that they are defined. Select technology dialog and set the settings to how you would like them to be. Next, click on the fiducials button and create three fiducials. The fiducials is reference holes for the machine to keep track of where everything for when you flip the board over. Next, make sure that the pcb machine has all of the tools that you need for the print. Now, click on production wizard and go through with the print. There is a pdf of a more descriptive guide on the desktop of the computer. Be aware that there is a $2 fee to use the machine and $12 to purchase a double sided copper board.